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The John Wayne Fan and the Anglophile

The John Wayne Fan and the Anglophile

A John Wayne fan and an Anglophile? What happens when a lifelong Anglophile marries someone whose bucket list includes watching every John Wayne movie ever made? Lots of disagreements about what to watch on Netflix, obviously! Nevertheless, being married to a John Wayne fan I’ve watched my fair share of John Wayne movies over the years. My favorite? North to Alaska (1960), a light-hearted comedy with Wayne and Stewart Granger as partners who strike it rich in the Alaska goldfields.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years traveling around the U.S. conducting research for Finding Shakespeare in America and Finding Great Britain in America. If my husband accompanies me on a trip, I like to add one or two stops I know he’ll particularly enjoy, even if they’re not on my research list. It’s my way of saying thank you for his patience. He's visited a lot of theaters, historic houses, museums, libraries, and botanical gardens without a single complaint.

A John Wayne Fan and an Anglophile Find the Duke in Iowa

Last September, we were in Iowa and my thank you was a visit to the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum in Winterset. In my experience, Anglophile connections pop up everywhere and the John Wayne Museum was no exception!

The first Anglophile connection I noticed was a framed 1974 letter from Wayne mentioning upcoming filming in London.

That’s interesting, I thought. I wondered what movie it was.

Then we saw props from The Quiet Man (1952), which was filmed in County Galway and County Mayo, Ireland. It was the second of five films that John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara made together. The museum has the Connemara shawl O’Hara wore for her role as Mary Kate Danaher. It also has the Irish jaunting car (a type of horse-drawn cart) from the film.

Even more interesting, I thought.

Marker for The Quiet Man with John Wayne
Marker for The Quiet Man at the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum in Winterset, Iowa

 

Finally, I saw a poster for the movie Brannigan. It included a picture of a car jumping Tower Bridge as it’s being raised.

That’s really interesting, I thought. I've been watching John Wayne movies for more than 30 years. How come I never knew one was set in London?

It turns out that Brannigan, released in 1975, was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the unorthodox cop movie genre popularized by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Apparently, Wayne was offered the role first, but turned it down. The Duke was 67 when he made Brannigan. Despite his age, he gamely smashes and shoots his way across London in his role as a Chicago police detective trying to extradite an American mobster. Large parts of the movie were filmed in London, including in the pre-gentrified Docklands, in Trafalgar Square, and on the aforementioned Tower Bridge.

Poster for the 1975 John Wayne movie Brannigan
Poster for Brannigan

The First Anglophile John Wayne Festival

When we got home from Iowa, I decided to hold what may have been the world’s first Anglophile John Wayne Festival. We started with Brannigan, followed by The Quiet Man, and then finished up with another Wayne and O’Hara pairing, McLintock! The 1963 movie is loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew.

Was the festival a success? Definitely. Am I a big John Wayne fan now? I’m not sure about that, but after visiting the museum and holding the mini film festival, I certainly have a much better appreciation for his work.

Details from the poster for Brannigan
Detail from the poster for Brannigan

Brannigan poster detail showing Tower Bridge
Poster detail showing Tower Bridge

 

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