Monday, April 21, 2014

TCM Star of the Month April 2014: John Wayne

And so, we finally get to this month's Star of the Month on TCM: John Wayne. Normally, TCM has a Star of the Month one night a week, every week for a month. But with the Film Festival and the week of Fan Programmers and the 20th anniversary among other things, somebody in the TCM programming department decided that it might be better to have a Star of the Month get every weeknight for one week. That's fine as far as it goes, but for better or worse, because of how many movies John Wayne made, TCM is also able to program the daytimes with John Wayne movies, so we're getting almost exclusively John Wayne movies from now until the Mexican Spitfire movies return on Saturday morning.

The John Wayne marathon kicks off with The Big Trail, which looks to have been Wayne's first credited screen appearance; he had been in bit parts in several movies in the year before making The Big Trail. TCM's online schedule indicates that we're getting the Grandeur print, at least if I've read the schedule correctly.

The Big Trail was a financial flop, and one of the results is that Wayne wouldn't become a star at a big studio again until after making Stagecoach (which kicks off prime time on Tuesday at 8:00 PM) in 1939. In the intervening years, he either had bit parts in roles at the major studios, as in Baby Face overnight at 2:30 AM, or bigger roles in B-grade if that westerns, which is what much of the lineup between The Big Trail and Allegheny Uprising (tomorrow at 5:00 PM). A few interesting things in between:

Haunted Gold at midnight. This is a 60-minute movie combining the western with... one of those old haunted house movies, this time with the haunting being of a mine that Wayne is part owner of. Wayne's horse is named Duke, which is where I'd guess he got his nickname from; I'm not the biggest John Wayne fan so I don't know these things.

The Life of Jimmy Dolan at 7:00 AM stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. who accidentally punches a man who then dies; he has to run away to Utah to keep ahead of the law and winds up on a farm run by an older lady (Aline MacMahon) and her niece (Loretta Young), who take in a bunch of orphans. If this sounds familiar, it's because the movie was later remade as the excellent They Made Me a Criminal.

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