A Centennial Tribute to John Wayne
He was born 26 May 1907 in Winterset, Iowa.
Over his long career, he acted in almost 200 films.
The music from some of his best known films is available on this CD:
True Grit: Music From The Classic Films Of John Wayne
John Wayne Sings!
One of the most embarassing things in John Wayne's acting career happened in one of his earliest westerns in the early 1930s.
Did you know that John Wayne sang in several of his early B-westerns?
This quote comes from A Guide to Film Music speaking about RIDERS OF DESTINY (1933):
"Wayne said the singing was bad. He was so right!"
The fact that he played "Singin' Sandy Saunders" in this cheaply made Lone Star western doesn't mean he actually sang himself.
According to Western Clippings editor Boyd Magers --
Wayne's voice was actually dubbed by Bill Bradbury, the son of the film's director, Robert N. Bradbury. Contrary to what some writers have written, Wayne played this "Singin' Sandy" character only once in this 1933 western.
There are two songs that Wayne warbles in RIDERS OF DESTINY. One is "Desert Breeze," a real sentimental potboiler of a song. Yet it's a hoot to watch Wayne pretending to sing it while strumming his guitar. The other song is sung during the film's opening scene in a stiff, artifical singing style. That is due to it being probably the earliest example of using a classical melody in a western.The melody of this song is actually based on "Danse Macabre" by Saint-Saens. Why use that melody? Beacause no royalties needed to be paid to any songwriter or record company. The song lyrics are pure kitsch and the melody doesn't fit this western at all. Both songs were included because of the growing popularity of singing cowboys.
John Wayne's singing voice was dubbed in several other Lone Star westerns too, including THE MAN FROM UTAH (1934), with that "Desert Breeze" song again, and LAWLESS RANGE (1935).
Besides Bill Bradbury's voice, Wayne's singing was also dubbed by Jack Kirk, as in LAWLESS RANGE (1935).
Ironically, the bad singer Bill Bradbury was born the same year as Wayne, and so was his twin brother Bob Bradbury.
Bill and Bob Bradbury were born 23 January 1907. Bob became quite well known after he changed his name to Bob Steele. He starred in many B westerns and was also in more prominent picutres, like OF MICE AND MEN and THE BIG SLEEP. Bob Steele was also a friend of John Wayne.
So here's the interesting chain of events:
John Wayne was directed by Robert N. Bradbury, whose son Bill was the singing voice for Wayne.
Bill's twin brother Robert (later Bob Steele) was a friend of Wayne.
Both Bill and Bob were born in 1907.
So it appears the Bradbury family were very closely connected to John Wayne.
John Wayne's Movie Career
Though he acted in many early inexpensively made B-westerns, Wayne really became famous after his memorable appeaance in John Ford's STAGECOACH in 1939.
The music direction for that film was by Boris Morros, who later worked on other westerns, like the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount. The four arrangers who received the Oscar for STAGECOACH were: Richard Hageman, Frank Harling, John Leipold and Leo Shuken. There was also a fifth arranger , Louis Gruenberg, who was listed on the Main Titles of STAGECOACH. Yet he was not included in the Oscar listing. The four composers received Oscars that year for their arrangements of American folk songs. That was the same year these great scores and composers were also Oscar-nominated:
Aaron Copland for OF MICE AND MEN, Alfed Newman for THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, and Dimitri Tiomkin for MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.
And the four STAGECOACH arrangers got the Oscar instead.
Who can predict the follies of Hollywood!
But the acting roles for John Wayne were no folly.
Just like the characters he played, Thomas Dunson in RED RIVER (1948), Ethan Edwards in THE SEARCHERS, or Davy Crockett in THE ALAMO (1960), John Wayne filled the screen with his strong tall presence. And the music helped to reinforce and define Wayne's films.
He was fortunate to have some of the best film composers working on his films, especially: Dimitri Tiomkin, Victor Young, Elmer Bernstein and John Williams.
Today he remains one of the best known of all movie stars.
In a recent Harris Poll of popular film stars, John Wayne came it at No. 3, behind Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks.
What did John Wayne have that set him apart from other actors?
He exemplified strength and courage, something lacking in many of today's actors.
In countless westerns and war films, he played the hero who did the best that he could whatever the obstacles. Some of the roles he played were "Hollywoodized" and not accurate to the truth.
But through it all John Wayne demonstrated that he had that most important value...
He had "True Grit."
-- Roger Hall, 26 May 2007
See this retrospective review of
THE ALAMO: THE ESSENTIAL DIMITRI TIOMKIN FILM MUSIC COLLECTION
(4 CD Set)
A Sampling of CDs and DVDs
Film Music Anthologies
My Rifle, My Pony and Me ( Western Movie and TV Songs)
The Wild West: The Essential Western Film Music Collection
Way Out West: The Essential Western Film Music Collection 2
Soundtrack CDs and DVDs
CD: THE ALAMO (score by Dimitri Tiomkin)
DVD: THE ALAMO (widescreen)
CD: THE QUIET MAN (score by Victor Young)
DVD: THE QUIET MAN
CD: RED RIVER (score by Dimitri Tiomkin)
DVD: RED RIVER
CD: Rio Grande (score by Victor Young)
DVD: RIO GRANDE
CD: THE SEARCHERS (score by Max Steiner - excerpts)
DVD: THE SEARCHERS (2 Disc Anniversary Edition)
CD: TRUE GRIT and other scores by Elmer Bernsten
DVD: TRUE GRIT(Special Collector's Edition)
Film Music Review (Home page)