When we think of John Wayne what type of images come to mind? For some it may come as a western hero such as a sheriff or a cavalry officer. Still others may picture him as a military hero, perhaps as a General or Sargent Stryker. Still others may picture him as the lone gunfighter trying to defend the west not so much with the gun but more so with words and words to believe in, while he did use his gun when need be. But there was a different side about him, some saw him as the private eye in Big Jim Mclain or as a Cop in MCQ and Brannigan.
That is the side that I am going to talk about the side so seldom seen but so much liked and loved. “Big Jim Mclain” 1952-U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii, How often do we get to see Duke in this type of role? Granted there were roles that he played that were not western or military ., he was a good dramatic actor the trouble was the scripts were not coming his way. This film also stared James Arness before he got his big break for Gunsmoke. But what is it about this film that sparks the fan drawn inside of me? I think for me it showed his political side, a side he showed in latter films a little more but not so much in the older ones. But still never the less a great film that should be seen a few times to even enjoy this classic of a film.
McQ -1974 The first of two actual cop movies that he had ever made. Police Lieutenant Lon McQ investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements of the police department dealing in confiscated drugs. Reasons why this film was not as a good as others, he realized that he wanted to connect with the younger generation of americans the post Vietnam War generation. While they remembered him from the westerns he also wanted to compete with the likes of Clint eastWood , aka “Dirty Harry” or even Steve McQueen in “Bullitt “. At the time of filming he was 66 years old, a bit to old for the part. And it was directed by John Sturges, (also directed non westerns also )so you have an over the hill western star being directed by a infamous Western director making a film both out of there comfort zones. While I know numerous fans of Duke that prefer this to some of his westerns I for one can not get a grip on it . Perhaps I need to see it again.
The last cop film that he made was “Brannigan”—1975 Jim Brannigan is sent to London to bring back an American mobster who is being held for extradition but when he arrives he has been kidnapped which was set up by his lawyer. Brannigan in his American Irish way brings American law to the people of Scotland Yard in order to recapture this mobster with both A price tag on his head and a stuffy old London cop to contend with. While the premise of the film sounds great and stars Duke, and Richard Attenborough and the first of all of Dukes films to filmed to London the film did not turn out as well as any was hoping for . Same idea through as McQ he was 67 playing the part of a character who was supposed to be in his late 50’s. But once again this film did not turn out to be the hit that they were hoping for either. Wayne himself said he would not have made the film if he had known McQ was only going to be a moderate success.
But still in some minds all 3 of these films are classic one of a kind and pure amazing.