“From an early age he had a good sense of what was right and what is wrong. Wayne couldn’t have attended the dinner where the teenager’s note would have been passed to him — he died of cancer on 11 June 1979, appearing in public for the final time at the 9 April 1979 Academy Awards ceremony, where he presented the Oscar for Best Picture. I must admit I’m not familiar with this particular film, mainly because I’ve yet to take a closer look at Duke’s 1930s oeuvre in detail, something I am looking to correct in the near future. Arnold, Gary and Kenneth Turan. Originally director Powell wanted to get Marlon Brando for the lead, but John Wayne, then at the height of his popularity, happened to see the script one day and decided he and Genghis were meant for each other. He began to work in cinema while he was at college, when his greatest passion was football. Wayne was not only a star, but a producer. Of the 220 persons who worked on The Conqueror on location in Utah in 1955, 91 had contracted cancer as of the early 1980s and 46 died of it, including stars John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Among the more curious experiences that fell his way during that period was the distinction of becoming the screen’s first singing cowboy. It was a stormy union and they were divorced in 1953 with considerable acrimony, much of it public. I still miss John. The cause of death was given as complications from cancer. Duke might just as well have painted a target on his shirt with a big arrow and the statement ‘Shoot Here’ emblazoned on the back. Of the 220 people on the movie site, 91 of them were diagnosed with cancer within the next 25 years and 46 died from the disease. Okay, you say, so if it wasn’t a big public to-do of a dinner, might it not have been an informal affair, just twelve or so friends gathering to break bread? Cecil replies: I’m horrified to have to report this, John, but your girlfriend’s claim is only slightly exaggerated. The Shootist really brought together the genre of the gunman with the ultimate test- his own death. You would have never seen him at the plastic surgeon trying to preserve his youth with Botox. And Wayne persisted, with his curious, rolling gait and his characteristic way of swinging both arms in front of his body when he walked. John Wayne would seem the last person to adopt the typical Hollywood affectation over appearance. Doctors were unable to make him strong enough to start the chemotherapy and experimental treatment “The Duke ” had consented to. What about John Wayne and Andy Divine as uncredited flood victims in Noah’s Ark (1928) ? It was true, also, of the other roles, played usually with distinction: the sea captain in ‘Wake Of The Red Witch,” the former boxer in “The Quiet Man,” made in Ireland; the tough Marine sergeant in “Sands Of Iwo Jima.” for which he received his only other Oscar nomination. Propaganda machine was still working. He broke into films by accident. Within the narrative of the film the extras, including JW, Devine and Bond, are obviously victims of the flood so it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is probably the earliest example in which he doesn’t make it through to the final reel. The only way to untangle all of this is to look at the facts. In the John Wayne version the film ends with our hero still very much alive and then memorably jumping a four-rail fence after telling Mattie to ‘come see a fat old man some time’. Well, if you choose to spread the Word, please pay particular attention to that odd little bit about not bearing false witness. Wayne also appeared in three television shows directed by Ford — “Rookie Of The Year” in 1955 starring his son Patrick, in which he was seen briefly as a reporter; “The Colter Craven Story,” a 1980 “Wagon Train” episode in which, under the pseudonym Michael Morris, he played a cameo as General Sherman, a role he was later to flesh out In “How The West Was Won”; and “Flashing Spikes” on the Alcoa Premiere series in 1962, in which he portrayed a drill sergeant in an episode which starred Patrick Wayne and James Stewart. So Duke It was, for the rest of his life. Director Dick Powell was among the first, dying in 1963. If you’re not convinced, go check out the movie for yourselves.
This sequence, as with a lot of silent films, is more a collection of posed shots, or tableaux vivant as it is known.
He said (and can’t you hear him saying it? Not quite the noble and fitting end Duke’s character envisaged, but his demise ensures that Ron Howard avoids the life the doomed Books endured. But, though he proved he could act. Experts say under ordinary circumstances only 30 people out of a group of that size should have gotten cancer.
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