Six classic Ford-Wayne collaborations, some new to DVD

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The Two Johns

Before proceeding with this six-movie set, you have to acknowledge that anything which calls itself John Wayne: The John Ford Collection yet fails to feature The Searchers or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is riding into trouble. Still, it’s a fine place to start exploring Hollywood’s most legendary actor-director partnership. Vitally, it sees the first UK DVD release for Stagecoach (1939) [5], his first with Wayne, who sauntered into stardom after a decade in movies as the Ringo Kid, a charming outlaw bent on revenge. Ford presents society as bickering strangers on a coach trundling through a hostile wilderness, loosely slamming dimebook thrills against the anti-bourgeois bite of his source story, Guy de Maupassant’s caustic Boule De Suif, Orson Welles watched it 40 times.

Drawn from Eugene O’Neill, The Long Voyage Home (1940) [5], also making its DVD debut, was actually shot by Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland, whose stunning high-contrast etches bawdy and maudlin (Ford’s favourite poles) vignettes of sailors far from home during WWII. It’s more Ford than Wayne, with the actor cast as an innocent Swedish farm-boy.

The heart of the set, though, lies in their monumental “Cavalry Trilogy”. The bitter complexities of The Searchers aside, these films display Wayne’s finest performances for Ford. For anyone who buys into the old canard that he couldn’t act, they’re the movies to be enlightened by: as the captain at desolate Fort Apache (1948) [5], trying subtly to prevent commander Henry Fonda from bringing down massacre; as the ageing, aching widower reluctantly eying retirement in the peerless She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) [5]; as the sensitive Colonel Yorke bitterly estranged from wife Maureen O’Hara during the divisive Civil War, now signing off on an illegal sortie into Mexico, to rescue children in the reflective and leisurely Rio Grande (1950) [5]. O’Hara returns as the flame-haired colleen who captures Wayne’s heart in The Quiet Man (1952) [3]. He’s the boxer who, having killed an opponent in the ring, has fled to his homeland and vowed never to fight again. Chipped straight from the Blarney Stone, it’s Ford’s dream of Oirland, pure fantasy, and a film to cherish if you have any Irish in you, without having a stick up your ass about it. Universal is also releasing boxes entitled Wayne Out West, Wayne At War and Wayne In Action, and a 33-film John Wayne Collection. Hell, pilgrim-imagine what they’re going to do in 2007, when Wayne’s centenary rolls around!