Pacific Filled Many Spots on Wayne's Vast Resume

By Rampell, Ed | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, November 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

Pacific Filled Many Spots on Wayne's Vast Resume


Rampell, Ed, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


Hollywood icon John Wayne is best known for his roles in rollicking Westerns, but a number of the star's 164 movies over a 50-year span were shot or set in Hawaii or on other Pacific islands.

Indeed, most of "Duke's" World War II movies were set in the Pacific Theater, not Europe, and as Marc Eliot's sprawling new biography, "American Titan: Searching for John Wayne" (Dey Street Books, $28.99), details, Hawaii also figured prominently in the actor's private life.

Eliot, whose previous best-selling biographies include "Cary Grant," "Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince" and "American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood," documents Wayne's life and motion picture career starting with his childhood in Iowa, where he was born Marion Morrison in 1907, and on to a football scholarship at the University of Southern Cali­for­nia and odd jobs in the film industry.

As a young actor he changed his name to John Wayne in 1930 and appeared in low-budget B pictures and serials before his breakout role as the Ringo Kid in director John Ford's 1939 classic "Stagecoach." The legendary Ford made 24 movies with the actor, including their last feature film collaboration, the made-in-Hawaii "Dono­van's Reef" from 1963.

But that wasn't the first time Wayne starred in a movie that took place in the Pacific islands. He debuted in an Oceania-set flick in "Adventure's End" (1937) as pearl diver Duke Slade. That was followed by "Seven Sinners"?(1940), which takes place on the fictional Boni-Komba isle, where Wayne's naval lieutenant romances a sexy saloon singer played by Marlene Die­trich. ("American Titan," set for release Tuesday, claims the two engaged in an intense affair.)

Duke met Hawaii's Duke in the seafaring potboiler "Wake of the Red Witch" (1948), with Wayne as octopus-fighting Capt. Ralls and Native Hawaiian surfer and Olympic swimmer Duke Kaha­na­moku portraying Polynesian chief Ua Nuke. Although set in the South Seas, "Wake" was shot at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Republic Studios.

The aviation drama "The High and the Mighty" (1954) starred Wayne as the pilot of a troubled trans-Pacific flight that took off from Hono­lulu's airport but was lensed in Los Angeles. "Dono­van's Reef," with Wayne as French Polynesia saloonkeeper "Guns" Dono­van brawling with ex-shipmate "Boats" Gilhooley (Lee Marvin), was shot on Kauai by Ford.

Wayne's World War II morale boosters included the Philippine-set "Back to Bataan"?(1945) and "Sands of Iwo Jima" (1949). His performance in the latter as tough Marine Sgt. John Stryker earned the actor an Oscar nomination.

"Operation Pacific"?(1951), with Wayne playing submarine Lt. Cmdr. Duke Gifford, included scenes apparently set, but not shot, at Pearl Harbor, Camp Smith and other Oahu locations. More than a decade later, director Otto Prem­in­ger relied on location shooting at Pearl Harbor, Kane­ohe Bay, Maka­puu and other sites for "In Harm's Way"?(1965), with Wayne as Adm. Rockwell Torrey.

In contrast?to his?battlefield heroics on film, "American Titan" emphasizes that unlike Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and other celebrities of the era, Wayne never served in uniform. …

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