THE ALAMO John Wayne's Dream Project.

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THE ALAMO John Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby AlamoMo on Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:21 pm

The Alamo, John Wayne's Dream Project.

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A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

A dream, which had it’s beginnings in the mid 1940’s, finally came to fruition on a hot summer’s day in 1957 when a bull dozer started up it’s engine and began to move a large hill of dirt on a portion of Happy Shahan’s 22,000 acre HV Ranch in Brackettville Texas. This mound of dirt would eventually become the mission compound which was used in the filming of John Wayne’s epic masterpiece The Alamo.

“I first thought of doing Alamo in 1946 and went down there to research,” Duke said. “I was at Republic at the time and when I left there they tried to steal the idea. They came up with The Last Command which was a quickie. Nuff said.” Wayne flew thousands of miles and visited multiple sites to try and find a location that would suit his purposes. From South America, to Panama to Mexico City, he was always on the look-out for property that would match the vision he had in his mind. No matter what project he happened to be involved with at the moment, whether it was The Three Godfathers or The Quiet Man or The Horse Soldiers or any of the other numerous films he made during the late 40’s and early to mid 50’s, he always had Alamo in the back of his mind. How to finance it, where to film it, which other actors should be involved and countless other details all had to be resolved before his project could get off the ground.

In 1948, the famed director John Ford visited San Antonio with John Wayne and indicated that Wayne would play the role of David Crockett while Ford would be involved in the project. “It may be a year before we start shooting scenes of the Alamo picture.” Ford said. Pat Ford, John’s son was already writing the script and the thought was that it was to be filmed in San Antonio. By 1950, the script was finished and now the plan was to film it in 1951. “Jack Ford has offered to help me with it and to direct the scenes in which I appear. What more help could a man ask?” The filming was tentatively scheduled to start in October of that year, once The Quiet Man wrapped up in the summer. The initial script had already been revised numerous times and was modified by Paul Fix and further rewritten by James Edwards Grant.

After Wayne completed the filming of Jet Pilot, he and his second wife Chata, flew down to Central America where he made a tentative search for potential locations for the film. By 1951, Wayne had submitted a copy of the script to the Censor Board of the Mexican Government. He followed that up with a visit to Sindicados at which time he gained permission to make the movie in Mexico. However, financial problems postponed the making of the movie at that time.

In June 1951, amid considerable publicity that Wayne and Republic Pictures would now film the story of this heroic battle in Mexico City due to economic considerations, R.J. O’Donnell (Vice-President and General Manager of the Interstate Circuit, one of the largest movie chains in Texas), Jesse Jones (Texas politician, publisher of the Houston Chronicle, entrepreneur and Secretary of Commerce under Franklin Roosevelt) and others went so far as to contact Herbert Yates, President of Republic to try and dissuade them from doing so. “To make the story of the Alamo in Mexico would be disastrous, in my opinion, and would be like making the story of Bunker Hill or the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia or any other of our patriotic stories in a foreign country,” O’Donnell implored.

By October of that year, the outrage of this direction was so great that Wayne had a change of heart. While in San Antonio as a part of a star studded publicity tour of Texas he indicated that when filming the movie, portions would be shot there if details could be worked out. “We hope to use the interior of the Alamo for some of our shots. We will use the chapel if they will let us.” But he also went on to say that to shoot this film locally would cost him “a million dollars more” than to make it in Mexico or California. Several years work had gone into the planning of this project and since that was going to be his first big picture, he was “not going to make a cheap job of it.” It appeared though that this response was just a way to potentially deflect criticism of an unpopular decision. William Saal, executive assistant to Herbert Yates, sent a letter to Mayor White of San Antonio, coyly skirting around the Alamo affair. “If we had known we weren’t going to start The Alamo until spring, we would have made a motion picture named The Golden Herd which was written by a Texan man and has its locale near San Antonio.” Eventually, the whole idea of filming a portion of the movie locally was dropped. The following year Wayne visited Peru to scout locations; although he didn’t find anything that suited his purposes, he did meet Pilar Weldy (Pallete), a young Peruvian woman who would eventually become his third wife.

After The Quiet Man was finished, Wayne was all set to make The Alamo in Panama where he had previously spent weeks scouting locations. The area was perfect and the country was in the midst of a depression, which would have made the cost more economical. As an added bonus, Wayne noted “there was a two-mile airstrip nearby that the Americans had built so transport would have been easy.” Herbert Yates demanded that Duke give up Batjac (Wayne’s production company) and make the picture for Republic. Not only that, he further requested that they postpone the starting date and cut the budget. Wayne believed that Yates “deliberately told some folks that I was shooting it in Texas…but now the Texans were angry with me. I had to go down there and square it with my Texas friends.” After having yet another fruitless conversation with Yates regarding the approval of this project, Wayne gave him an ultimatum. “You go through with this, Herb, or I won’t be on the set when you get back.” Calling his bluff Yates indicated that they could discuss it again in two weeks after Yates returned from a trip. Replied Wayne once more, “I want the okay right now or I won’t be here when you get back.” Yates refused to answer and just laughed. As soon as Yates left for his trip, Wayne packed up his stuff lock, stock and barrel and left the studio, never to return.

In early 1952, Wayne started pre-production work in Durango, but was forced to stop when informed that officials in the Mexican government, despite previously approving his script, might impede the project. After a month of expensive preparation, he was compelled to quit. “Wayne had made a million adobes down in Mexico,” said Happy Shahan. “But after he made ‘em, the Mexicans used ‘em more than he did.”

Happy had learned about the constantly postponed project and contacted Wayne to try and persuade him to film the movie in Brackettville Texas. When informed that the intention was to do it in Panama or Mexico, Happy expressed his doubts on the choice of location. “I can do it any god-damn place I want to,” bellowed Wayne. Once Wayne received a letter from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas stating that if he would film it in Mexico, it wouldn’t be shown in a Texas theater, he accused Shahan of putting them up to it. Although not taking responsibility for that action, Shahan did start a letter writing campaign called “Make The Alamo in Texas.” It was to take over two years and several conversations for Happy to convince Wayne to make the movie locally, but by 1957, all the pieces were in place and the long-delayed project was finally begun.

When asked why he felt so strongly about this project Wayne answered, “I deplore the type of garbage that’s being splashed on our screens today. I think it’s important for some agency in public life or communications to remind the world that once there were men and women in America who had the guts to stand up and die for things in which they believed in. This heroic story is not fiction. It happened only 124 years ago, and it belongs to people everywhere who have an interest in a thing called freedom. Davy Crockett said: ‘Without freedom you’re dead as a beaver hat.’”

" It can’t be said any plainer than that."

For further information on this subject, please refer to “Alamo Village – How a Texas Cattleman Brought Hollywood to the Old West” by John Farkis as well as his upcoming book, “Not Thinking, Just Remembering – The Making of John Wayne’s The Alamo as Told by the Cast and Crew” to be available in the fall of 2009.

My thanks to John Farkis for the above article.
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby NefariousNed on Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:25 pm

It's ironic how people in power, who should've known better, were decrying the fact that Wayne had wanted to film THE ALAMO in Durango, Mexico, even going so far as to suggest that it was unpatriotic. Well hey, dimwits, back in 1836, the Alamo was in Mexico. Durango would've been a wonderful location! It certainly provided a great backdrop for THE WILD BUNCH.

So Wayne had already cast 1,000,000 adobe bricks in Durango toward construction of the set when the plug was pulled? Pity, really, when you think how many of us would now be traveling to Mexico to see the remains of the Alamo set.( If any remains would yet be remaining, that is.) In Durango, it would've been just another old movie set; it is unlikely that anyone locally would have wanted to preserve it.

In the end, we must thank Happy Shahan for convincing Wayne to film in Brackettville. For we now have, after all these years, a place we can still visit, where the locals remain friendly enough, save for a certain trigger-happy Marshal.
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby wconly on Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:02 pm

Ain't it so? The Wayneamo is terrific and so was the movie -- even with the 'flaws!' But, I have yet to see a movie where there was not errors! W>
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby duke on Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:36 pm

Texas, the Alamo, and John Wayne, they just fit!!!
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby RLC-GTT on Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:29 pm

Nefarious wrote:In the end, we must thank Happy Shahan for convincing Wayne to film in Brackettville. For we now have, after all these years, a place we can still visit, where the locals remain friendly enough, save for a certain trigger-happy Marshal.


:cry:
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby RLC-GTT on Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:33 pm

As for the 1,000,000 adobe bricks in Durango, this detail in Happy's spiel in later years was "a quarter million adobe bricks." Referring to their Brackettville sets, he said "one-and-a-quarter million."
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby RLC-GTT on Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:37 pm

AlamoMo wrote: In June 1951, amid considerable publicity that Wayne and Republic Pictures would now film the story of this heroic battle in Mexico City due to economic considerations, R.J. O’Donnell (Vice-President and General Manager of the Interstate Circuit, one of the largest movie chains in Texas), Jesse Jones (Texas politician, publisher of the Houston Chronicle, entrepreneur and Secretary of Commerce under Franklin Roosevelt) and others went so far as to contact Herbert Yates, President of Republic to try and dissuade them from doing so. “To make the story of the Alamo in Mexico would be disastrous, in my opinion, and would be like making the story of Bunker Hill or the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia or any other of our patriotic stories in a foreign country,” O’Donnell implored.


Bob O'Donnell used to come down to the village all the time with Bob Hinkle (Texas technical director on Giant -- taught James Dean how to flip the "monkey's fist" rope knot). Bob even gave me some exhibition industry feedback on my B-Western Travis Smith. Real nice guy. Wish I'd have known about the John Wayne Alamo connection back then.
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby MUSTANG on Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:31 am

All ya gotta do is ask.
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby RLC-GTT on Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:24 am

Thaaaaaaanks!
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Re: The Alamo Wayne's Dream Project.

Postby Cole_blooded on Thu May 21, 2009 11:42 pm

From a list of the best of Westerns series by Lucas Huddleston, John Wayne`s The Alamo!

TED COLE....aka....Cole_blooded 8-)

Lucas Huddleston

#50. The Alamo (1960)

And with Number Fifty, we kick off the list with one of those ‘exceptions to the ground rules' that I mentioned last week, namely placing what could easily be considered a War film on the Westerns list…though, honestly, I wouldn't have made this particular exception if I felt that The Alamo didn't apply to being a Western. In fact (as you no doubt have already guessed), I believe that there's no other classification for the movie to fall under. The Battle for the Alamo, one of the most iconic battles in American history, was one of those mass events that would help to shape and mold the Old West and its peoples into what it was, and, almost immediately after word of the battle and its outcome spread back in 1836, the Battle for the Alamo would become more than a mere historical event – it would move on into the realms of legend and myth, much like a lot of the happenings and/or figures of that particular place and time. Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis…hell, even Santa Anna are no longer mere men. As I said last week, part of what makes the Old West the Old West is indeed the presumption that, really, when all is said done, the facts don't really matter all that much; the facts are overshadowed by the fantasy of it all. And much as how 1939's Jesse James was a film that chose to focus more on the fantasy than the facts of that particular legendary outlaw, so too does 1960's The Alamo represent not the facts of what happened on that particular day of March the 6th, 1836…it represents that fantasy, the myth, the legend that would be culled from that fateful day. By that same token, however, great pains were taken to recreate the physical aspects of the Alamo itself and the other sets for the film in order to amplify the act of depicting the event itself as epic as the myth itself, and the end result was as ambitious and glorious as any film of its kind produced in that era. As such, it's rather unfortunate that, during its own time, the film was leveled by struggles and criticisms, with most – if not ALL – of those condemnations directed at the film's star/producer/director…John Wayne.

The Alamo stands as being John Wayne's very first directorial effort, a labor of love that the Duke had had visions of creating dating back to as early as 1945, fifteen years earlier. Initially, the film was set to be developed by Republic Pictures, though clashes over the budget between the president of Republic and Wayne (who had obviously overseen the project through the Republic days), coerced Wayne to leave the project, though was unable to take his script and his then-vision with him (the film would go on to be rewritten and produced under the title The Last Command). Even after being forced to leave his vision behind with Republic, Wayne wasn't deterred, continuing to work on and develop what his Alamo film would and should be, and eventually forming his own film production company with producer Robert Fellows, a company named Batjac (named after a fictitious trading company in a 1948 Wayne-film titled Wake of the Red Witch). After the creation of Batjac, it wouldn't take long for Wayne to really put his plans for The Alamo in action, going so far as to declare himself the producer/director for the film so that his vision would remain untainted by the hands of others. However, the problems with the budget that came attached to such an ambitious undertaking reared its ugly head, much as it had done during the Republic years; as such, Wayne was able to broker a deal with United Artists to shoulder up one-half of the load, while he borrowed the rest of the money from wealthy businessmen based in Texas…all under the conditions that the movie be filmed in Texas with Wayne in the lead (he had originally intended to take the much smaller role of Sam Houston). Once all the sets had been erected and the area in which the shoot was to take place prepared (roads were created for the picture, and wells were sank in the area so that the cast and crew had water), more problems arose on set, amongst a few of which were: the attitude of Richard Widmark (who played Jim Bowie), who complained about Wayne's direction and tried to leave the film (though legal action prevented that); the murder of one of the actresses (LeJean Eldridge); and the appearance of vaunted Westerns director John Ford (who also directed Wayne to some of his best films) on the set, where he allegedly became a bit of a ‘back-seat director'. After filming was completed…well, things didn't get much better, as quite a few of the actors involved in the movie (most of which had been picked to take part in The Alamo due to their being personal friends with Wayne) blasted the film and Wayne, and quite a few critics also damned the film by claiming that Wayne had given the picture a slant in which to push his own political agenda. The film's cause wasn't helped by the poor attendance from the general public, and as such, when regarding the movie's high budget, led the film to being labeled as a flop. The lack of profit from the film also forced Wayne to pay out of his own pockets, which ultimately cost him a rather hefty amount of his own personal fortune.

Which is all sad, really. When John Wayne looked back on this film in retrospect and all the criticisms that it earned him from his friends and peers, I've often wondered whether he questioned it was worth all the thought, time, and money that he ultimately put into it. It's not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, I think it's a great film. While Wayne's direction may have been criticized by his actors and a former director of his, the Duke does a fantastic job of capturing the epic feel of the event (no doubt as he learned a few things from working with Ford over the years), and all the acting is by far above average. The action sequences, particularly that of the final battle between the Texans and Santa Anna's Mexican Army are exceptionally envisioned and captured; in fact, I might even be inclined to say that, as a director, Wayne captured action even BETTER than that of Ford. And, of course, the film endears itself due to the same fact that a lot of critics once blasted it for: it plays up the legend of the Alamo wonderfully, though mainly in the actual event itself and not so much in the ‘whys' of the happening. Here, all the heroes of the film die noble and overly-heroic deaths. Jim Bowie, who was deathly ill, fights against all odds from his bed. Here, there's neither sight nor sound of the legendary Davy Crockett surrendering to the Mexicans, only to meet his death at execution; no, here, Davy Crockett gets pinned to the wall by a dozen bayonets, fights them all off, and sacrifices himself in order to explode the munitions dump in the Alamo. It's all wonderfully overblown and larger-than-life…much like the Old West itself is portrayed at times. There's really only one negative that I can say about the movie, actually; The Alamo is almost broken into two separate and distinct films: the first half of the film focuses on Crockett traveling to the Alamo and meeting other characters, and the second half takes place all in the Alamo. While the first part does indeed drag a bit, the second half is nothing short of excellent. :D
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