John Wayne compared his film set to “drunken orgies”
Actor John Wayne is no stranger to movie sets. However, every great movie star has to start somewhere. He had his lead role in director Raoul Walsh’s film The big path. None of his fans could guess exactly how wild Wayne found the atmosphere on set. He once compared his experience on The big path to “alcoholic orgies”.
‘The Big Trail’ was a massive John Wayne epic
Actors Wayne and Ward Bond were very close friends. They worked on The big path film set in Yuma in April 1930. According to Carolyn McGivern’s John Wayne: A Giant Shadow, the production managed to hire the actor on the cheap, given that he was new to the scene. However, they spent significant amounts on other areas, including locations. Walsh filmed locations in five states, requiring the cast and crew to travel over 2,000 miles to make the film.
Walsh encountered many “logistical problems” while filming The big path. Many crew members did not speak English, which presented difficulties. Additionally, he filmed a German version of the film simultaneously on set using the same basic cast.
Walsh was shooting two versions using different cameras for 35mm and 70mm, requiring two separate crews at the same time. The first film set on which Wayne played a main character was “enormous and nothing like it had ever been tackled before”.
John Wayne compared ‘The Big Trail’ set to ‘alcoholic orgies’
McGivern explained how Walsh was under the ‘most terrible pressure’ coming together The big path. He had to work with a collection of New York stage actors who hated the heat and discomfort that came with the various filming locations. Plus, they hated repetitive takes. However, Wayne explained that the stars on set were drunk the vast majority of the time.
“Them and the screenwriter were plastered most of the time,” Wayne said. “The nights at Yuma were like drunken orgies.”
Nonetheless, Wayne remained on his best behavior and took the experience very seriously. As a result, it impressed Walsh and later boosted his career by featuring John Ford imagery. However, The big path wasn’t the smash hit they were hoping for, initially setting the actor back for a while.
The actor’s first starring film role was a box office bomb
The first major movie set Wayne would star in would ultimately become a box office disaster. The big path hitting the big screen in a widescreen format when the majority of theaters only had standard sized screens due to the Depression. As a result, they could not afford to upgrade their technology.
As a result, Wayne had to stoop to low-budget shows and movies that didn’t do him any favors at the time. However, Wayne had a following that only grew in the South over time, allowing him to re-enter the world of big movies.
Nevertheless, critics hailed The big path, as it has become an important piece of film history. As a result, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry.
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