John Wayne’s Worst

3 Mar

The other day, there was an interesting comment on one of my posts. Andrew Petcher, who has a great blog, asked my opinion about John Wayne movies. Simply, which is the best, and which is the worst? I have given this question some thought and come to a conclusion

It is easier to pick the worst because there are a bunch of great ones. With that in mind, this post is about the movie that I think is John Wayne’s worst.

Of course, there have to be some rules. First, I must have seen the movie. After all, I have not seen all of the Duke’s films, and there must be some clunkers that I have missed (stuff like B Movies and The Conqueror). Second, John Wayne needs to make more than a cameo appearance (stuff like How the West Was Won and The Greatest Story Ever Told).

Now that the rules have been established, I am going to get to the point. In my opinion, the worst to star John Wayne is Rio Lobo, which was released in 1970. This could be your favorite movie, and you might be asking why. Well, the reasons are as follows.Rio Lobo

1. It is like one person wanted to make a Civil War movie and another person wanted to make a Western. Instead of making a decision, they decided to mash both together.

As a historian of the American West, I know that people went westward after the Civil War. However, this movie jars the viewer with a sudden transition. In one scene, John Wayne is a cavalry officer. In the next, he is his old gunslinging self.

2. It is the third time this script is filmed, and it is the worst of the bunch. There is no way that it compares to Rio Bravo and El Dorado. The third time is not the charm when you are telling the same story. Oh yeah, the story. It goes like this.

The bad guy is trying to control all of the land around the town.

The bad guy, or someone related to the bad guy, gets arrested.

The good guys realize that they have to barricade themselves in the jail until help arrives.

One of the good guys gets captured.

There is a prisoner swap, which will give the bad guy freedom to do what he wants.

During the final showdown, something surprising happens to give the good guys the advantage.

There is a sidekick who provides comic relief.

The is also a drunk on the side of the good guys.

On the side of the good guys is a young man with a cool name. In Rio Bravo and El Dorado, they are, respectively, Colorado and Mississippi. In Rio Lobo, they skip the states and go with Tuscarora.

I could go on, but you get the point.

3. The supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired. Although, I am probably being unfair in this point because the actors took later roles that hinder my judgement.

The big bad guy is played by Victor French. Honestly, I cannot get out of my mind that he is Chief Roy Mobey on Carter Country. “Handle it! Handle it!”Carter Country

The crooked sheriff is played by Mike Henry, who would go on to play Junior in Smokey and the Bandit. “Put the evidence in the car!”Junior

Heck, Jack Elam, who played the crazy old drunk guy, was not even a good choice. He was ten years younger than John Wayne.

Luckily, this is not a movie where John Wayne, like in the first two, ends up with a girl who is too young for him. Instead of falling in love with him, they tell him that he is comfortable. However, there is an interesting story about one of the young actresses in Rio Lobo.

Sherry Lansing plays Amelita, who has her face slashed by the sheriff. In the final scene, she kills him. Yep, she shot Junior.Amelita

However, that is not the interesting part. In later years, she became the first woman to head a Hollywood Studio.

Anyway, these are a few of the reasons why I think Rio Lobo is John Wayne’s worst movie. Now, I have a question for all of the fans of the Duke. What do you think is his worst movie? Of course, you might be such a fan that you do not think any of them are bad.

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13 Responses to “John Wayne’s Worst”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong March 3, 2015 at 02:56 #

    Rio Lobo is bad, but The Conqueror is beyond bad. Maybe it’s so bad it doesn’t even count, like those B, C, and D westerns Garry refuses to watch?

    • Rick March 3, 2015 at 03:14 #

      Like I said, I’ve never seen The Conqueror. However, it has to be terrible. McQ is bad, too.

      • Marilyn Armstrong March 3, 2015 at 03:24 #

        The Conquerer is unspeakably bad. Embarrassing. Haven’t seen McQ. Fortunately, Garry knows what to avoid. Not counting the poverty row movies or The Conquerer (the winner of the worst award, hands down), Garry’s vote goes to The Barbarian and the Geisha. Which I have never seen. He says Rio Lobo was just a tired rehash, but The Barbarian and the Geisha was truly awful.

      • Rick March 3, 2015 at 03:44 #

        I haven’t seen that one, either.

  2. Andrew Petcher March 3, 2015 at 13:33 #

    That is a good choice, it is a fairly pointless film. My double nomination goes to McQ and Brannigan, mostly down to the point you make about Sons of Katie Elder – he is just too old for the roles!

    • Rick March 3, 2015 at 13:36 #

      I always thought McQ was his answer to Dirty Harry. It is a bad movie.

      • Andrew Petcher March 3, 2015 at 13:43 #

        Clint was about 40 when he made Dirty Harry!

  3. chandlerswainreviews March 3, 2015 at 19:57 #

    “Rooster Cogburn” which manages double duty as a spoiler of the memory of one of Wayne’s finest characters, and as an effective emetic when the senior Hepburn starts batting her eyes in a misplaced game of girlish coquettishness.

    • Rick March 5, 2015 at 17:10 #

      Why do successful movies have to go back to the well and mess up a good thing? I understand if there are a series of stories about a character on which to base more movies. However, this idea of making up something new just to squeeze out another movie does not work. Here is a question: Is “Rooster Cogburn” Wayne’s only sequel, or does something like Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy count?

  4. jcalberta March 3, 2015 at 20:29 #

    Hollywood can’t resist a formula. Did it make money? Make more!!! ca ching, ca ching … until it dies. Which is John’s Worst Western? War Wagon? Comancheros? Chisum … Hmmmm … there’s quite a few uninspired formula Westerns in there. Strangely, amongst all these is one (guilty pleasure?) North to Alaska. But I haven’t seen it in a while so I’m not sure how it might be holding up. Possibly not. Duke could act, and could have done better, but this happens to lots of Actors who get to the top. Alas.

    • Rick March 4, 2015 at 00:51 #

      Yep. Except for a few films, he tended to coast at the end. Although, I like Chisum.

  5. Carl D'Agostino April 13, 2017 at 16:09 #

    The Green Berets gotta be the worst. A real failure and weak attempt at pro war propaganda. But it did give America a view of place and action going on. John Wayne seemed just too old to be a field officer and commando. But of course if one is a John Wayne fan there are no bad movies.

    • Rick April 13, 2017 at 17:15 #

      I have never seen The Green Berets. For some reason, it has slipped my viewing. However, I read that the ending is messed up because the sun is setting in the east.

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