An American Icon: John Wayne [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Conqueror
In the historical epic The Conqueror, John Wayne stars as Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan. Red-haired Susan Hayward costars as Bortai, the Tartar princess whom Temujin claims as the spoils of battle. Eventually, Bortai's hatred for her captor metamorphoses into love, while Temujin's hordes lay claim to the entire Gobi Desert. Director Dick Powell, many of the actors (John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendariz, Thomas Gomez, Agnes Moorehead), and several of the crew members later fell victim to cancer, allegedly the result of producer Howard Hughes' decision to lens the film on location near the atomic testing grounds in the Utah desert. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Jet Pilot
If Jet Pilot seems hopelessly out of date today, imagine how filmgoers in 1957 reacted when this relic from 1949 was taken off the shelf. Many, many years in the making due to the maniacal tinkering by producer Howard Hughes (who reportedly lost $4 million on it - a massive sum back then), the film was deemed unreleasable upon completion; only when Universal-International took over distribution of a handful of RKO Radio productions did it finally see the light of day. John Wayne stars as an air force colonel stationed in an Alaskan outpost only 40 miles or so from the Soviet Union. Wayne is put in charge of Russian jet pilot Janet Leigh, who claims that she wants to defect. Actually, Leigh is a Communist spy, but thanks to Wayne's affectionate attentions she is won over to the side of Democracy. Thus it is that Leigh rescues the Duke when he is kidnapped and nearly brainwashed by her Commie comrades. Jet Pilot was eventually bought back from U-I by Hughes for his personal collection; not only did he buy into the propagandistic plotline, but he was also enthralled by the aerial scenes, some of which were staged by legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager. The 1949 production date for a number of sequences explains not only why so many of the actors look young for 1957, but the existence of several supporting cast members who had died in the interim (such as Jack Overman and Richard Rober). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pittsburgh
The three stars of Universal's The Spoilers -- Marlene Dietrich, John Wayne and Randolph Scott -- were reunited for the pageantlike adventure yarn Pittsburgh. As indicated by the title, this is a saga of the steel industry, with longtime buddies Pittsburgh Markham (Wayne) and Cash Evans (Scott) rising from the ranks of miners to run their own foundry. Ruthlessly devoted to his work, Pittsburgh eventually has a falling out with Cash and also jeopardizes his romantic relationship with beautiful Josie Winters (Dietrich). Thanks to his duplicitous business practices, Pittsburgh loses both Josie and his steel mill; but when America enters WW II, he redeems himself by signing on as a common workman with Cash's still-thriving organization. Well acted and directed, Pittsburgh nonetheless lacks the extra spark which transforms a good film into a great one. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Shepherd of the Hills
Harold Bell Wright's bestselling novel The Shepherd of the Hills had been previously filmed in 1919 and 1928 before Paramount offered the first talkie version in 1941. In one of his least typical roles, John Wayne plays a young Ozark backwoodsman forsworn to kill his father, who years earlier abandoned his mother. Against this personal crisis is played the larger drama of outsiders who threaten to push Wayne's friends and family off their land. Fate plays a hand when a mysterious stranger wanders into the community. Not at all the action picture one would expect from star John Wayne and director Henry Hathaway, Shepherd of the Hills takes its own sweet time, unfolding its story in a leisurely pace befitting its slow-moving characters. The film's rich Technicolor photography adds to the restfully rustic ambience of this unusual entertainment.. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Seven Sinners
Set in the South Seas, Seven Sinners stars Marlene Dietrich as a cabaret singer whose reputation as a troublemaker has gotten her kicked out of one port of call after another. Once more causing a riot, Dietrich takes refuge on the first ship out, together with her underhanded cohorts Broderick Crawford and Mischa Auer. During her next stopover at the Seven Sinners Cafe, Dietrich meets handsome Naval officer John Wayne. He falls in love with her, much to the consternation of island governor Samuel S. Hinds, who knows that any romantic entanglement with Dietrich invariably results in dissension, disarray and brawls. He tells her to lay off Wayne or she'll be deported. But Dietrich insists upon performing one last song for the Duke...and sure as shootin', a battle royal ensues. This time, however, Wayne works tirelessly behind the scenes to solve everyone's problems. Maintaining the fascination level of Seven Sinners is a limitless array of top character actors, including Oscar Homolka, Billy Gilbert, Albert Dekker and Reginald Denny. The film was remade in 1950 as South Sea Sinner, starring Shelley Winters and--are you holding on to something?--Liberace. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • John Wayne
    John Wayne - Temujin
  • Susan Hayward
    Susan Hayward - Bortai
  • Pedro Armendáriz
    Pedro Armendáriz - Jamuga
  • Agnes Moorehead
    Agnes Moorehead - Hunlun
  • Thomas Gomez
    Thomas Gomez - Wang Kahn
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