‘John Wayne built my career:’ Durango prop guys and pistoleros with Chris Mitchum

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“Now I’m cold and hungry and wet and tired and short-tempered…so get on with it…hell, get outta my way!” In a black Stetson and fall-inspired wool jacket, blue-eyed, 65-year-old John Wayne proves he can still cut the mustard when a group of vigilantes tries to forcefully intercept a quartet of prisoners accused of bank robbery and murder he is delivering to jail in “Cahill: U.S. Marshal.” The Duke’s fifth and final collaboration with director Andrew V. McLaglen was issued on July 11, 1973, and featured an underappreciated screenplay by none other than Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink of “Dirty Harry” infamy. Photography by David Sutton / Warner Bros.

The Chris Mitchum Interview, Part Three

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“Bringing Up Baby” director Howard Hawks, John Wayne, and Chris Mitchum discuss a scene in late March 1970 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, during the early train derailment scenes of “Rio Lobo.” Photography by David Sutton / Paramount Pictures
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John Wayne and “Sergeant York” Oscar-nominated director Howard Hawks collaborated on five films over a 24-year period — “Red River,” “Rio Bravo,” “Hatari,” “El Dorado,” and “Rio Lobo.” On April 8, 1975, during the 47th Academy Awards the Duke presented Hawks with an Honorary Academy Award inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Photography by Paul Slaughter / Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; At right, apparently during a day when he was not required on set, a 62-year-old Wayne strolls in casual attire with a 73-year-old Stetson-sporting Hawks while filming “Rio Lobo.” Photography by David Sutton
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Shot between October 6 and mid-December 1969 in the town of Chupederos, near Durango, Mexico, a publicity photo for John Wayne’s debut western of the 1970s states, “Make your play! John Wayne, starring as ‘Chisum,’ the legendary cattle baron, in his new Warner Bros. Western adventure film, faces a townful of trouble, backed, for now, by Geoffrey Deuel, as Billy the Kid. Andrew V. McLaglen directed the Batjac production from producer Andrew J. Fenady’s screenplay.” Photography by David Sutton / Warner Bros; In the photo at right, John Wayne and Pancho Villa’s son Jose Trinidad Villa have a spirited conversation about a certain paper currency in Durango, Mexico, while filming director Henry Hathaway’s splendid western “The Sons of Katie Elder” between January 6 and February 21, 1965. Photography possibly by David Sutton / Paramount Pictures
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“Let’ em go, mister — we got what we came after:” John Wayne and Geoffrey Deuel, the younger brother of tragically gifted “Alias Smith and Jones” topliner Pete Duel, handily dispatch some cattle rustlers in the sprawling 1970 western “Chisum,” costarring Forrest Tucker and ably directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. Photography possibly by David Sutton / The LasBugas Collection / DukeWayne.com / Warner Bros.
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Billy the Kid [Geoffrey Deuel, pictured at right] and henchmen Charley Bowdre [Ron Soble, far left] and Tom O’Folliard [Chris Mitchum, in his debut film with John Wayne] examine a wanted poster during the New Mexico Territory’s Lincoln County land war in director Andrew V. McLaglen’s “Chisum,” distributed on July 29, 1970. Photography possibly by David Sutton / The LasBugas Collection / DukeWayne.com / Warner Bros.
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John Wayne, Ann-Margret [who had recently wrapped filming director Burt Kennedy’s disappointing “The Train Robbers” in Durango with the Duke], Harvey Korman, Sandy Duncan, Chris Mitchum, and future Wayne costar Gary Grimes [the critically misunderstood “Cahill: U.S. Marshal”] are seen during a special Photoplay Magazine Gold Medal Awards episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” on June 7, 1972. That’s Photoplay president Al Traina seated behind Carson’s desk. Unfortunately the King of Late Night’s official clip licensing website has no video from the celebrity-studded evening. Perhaps footage is out there somewhere. This is the same episode where the Duke and Mitchum’s relationship deteriorated over Proposition 13 which wanted to reduce smog and clean up Los Angeles Harbor. Photography by David Sutton
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Pilgrim, you better do like I tell you: Union Colonel Cord McNally [John Wayne] gets the drop on wet-behind-the-ears Confederate Sergeant Tuscarora Phillips [Chris Mitchum, son of laconic tough guy Robert Mitchum] in director Howard Hawks’ “Rio Lobo,” dropped to abysmal reviews but decent box office returns on December 18, 1970. Photography possibly by David Sutton / The LasBugas Collection / DukeWayne.com / Paramount Pictures
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On May 23, 2015, Memorial Day Weekend, Chris Mitchum is seen with Miss Rodeo Iowa Hannah Hilsabeck [left] and Iowa Horse Fair Senior Cowgirl Queen Jessica Hanrahan during the ribbon cutting ceremonies for the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum located in the box office titan’s hometown of Winterset, Iowa. The second child of “Night of the Hunter” deranged preacher Robert Mitchum acted alongside the Duke in three back to back films in the early ‘70s— “Chisum,” “Rio Lobo,” “Big Jake” — and reunited five years later with Andrew V. McLaglen for the brutal “Last Hard Men” starring Charlton Heston, James Coburn, and Barbara Hershey. Photography by Wayne Davis / TYPExpress
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It’s probably best to steer clear of menacing Winchester rifle totin’, poncho sportin’ kidnapper John Fain, effectively brought to life by Richard Boone in “Big Jake,” issued on May 26, 1971, intentionally coinciding with John Wayne’s birthday. Interviewed for a TV news broadcast in the aftermath of Wayne’s demise from stomach cancer in June 1979, the former “Have Gun — Will Travel” TV star contemplated, “Duke was a hero figure. He stood up for causes when they weren’t popular at all. He never hesitated to stand up and get counted. He was that kind of a person.” Photography possibly by David Sutton / Paramount Pictures
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On location in Old Tucson, Arizona, in April 1970, damsel in distress Maria Carmen [Mexican actress Susana Dosamantes] is wrapped safely in the arms of Confederate Sergeant Tuscarora Phillips [Chris Mitchum, son of laconic tough guy Robert Mitchum] in “Rio Lobo,” a western also starring John Wayne distributed on December 18, 1970. Director Howard Hawks’ final film brought in $4.25 million in North American rentals and $19 million worldwide against a budget of $5 million and received withering notices from critics. Image Credit: The LasBugas Collection / DukeWayne.com / Paramount Pictures

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net