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Archive for the ‘Joanne Dru’ Category

Directed by John Ford
Starring Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, Harry Carey, Jr., Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Russell Simpson, Hank Worden, James Arness, Francis Ford

John Ford’s Wagon Master (1950) is not just one of my favorite movies, but I consider it one of the best Westerns ever made. There’s a gentleness and an authenticity to it that no other Western can match. It’s easy to see why Ford named it his personal favorite of his own films. For me, putting this thing on is like inviting some old friends to stop by for a spell.

The performances are perfect, from Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. as the young cowboys who hire on to lead the Mormon wagon train west to Ward Bond as an elder in the group of settlers to Joanne Dru as part of a medicine show that tags along. And Russell Simpson as, what else, a grumpy old man.

Then there are the Cleggs. It seems odd to say a gentle movie has some of the vilest bad guys you’ll ever see, but it does. If you know the movie, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t seen it, well, I feel truly sorry for you.

I could go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this: Wagon Master is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. If you haven’t made the leap to high-definition yet, this should be all the reason you need. Essential.

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Been meaning to do a piece on Hank Worden for quite a while. He turned up in an episode of The Lone Ranger last night, so I figured now’s the time.

His real name was Norton Earl Worden, and he was born in Rolfe, Iowa in 1901. He grew up on a ranch in Montana, attended both Stanford University and the University of Nevada, served in the Army, and worked on the rodeo circuit as a bronco rider. While rodeoing in Madison Square Garden, he and Tex Ritter were chosen to play cowhands in Green Grow The Lilacs on Broadway.

That’s Hank in the yellow shirt to the right of Tex Ritter.

Worden broke into the movies with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman in 1936, and was soon appearing in Tex Ritter’s B Westerns.

Hank with Joanne Dru in Red River (1948)

Hank had a small part in Howard Hawks’s Come And Get It (1936), and they say Hawks recommended Worden to John Ford. For Hawks, he did Red River (1948) and The Big Sky (1952). (Why wasn’t he in Rio Bravo?)

Right, as one of the vile, dim-witted Cleggs in Ford’s Wagon Master (1950)*

As a member of John Ford’s stock company, Worden’s in Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), Wagonmaster (1950), The Searchers (1956, up top) and more.

As the Parson with Frankie Avalon in Wayne’s The Alamo (1960)

Hank continued to work with John Wayne — as part of his stock company. Their last picture together was Cahill, US Marshall in 1973.

Left, with Forrest Tucker and Kathleen Crowley in The Quiet Gun (1957)

He turns up in so much stuff: a couple of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, Hellfire (1949), The Quiet Gun (1957), Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957), One-Eyed Jacks (1961‚ Marlon Brando killed him off way too early), Smokey And The Bandit (1977) and Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy (1980). On TV, he was on The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Petticoat Junction, even a few episodes of Twin Peaks (his last role).

Hank Worden added something special to every movie he was in, but it’s Mose Harper in The Searchers that he’ll always be remembered for. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

* One of my favorite photos ever posted on this blog.

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