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One of two original Winchester Model 92 rifles used by John Wayne for the twirling scenes in the John Ford pic "Stagecoach" brought $113,000 at an auction of more than 1,400 guns and pieces of motion-picture memorabilia from the Stembridge Collection in southern California June 5, 2007. Wayne and Yakima Canutt had modified the lever loop to accommodate the actor's large hands, which allowed him to twirl the carbine while cocking it in the movie. The saddle ring carbine chambered in .32 WCF had a 15 1/2" barrel and was subject to a BATFE transfer to the buyer as a short-barreled rifle. Prior to the auction, conducted by Little John's Auction Service, the estimated value of the gun was $15,000 to $30,000. - Dave Campbell
Over the years, a number of top holstermakers crafted versions of John Wayne's famous rig for him, including Andy Anderson, Alfonso's of Hollywood and John Bianchi. According to holstermaker Bill Brown, the late Bob Brown (no relation) also claimed to have made a rig for Duke. Wayne's hallmark rig seems to have first appeared in the movie Hondo, made in 1953, but the Colt used in that film had a 5 ½" barrel with brown grips. The rig he wore in his next Western, The Searchers, was what is known as a "half-breed" style, which is a combination of smooth leather and rough-out, the latter having the property of not moving about while being worn.

The well-worn rig furnished with the Duke's Colt came with a number of original 5-in-1 blank cartridges in its 36 cartridge loops. A single .45-70 Gov't cartridge seen in most of Wayne's later Western movies remained in loop number 22. Wayne used it to indicate when he was getting low on ammunition, a fairly common practice in the Old West. He reportedly used it as a tribute to the U.S. Cavalry, which used this round in its "Trapdoor" carbines during the Indian Wars. The belt is about size 40.

Exactly who made the rig in question is not known. It is a hollow money belt, and the holster is lined. The rig is obviously hand-made, but no maker's mark could be found. After seeing detailed photos, holstermaker Jim Lockwood of Legends in Leather believed it could have been made by the late Andy Anderson. Eddy Janis of Peacemaker Specialists agreed.

However, Anderson's partner, Victor Perez, reports that the first rig Anderson made for Wayne was in 1969. For the time being, the maker of this well-used rig remains a mystery. In addition to this one, John Wayne also wore a number of other similar rigs in various films over the years. Lockwood pointed out that marks in the holster show this holster has also carried Colt SAA revolvers with normal-size trigger guards.

Wayne had no trouble speaking his mind, writing letters to the likes of Howard Hughes at RKO that almost burnt holes in the page:

My racket isn't writing letters any more than answering them promptly is yours.. . . I must get some serious beefs off my chest ... they are very simple. At the other studios and for my own company ... I seldom get involved on a picture for more than eight to ten weeks over-all. I am paid top terms for that time. At RKO I wind up giving six months of my time . . . and it's hectic, uncomfortable and unpleasant time ... for a fraction of the compensation paid me by the other studios. You can resolve this by paying me what the others do for the two pictures I owe you.

It is very obvious to me why RKO has always gotten into trouble from the standpoint of time. No forethought has ever really been given by your studio executives to the proper selection of properties for me at the right time. Frankly . . . none of them have enough ability or experience to decide upon what represents real showmanship. Their efforts have been devoted to coercing me into pictures that are not ready . . . and not even suitable for me.

Are you aware of the fact that I completed my services on Flying Leathernecks for RKO in 1951? Under my contract I should have had my next suitable material ready for March 1952. Any stories I suggested were frowned on. I have had to hold months open. After five months I took a job with another studio.

For three years I have had your two commitments hanging over my head. Both should have been finished a year ago.

One after the other I have lost important pictures because of the great length of time you tie me up. . . . I am speaking of outstanding quality pictures . . . the very essence and lifeblood of an actor's existence.

I guess I've run out of words concerning the situation, but certainly not of feeling.

Such “Poverty Row” studios as Mascot, Monogram, and Republic, where Wayne spent more than 10 years starring in a string of cheap “quickie” Westerns. His first major film was 1931’s The Big Trail, which did not free him from this grind. His big break finally came in 1939 when director John Ford’s Stagecoach finally changed his Poverty Row image.

Wayne was an actor, friend, husband, and father. The veteran cowboys and stunt men who worked on both his potboilers and major westerns routinely played cards with “Duke” and respected him as an “unpretentious star,” a rare tribute from men with a keen eye for booted clay feet. Although Wayne’s three marriages ended in divorce, he remained a devoted father to his five children.

World War II was traumatic for Wayne. He tried to enlist, but the army rejected him for health reasons. While he played unforgettable wartime heroes and was patriotic to the core, the stigma of not soldiering for his country wounded him deeply.

Driven by a fierce work ethic, Wayne forged his own realistic acting style and bold screen image. Toward the end of his career, this powerful screen persona overshadowed his personal identity. Duke is a far cry from the usual movie star; an extremely complex and sensitive man.

It has been said that of all the screen interpretations of the complex events leading up to the siege and fall of the Alamo, the most influential have been John Wayne's (in his 1960 film The Alamo) and Walt Disney's. Of the two, Disney's is the more widely seen and remembered. After all, Walt Disney inspired a Davy Crockett craze; John Wayne's clunker brought it to a close.

John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) and Howard Hawk’s Red River (1948) established John Wayne, and not Gary Cooper, as the genre’s iconic beacon. Also, there is nothing pallid about Natalie Wood and Vera Miles in The Searchers or Joanne Dru and Colleen Gray in Red River. The most underrated Western icon is Randolph Scott, particularly in Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men From Now (1956), with Gail Russell, and Comanche Station (1960), with Nancy Gates, the last of six collaborations between Scott and Boetticher. The most underrated Spaghetti Western is Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), with Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Jr., and Claudia Cardinale, plus a haunting score by Ennio Morricone. And let us not forget the unjustly neglected Westerns of Anthony Mann, Raoul Walsh, and John Sturges.

Jimmy Stewart:
John Wayne was probably the biggest star in the world...yet he retained the qualities of a small boy. He had the enthusiasm for life that would make a high school football star envious. And through it all, Duke never changed. As a man he was exactly the boy he started out. And as a friend ... well, you just wouldn't want a better one.

In his lifetime, Duke stamped AMERICA across the face of the motion picture industry. Few other men, living or dead, have ever portrayed the fine, decent, and generous American qualities as Duke did. He portrayed on screen the values he lived off screen. Gentle...so much so, it would have surprised his critics. Loyal ... once your friend, always your friend. Courageous ... if you doubt it, remember his fight against cancer, or the way he faced heart surgery. And decent. Above all, Duke was a decent man.

He was also far from perfect. He made his mistakes as I have made mine and you have made yours. All in all, I would say they were unintentional. Mistakes of the heart, I would say. Of course the man had faults ... but I wouldn't be the one to cast the first stone. Let me say this about the John Wayne I knew. He was an Original. He was the Statue of his Times.

All in all, I think it was the man's integrity that speaks most of him. His principles never varied. Nor did his ideals. Nor did his faith in mankind.


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