All Too Human a Father

John Wayne, looking worried,with good reason, in Trouble Along the Way (1953)“What do you know about love? I think love is watching your child go off to school for the first time alone… sitting beside a sick kid’s bed waiting for the doctor, praying it isn’t polio… or that cold chill you get when you hear the screech of brakes, and know your kid’s outside on the street some place… and a lot of other things you get can’t get out of books, ’cause nobody knows how to write ‘em down.”

~John Wayne as Steve Aloysius Williams in Trouble Along the Way (1953)

John Wayne played many kinds of fathers. Most of them expressed their tough love in the saddle or on the battlefield. Popular imagination colors this actor as a combination war hero/cowboy, often causing us to forget that the actor, born Marion Robert Morrison, the son of a pharmacist, was playacting–albeit on a very high level–when he strapped on the six gun or the fatigues. By his own admission, the Duke was consciously building an image. “When I started”, he explained, “I knew I was no actor and I went to work on this Wayne thing. It was as deliberate a projection as you’ll ever see. I figured I needed a gimmick, so I dreamed up the drawl, the squint and a way of moving meant to suggest that I wasn’t looking for trouble but would just as soon throw a bottle at your head as not. I practiced in front of a mirror.”

Eventually, when he played a Dad on the screen, Wayne didn’t need to practice in front of a mirror to play a convincing paternal role. As a man who became the father of seven children, his real life apprenticeship in this important role began in 1934 at age 27 when the first of his three sons,  Michael, was born. Michael was one of four children from the actor’s first marriage to Josephine Alicia Saenz. Wayne‘s brood was rounded out with the birth of his last child and fourth daughter, Marisa in 1966, when he was 59. Wayne’s third and last marriage to Pilar Palette Wayne produced three children.

I do think he’s underrated as an actor, but when his long career took an occasional side route into modern dress, my attention was often more acute, appreciating his skill and his ability to project something genuine when he played a father in the movies.

Three Godfathers brings unexpected paternal responsibility for Wayne Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr.We classic film fans sometimes forget a few things. One of those items might be the fact that John Wayne, film icon, and probably the biggest, honking movie star we’ll ever see, was never the critic’s darling in his own day, despite teeming hordes of fans, young, old, right and left. The longtime film critic of The New York Times, Vincent Canby, was one of many who did not particularly care for the Duke’s later movies. Canby once wrote grudgingly about The Cowboys (1972), a movie that gave Wayne a turn as a trail boss reduced to recruiting his hands among schoolboys: “Wayne is, of course, marvelously indestructible, and he has become an almost perfect father figure.” He would play strikingly memorable father figures molded as impressively troubled Homeric icons in movies, starting with Howard Hawks’ Red River (1947). Moving on to the complex, mythic Western characters that John Ford cast him in, Wayne played the nurturer in the director’s Cavalry trilogy, (Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande) and the remake of Three Godfathers. Complex questions of fatherhood arise again in John Farrow’s adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s story in Hondo (1953), when Wayne‘s Indian-raised Cavalry Scout becomes a foster father of sorts to Geraldine Page‘s needy son. He further evolved into the protector/destroyer in Allan Dwan’s The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and Ford’s later movies, The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). In truth, he was more convincing to me in movies as a flawed, very human father figure with enough “life issues” and “anger management” problems that could electrify more than a few group therapy sessions.

John Wayne as Ethan the Father Figure deciding whether to destroy or embrace fatherhood when recapturing his niece Natalie WoodObservers will continue to examine his characterizations of  masculine archetypes, but I’ve always found that  I have a weakness for Wayne when he stepped off the pedestal, allowing  the archetypes to lose their balance and their way in a few movies. There’s something touching about the big guy when he joined the rest of us in our confused search for meaning, as well as a way to put a meal on the table and a roof over our heads. Most often, despite his seeming ability to master just about any situation, those attempts to connect with those others in our lives could be tricky for him. Yet it was those slippery, personal moments in modern life which seemed to touch me most deeply. Doffing the ten-gallon hat, the boots, chaps, guns and attitude, the times that John Wayne played contemporary men experiencing the highs and lows of domestic life in the 20th century were relatively few.

Yet there is Wayne, showing up for less than a minute or two as a scared young Depression era Dad called “Smith” in The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933). In an early appearance by the raw-boned young man, it is his awkward appeal that is more poignant than the filmmakers’ intended in his brief scenes. The story involves the struggle of a fugitive (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) to eke out a living, in part by doing some amateur boxing. When John Wayne pops up unexpectedly as a minor character who has a brief conversation with the leading man, we know he’s going to get his brains bashed in by boxing against a pro to earn enough to get his wife and baby out of hock. A couple of decades later we might remember the withdrawal of Wayne‘s character from his wife (played by Maureen O’Hara) and daughters in Ford’s The Wings of Eagles (1957), when a spinal injury undermines an already strained marriage. This decision leads his character, based on screenwriter Spig Wead, to separate from them, pursuing military service and a writing career as opposed to . Often forgotten is the moment at the climax of William Wellman‘s adaptation of Ernest K. Gann’s Island in the Sky (1953) when the crew of a downed plane is rescued from the desolate northern wilderness. The stoic Wayne, the lynchpin who held his crew together physically and psychologically during their ordeal,  after stoically keeping his worries to himself, is finally revealed as the husband of a worried wife and the father of several children. The pilot who saves the day in one of Wellman‘s other biggest successes was  drawn from a Gann novel, The High and the Mighty (1953). This also reveals Wayne as a haunted character, who, years later, still recalls his own complicity in his son’s death, along with his mother’s, in a horrific crash that occurred prior to the events of the film, when he was at the controls of a plane.

Still another modern dress story gave Wayne another opportunity to embody a troubled Dad in Otto Preminger‘s often lumbering action tale, In Harm’s Way (1965). Set in the early days of World War Two following Pearl Harbor, the movie faltered in its action sequences, but was almost redeemed acting in the few moments of intimacy allowed in the sprawling epic. The painful tension and anguish bristling between Brandon de Wilde and Wayne, as estranged son and  father, holds a movie’s worth of untapped feeling, with just an echo of the earlier relationship between Wayne and Claude Jarman‘s character in Rio Grande (1950). (The film is also almost redeemed by the tersely adult love scenes between Wayne and Patricia Neal as the two actors create a small corner of beautiful as they created one of the more realistically mature bonds in American movies).

While mulling over this Sunday’s celebration of Father’s Day, I started to think about a little movie that is usually given short shrift by reviewers and classic movie fans alike. Maybe it means more to me because I can remember that this was one of the few movies my own father watched with me. Dad didn’t like movies. He didn’t have time or the patience for them, and he certainly had little in common with John Wayne. However, as a graduate of a Jesuit college, and a former semi-pro baseball and football player, this father of three girls and one boy, this particular Wayne movie must have struck a chord with him.

John Wayne in Trouble Along the Way as a modern day Dad with issuesTrouble Along the Way (1953) is often dismissed as too sentimental, a football flick of interest only to citizens of a jockocracy, or those who feel a crying need for another take on Going My Way (1944). This little known John Wayne movie,  directed by Michael Curtiz as his considerable powers were waning at Warner Brothers, was set in a small fictional Catholic college struggling with debt and teetering on closure. St. Anthony’s, where the aging head of the school, (Charles Coburn, who is inexplicably cast as a cuddly cleric), seeks to fill its coffers by fielding a first-class football team against the likes of Notre Dame, Holy Cross, and Villanova. To meet that end, Coburn hires the mysteriously disgraced football coach Stephen Aloysius Williams (Wayne) for a song, leading to–you guessed it–complications–along with a few burly football pros appearing in the college lineup along with the students. One of the wrinkles in this scheme is added by Sherry Jackson as Williams young daughter, whose closeness to her father is beautifully underplayed by Wayne in his scenes with the child actress.  As her divorced mother, sleepy eyed Marie Windsor, in a thankless role as a fashionable barracuda, struggles for power with her ex-spouse and her disenchanted second hubby (the perennially oily Tom Helmore), stirring up trouble by seeking custody of the girl through the courts. A social worker, played with a starchy sexiness and a spark of intelligence by Donna Reed, starts an investigation into the domestic circumstances the child is being raised in with the sometimes hard-living Wayne as her primary custodial parent. The story, written by first-time producer Melville Shavelson and credited as well to Jack Rose and Robert Hardy Andrews (with some major tampering by Wayne crony James Edward Grant),  is not up there with Long Day’s Journey Into Night as a searing examination of the relationship between father and child. Trouble Along the Way posterIt also doesn’t approach the generational conflict found in Howard Hawks’ Red River (1947) or the life and death desperation that an unexpected paternal role thrust onto Wayne in a film such as John Ford‘s flawed but beautifully shot Three Godfathers (1948).  Throughout the movie, the often ragged, worried looking Wayne, (who was having a very rough time in real life while going through a bad divorce from his second wife, Chata Esperanza Baur), blends his cynical and weary mien with displays of comedic underplaying that are quite enjoyable. The many hands in the script give the actor some funny and true lines to deliver, revealing a vulnerable, feet-of-clay side of his screen persona.  This lightens aspects of the scenes with ill-served Marie Windsor as the pathologically bitter ex-wife and those that involve those sometimes unrealistically portrayed priests at the college. The presence of solid character actors in a few of these clerical roles, such as Dabbs Greer and Tom Tully, adds some realistic grit to the characters of the religous. Tully is particularly adept at giving some texture to the material, enlivening the role of a worldly Father Malone, who acts as Coburn‘s wing man. The priest, who had coached the dismal college football team prior to Wayne‘s arrival, is a man who inspires the layman coach with his plain-spoken explanation of the college football team’s previous record.  Wayne asks, “What system do you use?”, to which Father Malone replies “‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ But, usually, the others do it to us first.” Asking how they did the season before,  Malone sighs, ” We showed up for every game.” inspiring Wayne’s character to comment that “I’d say that was raw courage.”

A worried father in Trouble Along the Way (1953) watches over his daughter.When trading barbs with Reed and in his gruff tenderness with Jackson there are several opportunities for Wayne to display his character’s underlying uncertainty, despair and anger. In early scenes, the bond between the father and daughter may be conveyed best in silence in a moment when he watches his daughter from the window of their threadbare room, as a shifting blend of self-reproach and concern play across his face. Best of all, is his impatient monologue, delivered as an anthem that any father might wish to express to an outsider judging his parenting ability: “”What do you know about love? I think love is watching your child go off to school for the first time alone… sitting beside a sick kid’s bed waiting for the doctor, praying it isn’t polio… or that cold chill you get when you hear the screech of brakes, and know your kid’s outside on the street some place… and a lot of other things you get can’t get out of books, ’cause nobody knows how to write ‘em down. ”

Wayne explaining what real love is to Donna Reed in Trouble Along the WayWayne plays a man whose good football coaching skills are at odds with his inability to play entirely by the rules. In part because of his painful experiences with Windsor, this has resulted in his turning his back on a straight career path. Life on “respectable” society’s fringes has become his natural habitat, with his child sharing this world of the furnished room, the street, the poolroom and the tavern with the Wayne character. He refuses to recognize the validity of the girl’s mother as a partial custodian of his daughter, dismissing  the well-educated but cold Reed’s insights and advice due to her  lack of life experience. After the court appoints her to observe the girl’s environment and arrange visits with her mother, he finds this impossible to ignore. Soon, Wayne finds the idea of holing up in an obscure college rather appealing. It will provide a cover of steady work that might help his reputation with the social worker, and keep a roof over his head and that of his daughter, (even if it is in a dingy, and occasionally deafening space below a belfry). Putting together a team of “scholars” who know their way around the gridiron, (which includes a very young Chuck Connors), arranging shady deals for equipment and payments under the table to secure a winning team, reflects the desperate edge to these shenanigans.  Wayne is even given the line later identified with the famous Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This movie was marketed as a breezy comedy, along the lines of a Cary Grant domestic story or in the same vein as The Quiet Man, the leading actor’s recent success. Trouble Along the Way has the requisite comedic goals of developing situations in which aspects of human nature are examined. The tendency toward rigidity in our lives and thinking; the apparent need to circumvent society’s rules to survive; the underhanded practices that seem to be necessary for success and the delusions we choose to labor under are revealed, but touched on so lightly their resolution–or lack of it, remains interesting. The conclusion of the film, oddly,  often misidentified by reviewers as a “neat happy ending”, is much more ambiguous. Eventually, as even Reed begins to learn by observing Wayne and his daughter’s largely unspoken bond, she begins to question her own assumptions.  Naturally, all the deceptions and rationales behind them are publicly revealed, including the lack of Marie Windsor‘s maternal feeling, and order, in some sense is restored. Yet, though there is an implication through the slight softening of the banter between Wayne and Reed that their interest in one another is growing, the filmmakers leave that aspect of the story unresolved, despite Reed‘s admission under oath in a funny, chaotic court scene. This is fitting, since the most powerful bond here is between the father and child, even if, at the end of the story, each have changed and accepted the need for life to change them. The tantalizing aspect of this movie remains what John Wayne might have accomplished if he’d had more opportunities to do this sort of well-written, dialogue-driven vehicle. The film, which offers us a glimpse of another side of the man’s considerable talent.

Available on DVD and broadcast on TCM occasionally, this film, btw, can be enjoyed by people who have little interest in football, but it may interest you to know that it may have drawn some inspiration from common knowledge about the role of professionalism in amateur sports, as well as the gambling scandals that broke in the national news in 1951 over basketball games on a collegiate level. You can read more about that newsworthy brouhaha here. You might enjoy this little movie more than you expect–especially if it helps you remember your own father or if you’re lucky enough to be able to watch this one with your Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

Sources:
Roberts, Randy, Olson, James Stuart, John Wayne, American, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Robertson,
James C., The Casablanca Man, Routledge, 1995.
Umphlett, Wiley Lee, The Movies Go to College, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1984.
Wills, Garry, John Wayne’s America, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

0 Response All Too Human a Father
Posted By Patricia : June 18, 2009 3:35 pm

I enjoyed reading your appreciation of John Wayne and “Trouble Along the Way”. Wayne, the actor never fails to impress me, and nobody makes me happier to see him on screen than Wayne, the movie star.

In “Wings of Eagles” I found it particularly endearing that Duke was sans toupee when playing the later in life Wead. That certainly was commitment.

The relationship between Kirby Yorke and his son Jeff in “Rio Grande” is one of my favourite features of that movie. The day after the soldier’s fight when the Colonel peeks through the window at Jeff receiving his medicine always chokes me up. All those years he missed with his son.

Posted By Patricia : June 18, 2009 3:35 pm

I enjoyed reading your appreciation of John Wayne and “Trouble Along the Way”. Wayne, the actor never fails to impress me, and nobody makes me happier to see him on screen than Wayne, the movie star.

In “Wings of Eagles” I found it particularly endearing that Duke was sans toupee when playing the later in life Wead. That certainly was commitment.

The relationship between Kirby Yorke and his son Jeff in “Rio Grande” is one of my favourite features of that movie. The day after the soldier’s fight when the Colonel peeks through the window at Jeff receiving his medicine always chokes me up. All those years he missed with his son.

Posted By suzidoll : June 18, 2009 5:57 pm

The perfect post for Father’s Day, and I am so glad you wrote about this film. I am a major fan of John Wayne,As time goes by, and he is identified as an icon instead of an actor, the diversity of films he was in and the depth of some of his performances are being forgotten.

And, Vincent Canby can take a hike — THE COWBOYS rocks.

Posted By suzidoll : June 18, 2009 5:57 pm

The perfect post for Father’s Day, and I am so glad you wrote about this film. I am a major fan of John Wayne,As time goes by, and he is identified as an icon instead of an actor, the diversity of films he was in and the depth of some of his performances are being forgotten.

And, Vincent Canby can take a hike — THE COWBOYS rocks.

Posted By Joe aka Mongo : June 18, 2009 11:12 pm

Moira, it’s good to see John Wayne (father figure) in the spotlight. Of the films you mentioned no one could have done them better. I must admit though that I never got the chance to see “Trouble Along the Way” which I will now make it my business to see. Thanks.

Posted By Joe aka Mongo : June 18, 2009 11:12 pm

Moira, it’s good to see John Wayne (father figure) in the spotlight. Of the films you mentioned no one could have done them better. I must admit though that I never got the chance to see “Trouble Along the Way” which I will now make it my business to see. Thanks.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : June 18, 2009 11:30 pm

I’m a big fan of “The Duke,” too, even if we pulled different levers on election day. I confess I’ve never seen Trouble All the Way either and I really appreciate the sentiments and the recommendation. That speech you highlighted at the top of the post is all too true for this newish father of two.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : June 18, 2009 11:30 pm

I’m a big fan of “The Duke,” too, even if we pulled different levers on election day. I confess I’ve never seen Trouble All the Way either and I really appreciate the sentiments and the recommendation. That speech you highlighted at the top of the post is all too true for this newish father of two.

Posted By daprw : June 19, 2009 1:11 pm

John Wayne has always been close to my heart. Maybe it was because he bore a striking resemblance to my own father (at least in my eyes) or the fact he was a giant seemingly indestructible hero. I liked his war movies and westerns, but this movie was especially endearing.
Thank you for choosing John Wayne to remember this Father’s Day. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to the Duke than this one.
I’m sure his kids are proud, too.
daprw

Posted By daprw : June 19, 2009 1:11 pm

John Wayne has always been close to my heart. Maybe it was because he bore a striking resemblance to my own father (at least in my eyes) or the fact he was a giant seemingly indestructible hero. I liked his war movies and westerns, but this movie was especially endearing.
Thank you for choosing John Wayne to remember this Father’s Day. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to the Duke than this one.
I’m sure his kids are proud, too.
daprw

Posted By Russ : June 19, 2009 2:00 pm

I have always LOVED this movie. There is absolutely no way that anyone can watch this “gem” and say John Wayne can’t act, unless of course, they’ve made up their minds before watching it, or aren’t paying attention.

He was INCREDIBLE in this movie! It was, and still is a great movie that shows JW’s range.

It’s too bad it took so long to get it on DVD.

Posted By Russ : June 19, 2009 2:00 pm

I have always LOVED this movie. There is absolutely no way that anyone can watch this “gem” and say John Wayne can’t act, unless of course, they’ve made up their minds before watching it, or aren’t paying attention.

He was INCREDIBLE in this movie! It was, and still is a great movie that shows JW’s range.

It’s too bad it took so long to get it on DVD.

Posted By Al Lowe : June 19, 2009 4:21 pm

I think most movie buffs know that John Wayne can act. As I recall, Barbara Walters asked him during an interview if he thought he could act and he replied, I KNOW I can act!”
I have seen many John Wayne movies…Heck, John Wayne made MANY movies. But I never watched Trouble Along the Way. It may be my Catholic upbringing that made me resist. I went to a Catholic grade school, high school and college (and, of course, now I’m a Presbyterian). I’ll look out for it on the TCM schedule.

Moirafinnie, I wish you or one of the Morlocks would write a piece on Marie Windsor. I was watching her performance last night on my VHS tape of The Narrow Margin. She’s great in that and The Killing, by Kubrick. She also appeared in trash like Cat Women of the Moon and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. I don’t know anything at all about her and would like to know more.
In one of the reference books by Halliwell (another author I forgot to credit when listing my favorite movie books) his successor quotes Marie as saying: “I wasn’t that particular, shall I say. I never asked who the costars were or anything like that. I just asked when it was and how much money.”
She died in 2000 at the age of 84 or 85. Did TCM ever interview her?

Posted By Al Lowe : June 19, 2009 4:21 pm

I think most movie buffs know that John Wayne can act. As I recall, Barbara Walters asked him during an interview if he thought he could act and he replied, I KNOW I can act!”
I have seen many John Wayne movies…Heck, John Wayne made MANY movies. But I never watched Trouble Along the Way. It may be my Catholic upbringing that made me resist. I went to a Catholic grade school, high school and college (and, of course, now I’m a Presbyterian). I’ll look out for it on the TCM schedule.

Moirafinnie, I wish you or one of the Morlocks would write a piece on Marie Windsor. I was watching her performance last night on my VHS tape of The Narrow Margin. She’s great in that and The Killing, by Kubrick. She also appeared in trash like Cat Women of the Moon and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. I don’t know anything at all about her and would like to know more.
In one of the reference books by Halliwell (another author I forgot to credit when listing my favorite movie books) his successor quotes Marie as saying: “I wasn’t that particular, shall I say. I never asked who the costars were or anything like that. I just asked when it was and how much money.”
She died in 2000 at the age of 84 or 85. Did TCM ever interview her?

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : June 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Marie Windsor was hot! Al, have you seen her in The Sniper? Her, uh, shall we say character arc made me gasp out loud.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : June 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Marie Windsor was hot! Al, have you seen her in The Sniper? Her, uh, shall we say character arc made me gasp out loud.

Posted By moirafinnie : June 19, 2009 6:01 pm

Hi all,
Thanks for your comments. I really loved this small-scale movie a great deal and I’m happy that others might also be fond of it.

Hi Al and RHS:
I must hasten to add my admiration for Marie Windsor, (especially in Narrow Margin), to the accolades both you and RHS are tossing this good actress’s way. Many film noir lovers share your interest in the lady.

At the website “Modern Times” you can read an interview with Marie Windsor touching on everything from Kubrick, Force of Evil, Abraham Polonsky to how you work with short guys like Raft and Garfield when you’re 5’9″ tall. It is found here.

Al asked “Did TCM ever interview her?”

In 1999, TCM devoted an entire Summer of Darkness to Film Noir. One of the features of that period was an extended filmed interview conducted by Scott Glenn with four of the ladies who threw that genre its darkest curves: Marie Windsor, Audrey Totter, Colleen Gray, and Jane Greer.

If you would like to read a transcript of that interview, please click here. I think that you might enjoy it enormously.

I would also recommend some great books: “Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames” by Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner as well as “Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir” by Eddie Muller as great reads with some first hand info about Marie Windsor and other hardworking actresses.

I hope our pal, author Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation may stumble on this mention of Marie and put some of his well-informed two cents in here too!

Maybe we could figure out a way to do a profile of Ms. Windsor on the Morlocks someday soon. She always sounded like a great dame and played the role of John Wayne‘s ex-wife with great brio. I also suspect that she may have tried to approach the role with some sympathy toward her limited character’s lack of choices in life. The mother seemed to be a rather desperate woman grasping at straws, and one of those “straws” just happened to be her daughter. Too bad it was the fifties, and Marie wound up being a bit of a sketchier character than necessary.

Btw, Al, I’ve run across many, many people who still dismiss Wayne‘s acting and when they do give him some credit, it is usually given in a left-handed way by ascribing his characterizations to the gifted director John Ford rather than anything he might have brought to a part. Some of that is political, of course, just as it colors the opinions one still runs across of Jane Fonda.

Posted By moirafinnie : June 19, 2009 6:01 pm

Hi all,
Thanks for your comments. I really loved this small-scale movie a great deal and I’m happy that others might also be fond of it.

Hi Al and RHS:
I must hasten to add my admiration for Marie Windsor, (especially in Narrow Margin), to the accolades both you and RHS are tossing this good actress’s way. Many film noir lovers share your interest in the lady.

At the website “Modern Times” you can read an interview with Marie Windsor touching on everything from Kubrick, Force of Evil, Abraham Polonsky to how you work with short guys like Raft and Garfield when you’re 5’9″ tall. It is found here.

Al asked “Did TCM ever interview her?”

In 1999, TCM devoted an entire Summer of Darkness to Film Noir. One of the features of that period was an extended filmed interview conducted by Scott Glenn with four of the ladies who threw that genre its darkest curves: Marie Windsor, Audrey Totter, Colleen Gray, and Jane Greer.

If you would like to read a transcript of that interview, please click here. I think that you might enjoy it enormously.

I would also recommend some great books: “Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames” by Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner as well as “Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir” by Eddie Muller as great reads with some first hand info about Marie Windsor and other hardworking actresses.

I hope our pal, author Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation may stumble on this mention of Marie and put some of his well-informed two cents in here too!

Maybe we could figure out a way to do a profile of Ms. Windsor on the Morlocks someday soon. She always sounded like a great dame and played the role of John Wayne‘s ex-wife with great brio. I also suspect that she may have tried to approach the role with some sympathy toward her limited character’s lack of choices in life. The mother seemed to be a rather desperate woman grasping at straws, and one of those “straws” just happened to be her daughter. Too bad it was the fifties, and Marie wound up being a bit of a sketchier character than necessary.

Btw, Al, I’ve run across many, many people who still dismiss Wayne‘s acting and when they do give him some credit, it is usually given in a left-handed way by ascribing his characterizations to the gifted director John Ford rather than anything he might have brought to a part. Some of that is political, of course, just as it colors the opinions one still runs across of Jane Fonda.

Posted By Jacqueline T Lynch : June 20, 2009 6:55 am

Great stuff, as usual. I’ve not seen this film in years, but it is certainly a departure from Wayne’s usual films, and he plays it very well. Always liked the work of both Dabbs Greer and Tom Tully, both very solid supporting players.

Posted By Jacqueline T Lynch : June 20, 2009 6:55 am

Great stuff, as usual. I’ve not seen this film in years, but it is certainly a departure from Wayne’s usual films, and he plays it very well. Always liked the work of both Dabbs Greer and Tom Tully, both very solid supporting players.

Posted By MissGoddess : June 22, 2009 9:42 am

Hi Moira! Excellent article on a little known film that hopefully will find new fans now. I only watched it for the first time when the DVD was released, though I had heard about it for years. It is one of the most unique of Wayne’s films, I can’t think of any other quite like it. It’s more the kind of film I’d imagine Cagney or Pat O’Brien being cast, or even Bing Crosby. Shows JW’s range alright.

And yes, I too still hear constantly that Wayne only “played himself”. Usually from people who have seen only a handful of his films, and quite a long time ago. When you start to watch more of his work with an open mind, you come to quite a different conclusion.

Posted By MissGoddess : June 22, 2009 9:42 am

Hi Moira! Excellent article on a little known film that hopefully will find new fans now. I only watched it for the first time when the DVD was released, though I had heard about it for years. It is one of the most unique of Wayne’s films, I can’t think of any other quite like it. It’s more the kind of film I’d imagine Cagney or Pat O’Brien being cast, or even Bing Crosby. Shows JW’s range alright.

And yes, I too still hear constantly that Wayne only “played himself”. Usually from people who have seen only a handful of his films, and quite a long time ago. When you start to watch more of his work with an open mind, you come to quite a different conclusion.

Posted By Roberta : June 23, 2009 9:36 am

I thought that I was the only person who knew about “Trouble Along the Way”. As a woman who’s also a college football fan and the daughter of a coach, I tried to watch this one whenever it was shown in the past, along with “Father Was a Fullback”, with Fred MacMurray as another losing coach. I agree that Wayne’s gifts as an actor showed up best under John Ford’s guidance, but he must have brought a bit of the Trojan from USC into his realistic acting in this one. He gives a fine, restrained, human scaled performance and his rapport with Sherry Jackson is really touching. Good idea, focusing on this one for Father’s Day.

Posted By Roberta : June 23, 2009 9:36 am

I thought that I was the only person who knew about “Trouble Along the Way”. As a woman who’s also a college football fan and the daughter of a coach, I tried to watch this one whenever it was shown in the past, along with “Father Was a Fullback”, with Fred MacMurray as another losing coach. I agree that Wayne’s gifts as an actor showed up best under John Ford’s guidance, but he must have brought a bit of the Trojan from USC into his realistic acting in this one. He gives a fine, restrained, human scaled performance and his rapport with Sherry Jackson is really touching. Good idea, focusing on this one for Father’s Day.

Posted By moirafinnie : June 23, 2009 1:42 pm

Hi Jacqueline, Miss G. & Roberta,
I find that charge against Wayne that he “played himself” to be one most prevalent among viewers. I suspect that some people might mean he didn’t look as though he was acting, which is a compliment, but others might mean that he repeated the formula that worked for him in so many movies a bit too often. I am among those who feels that was the case in some instances.

I often wish that John Wayne had made fewer, better written movies, (especially in the last years of his career). Despite this quibble, from the time he first appeared in Raoul Walsh’s failure, The Big Trail, in the great Ford films, the Wellman movies of the early ’50s and several, but by no means all, of the Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway movies, each of these gave the actor a showcase for his particular gifts, blending an almost feminine athletic grace with a raw earnestness that remains quite moving.

Roberta, I haven’t seen Father Was a Fullback in some time, but remember it was pretty amusing. Perhaps it should be part of a football-inspired festival that could be composed of movies like this one, the MacMurray feature and other films devoted to the gridiron come September?

Jacqueline, I’d also like to see one just devoted to the films of Dabbs Greer and Tom Tully too!

Thanks for taking time to add your comments here.

Posted By moirafinnie : June 23, 2009 1:42 pm

Hi Jacqueline, Miss G. & Roberta,
I find that charge against Wayne that he “played himself” to be one most prevalent among viewers. I suspect that some people might mean he didn’t look as though he was acting, which is a compliment, but others might mean that he repeated the formula that worked for him in so many movies a bit too often. I am among those who feels that was the case in some instances.

I often wish that John Wayne had made fewer, better written movies, (especially in the last years of his career). Despite this quibble, from the time he first appeared in Raoul Walsh’s failure, The Big Trail, in the great Ford films, the Wellman movies of the early ’50s and several, but by no means all, of the Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway movies, each of these gave the actor a showcase for his particular gifts, blending an almost feminine athletic grace with a raw earnestness that remains quite moving.

Roberta, I haven’t seen Father Was a Fullback in some time, but remember it was pretty amusing. Perhaps it should be part of a football-inspired festival that could be composed of movies like this one, the MacMurray feature and other films devoted to the gridiron come September?

Jacqueline, I’d also like to see one just devoted to the films of Dabbs Greer and Tom Tully too!

Thanks for taking time to add your comments here.

Posted By marion wilson : September 12, 2009 4:03 pm

Thanks John Wayne RIP

Posted By marion wilson : September 12, 2009 4:03 pm

Thanks John Wayne RIP

Posted By Bob Roodhouse : May 26, 2011 12:17 pm

Moira -
Found your critique as I was watching Trouble Along the Way on TCM for the first time in years. As the father of our only daughter and her coach for over ten years, this film tugs at me much more now than ever. Now that my daughter is 17, I appreciate the bond between John Wayne and young Sherry Jackson as touching, genuine, and bittersweet. It reminds me of my relationship with my daughter when she was that age. Those cherished years, while past, are not forgotten and seem even more special by watching this film. Though difficult to hear, Coach Steve’s talk with his daughter near the end of the film when he explains that soon he will be the least important person in her life, is at the same time both disheartening and uplifting. It is an ultimate expression of lasting love and concern for a child that is borne of a very precious few years together, and hopefully lasts a lifetime and beyond. Thank you for sharing.

Posted By Bob Roodhouse : May 26, 2011 12:17 pm

Moira -
Found your critique as I was watching Trouble Along the Way on TCM for the first time in years. As the father of our only daughter and her coach for over ten years, this film tugs at me much more now than ever. Now that my daughter is 17, I appreciate the bond between John Wayne and young Sherry Jackson as touching, genuine, and bittersweet. It reminds me of my relationship with my daughter when she was that age. Those cherished years, while past, are not forgotten and seem even more special by watching this film. Though difficult to hear, Coach Steve’s talk with his daughter near the end of the film when he explains that soon he will be the least important person in her life, is at the same time both disheartening and uplifting. It is an ultimate expression of lasting love and concern for a child that is borne of a very precious few years together, and hopefully lasts a lifetime and beyond. Thank you for sharing.

Posted By moirafinnie : May 26, 2011 1:56 pm

Bob -
I remember the scene in which Wayne told his daughter that his centrality in her life would fade soon and I recall Sherry Jackson’s beautiful, understanding expression as she listened to this, seemingly so aware of her father’s painful realization as she hugged him, telling him “You didn’t make the world.”

As someone who looks back on my father’s presence in my own life with a kind of wry affection, I know that this little movie captured something real between the two characters. I hope that someday your daughter can see Trouble Along the Way and appreciate that aspect of the story as well.

Thanks for taking the time to share your observations.

Moira

Posted By moirafinnie : May 26, 2011 1:56 pm

Bob -
I remember the scene in which Wayne told his daughter that his centrality in her life would fade soon and I recall Sherry Jackson’s beautiful, understanding expression as she listened to this, seemingly so aware of her father’s painful realization as she hugged him, telling him “You didn’t make the world.”

As someone who looks back on my father’s presence in my own life with a kind of wry affection, I know that this little movie captured something real between the two characters. I hope that someday your daughter can see Trouble Along the Way and appreciate that aspect of the story as well.

Thanks for taking the time to share your observations.

Moira

Posted By Bob Roodhouse : May 26, 2011 2:41 pm

Thank you Moira. Nikki and I will make a date to watch it together. By the way, Charles Coburn may have been inexplicably cast as Father Burke, but I thought he played the part incredibly well.

Posted By Bob Roodhouse : May 26, 2011 2:41 pm

Thank you Moira. Nikki and I will make a date to watch it together. By the way, Charles Coburn may have been inexplicably cast as Father Burke, but I thought he played the part incredibly well.

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