LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1942:  John Wayne on the set of "The Spoilers" directed by Ray Enright circa 1942 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
How John Wayne Helped Revolutionize The Art Of
On-Screen Fighting
While the use of stuntmen in movies is now common knowledge, in the early era of talkies, it was Hollywood’s well-kept dirty little secret. In fact, John Wayne broke the mold by often playing his own stuntman, and he helped revolutionize on-screen fighting and usher in a new approach to fight choreography that proved to be both safer and more realistic.
Many of Wayne’s best movie moments involved punching something or someone, and in the early days of his career, the actor would actually make contact full force. This led to complaints, particularly from stuntman Yak Canutt, who took the brunt of the actor’s abuse, and ultimately inspired director Robert Bradbury to invent a new way to shoot fights.
As told in Wayne’s “Shooting Star” biography, “[Bradbury] said that the thought if he placed the camera at a certain angle it would look as if my fist was making contact with Yak’s face, though my fist was passing by his face, not even grazing it.” This system immediately lessened the blows that performers were taking, while letting Wayne continue to punch full force.