American actor John Wayne (1907 - 1979) (as Cole Thornton) in a scene from 'El Dorado' (directed by Howard Hawks), 1967. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Why John Ford Waited So Long To Bring John Wayne Into The Big Leagues
For over a decade of John Wayne's early career, the actor was considered too much of a lightweight to register as the two-fisted lead in a Western or war flick due to his immaculate face and sun-kissed visage. This is why filmmaker John Ford, who had worked several times with Wayne in the early- to mid-1930s, held off casting him as a leading man until he was 32.
Wayne's breakthrough role arrived in 1939 when he played the fugitive Ringo Kid in Ford's "Stagecoach.” According to Ronald L. Davis' book "Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne," when the actor's wife asked Ford why he took so long to make her husband a star, Ford bluntly said, "Duke wasn't ready. I wanted some pain written on his face to offset the innocence."
Wayne was far from weathered in 1939, but there was a darkness that hadn't been present in his previous performances. And because he refrained from serving his country during World War II, he subsequently turned himself into one of Hollywood's biggest stars while the likes of James Stewart and Henry Fonda were risking their lives overseas.