Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy Patrick's Day!

Ha ha! No, not St. Patrick's Day, though I wish you a happy one of those, too. Today we're taking a look at another Patrick, one who was born in the shadow of one of the cinema's most popular icons, but who was able to establish a minor career all his own. Born on July 15th, 1939, Patrick Wayne is the third child (of seven total) belonging to western movie hero John Wayne. A leading man in films for fifty years and a star for forty of those, John Wayne's legacy was considerable. While Patrick never came close to that sort of status, he did act in movies and on TV for close to fifty years himself.

The child of The Duke's first wife Josephine, Pat Wayne (hereafter referred to as Wayne) had one older brother Michael and an older sister Toni with a younger sister Melinda coming after him. His parents divorced when he was six and his father remarried soon after to Esperanza, which lasted eight years. A third marriage (to Pilar) yielded two half-sisters and a half-brother, all young than him by at least fifteen years. One summer, when Wayne was ten, he joined his father on the set of the movie Rio Grande (1950) and was put to use in a small, walk-on part.
In 1952, he did the same thing in his father's legendary movie The Quiet Man. Both Rio Grande and The Quiet Man were directed by his father's frequent collaborator John Ford (if one could really collaborate on a John Ford film, so distinct and direct was his vision of a piece!) Ford continued to cast Wayne in movies whether his father was involved in them or not, such as The Long Gray Line, starring Tyrone Power, and Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda (both 1955.)
Blessed with a 6'1" lean frame, his mother's Spanish skin tone and a thick head of dark wavy hair tempered by the blue eyes of his father, Wayne was a handsome, athletically adept young man. One of his most prominent features, which could be a good or bad thing depending on the situation, was a row of gleaming white teeth, made more distinct by some high cheekbones. 

In his considerable career as a director, Ford turned to television only four times. For the 1955 episode of Screen Director's Playhouse called "Rookie of the Year," Ford cast father and son as the stars (along with Vera Miles.) The baseball-oriented episode featured the sixteen year-old Wayne as a future baseball star whose father (Ward Bond) had been tossed out of the sport in disgrace.

For the broadcast, a faux mock-up of Time Magazine was created with Wayne's image on the cover. The adult Wayne had it framed and kept it in his office next to an actual Time Magazine that had featured himself on the cover. Because Patrick worked so often in movies with his father, the two inevitably established an extremely strong bond between them.

Wayne continued to pop up in his father's movies, such as The Conqueror and The Searchers (both 1956) while attempting to branch out on his own with other projects. He appeared on the Ida Lupino-Howard Duff series Mr. Adams and Eve in 1957 and was selected by them for a pilot (which didn't sell) called Teenage Idol the following year.

He and his always-close father were seen together in a rare commercial for Gillette shaving razors.
By the way, I don't know what, if anything, transpired between Wayne and the (very fast for her age) Natalie Wood during The Searchers, but it wouldn't be hard to imagine them getting cozy during those long, dull, hot hours on location...!
In 1959, Wayne headlined his very own movie for the first time, a color western called The Young Land, costarring Yvonne Craig, who would later make a pop cultural splash as Batgirl on the Batman TV series with Adam West. He was still quite green around the gills and not quite ready for leading man stardom, however.

For the next few years, as he was earning a degree in biology at Loyola University, he would limit his acting to roles in his father's films The Alamo (1960), The Comancheros (1961), Donovan's Reef (1963) and McLintock! (1963) In the latter film, he was paired with a young Stefanie Powers, whose mother was played by Maureen O'Hara. He also served a tour of duty with the U.S. Coast Guard beginning in 1961.
In between the aforementioned movies was another TV appearance, again directed by John Ford. Alcoa Premiere was an anthology series hosted by Fred Astaire and the 1962 episode "Flashing Spikes" was about another dethroned baseball player (James Stewart) who longs for another chance and is befriended by a young player enacted by Wayne. Wayne's father had a small role in the program as a tough baseball coach in the Marines. In the credits, he was billed under his real name of Marion Morrison rather than John Wayne.

Though he was now a college graduate with a degree, he couldn't resist continuing with his fledgling acting career and with connections such as he had with his father, Mr. Ford and Mr. Stewart, who could blame him?! He took an unsympathetic role in Ford's final finished feature Cheyenne Autumn (1964) - he worked ten times in all for the director - and appeared on Chuck Connors' TV western Branded. He then popped up on American Bandstand with Dick Clark to promote his latest feature, one of my personal favorites.

Shenandoah (1965) was a rural drama about a Virginia family headed by James Stewart during the outbreak of The Civil War. The widowed Stewart has a daughter and six sons who take an interest in fighting, though Stewart wants them to stay out of the conflict completely. Wayne is his eldest son (married to Katharine Ross, in her film debut, and with a new baby) who is the only one apart from his sister to steer clear of the fighting, though that doesn't necessarily mean they're free of the danger from it.

Also among the cast were Rosemary Forsyth, Doug McClure and Glenn Corbett. The warmly sentimental drama later became a successful stage musical (at a time when that wasn't practically automatic as it is now...) Wayne married for the first time in 1965 to Peggy Hunt, with whom he remained until 1978 and with whom he had three children.

Another feature, this time as co-lead, came about in 1966. An Eye for an Eye had an interesting conceit. Robert Lansing is a former bounty hunter who heads back in action when his family is killed by an outlaw gang. Another, younger, bounty hunter (Wayne) is also after the same gang. Lansing loses the use of his gun hand while Wayne loses the use of his eyes (!), so they pair up, contributing the remaining skills that each has to offer, towards the end they're after.
1966 also brought Wayne's first TV series as a regular. The Rounders, costarring Chill Wills and Will Hayes, was based upon a movie by the same name the year prior, which had starred Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda. The Texas-set comedy western was only able to make it for 17 episodes before cancellation.

Wayne popped up on a 1968 installment of Laugh-In, pointing out that he was John Wayne's son and as such no one would "sock it to me," but that didn't stop him from being hurled through the floor by a trap door as he was saying it.

In 1968, Wayne worked once more with his father in the rather infamous gung-ho war movie The Green Berets, infamous because the war was more than controversial to begin with and many Americans didn't want the U.S. involved in it.

In the early-1970s, Wayne balanced more TV appear- ances on shows such as Love, American Style and The F.B.I. with low-budget films like The Deserter (1971) with Bekim Fehmiu, Richard Crenna and Chuck Connors and The Gatling Gun (1971), shown here, starring Guy Stockwell, Robert Fuller and Barbara Luna. Both movies also featured towering black actor Woody Strode.

Wayne worked in the1971 TV-movie Movin' On (unrelated to the later series about trucking) with Geoffrey Deuel, David Soul and Kate Jackson and also appeared for the last time in one of his father's movies Big Jake. The kidnap drama also had John Wayne's young son (Patrick's half-brother Ethan Wayne) playing his grandson on-screen!
Now it was time for Wayne to concentrate on his own identity as an actor and leave behind, for the most part, the western legacy of his father. He costarred with John Ashley in the Philippines-made fantasy Beyond Atlantis (1973.) The movie was initially to feature topless female Atlantians, but Wayne insisted that the movie be family-friendly, so the skin was (slightly) toned down. (The men still seemed to be barely clad!)

Continuing with the family-oriented vein was Disney's The Bears and I (1974), in which he played a (well-adjusted) Vietnam vet who moves to Canada and helps save three motherless bear cubs and also assists some Native Americans in getting back some land that is rightfully theirs. Music by John Denver dotted the soundtrack of the outdoorsy film.
Around this time, his father John Wayne was filming what would be his final feature film (his 167th!), The Shootist. An arduous experience for the aging actor, he was nonetheless able to cap off his tremendously successful career with a strong performance. (Don't miss Patrick's jeans in this snap taken with family visiting The Duke on the set...)

Wayne worked on hit TV series like Police Woman and Marcus Welby, M.D. and reported to work on the movie "The New Spartans" with Oliver Reed and Fred Williamson (with Wayne as a character called "Bigdick McCracken!"), but issues with funding as well as the IRA led to it not being completed. He had also been cast as the dashing, white-clad Marathon John in a series of popular TV commercials for Mars' Marathon candy bar. Remember those?
He worked on 1976's Mustang Country (the final film of western star Joel McCrea) along with Robert Fuller and some TV movies such as Yesterday's Child with Shirley Jones and Flight to Holocaust (both 1977.) The latter film was already scarce, but has become even more so in the wake of September 11th, 2001 as it concerns a plane which has crashed into the 20th floor of a skyscraper. Other second generation actors in it were Chris Mitchum and Desi Arnaz Jr.

1977 was something of a banner year for Patrick Wayne in terms of work. He starred in the sequel to The Land That Time Forgot (1974) called The People That Time Forgot, with Doug McClure and Sarah Douglas, in which he had to contend with primitive tribespeople as well as prehistoric creatures.
More memorably, he took on the title role in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. This was my first-ever glimpse of Wayne back in theaters when I was ten. The stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen accented the sword and sorcery fantasy.
It was also the first time I ever laid eyes on one Jane Seymour and she too left a lasting impression, the former Bond girl of Live and Let Die (1974) soon going on to become a television miniseries queen. Wayne was now pushing forty, but still maintaining a busy schedule on television and the occasional movie.
After several more telefilms including The Last Hurrah (1977) with Carroll O'Connor and the all-star confection Three on a Date (1978), he took the lead in the 1978 exploitation flick Texas Detour in which he and his siblings are mistreated by small-town sheriff R.G. Armstrong and seek revenge against him and his town. Hardly part of Wayne's "family friendly" series of projects, it was still tame by the standards of the genre. That's Priscilla Barnes in Wayne's bed here.

Unquestionably the biggest career set-back/let-down was when (after producers considered such ridiculous star names as Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, James Caan, Charles Bronson and others), he was cast as Superman in the upcoming big-screen extravaganza. However, his beloved father was desperately ill with cancer (and, in fact, would be dead in a year's time) which prompted him to drop out of the part. I would be lying if I said I thought that anyone other than Christopher Reeve could have played Superman (1978) as well, but it was nonetheless a bittersweet time for Wayne.

He next appeared in another TV series, 1979's Shirley, which concerned Shirley Jones as a widow attempting to proceed with her life and family wherein he played her (five years younger) love interest, a ski instructor. The series didn't last and so he was on to other things, one of which was the old-style variety series The Monte Carlo Show (1980), originating in Monaco. He, newly-divorced, hosted the program surrounded by a bevy of boa and bikini-clad showgirls depending on the occasion.
As an aside, we're grateful to his participation on Shirley because it afforded him the opportunity to work on the NBC team of that season's Battle of the Network Stars, a show we lived and breathed for in the 1970s!
The early 1980s were spent working as a guest on things like Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat (shown above in one of five appearances) and Matt Houston. He also won a role in the 1985 Tom Berenger western fantasy Rustler's Rhapsody which, while not a hit, has established itself with a minor cult following over the years.
A variety of projects from TV parts on Murder, She Wrote and MacGyver to roles in Young Guns (1988, as Pat Garrett) and Her Alibi (1989, as Tom Selleck's brother) continued until he tried something altogether new in 1990. He appeared as the host of an updated rendition of the Wink Martindale game show Tic Tac Dough.

The new version of the once-popular show failed to catch on, leading to some mid-season tinkering, but it made little difference. It was considered a low-rung, tacky, unexciting and pale imitation of its predecessor. The magic simply wasn't there and it was off the air in a few months.

Though Wayne continued to act sporadically over the next decade, mostly as a guest on shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents (an update of the old series) and Silk Stalkings, he stepped away from performing as he neared age sixty. In 1999 he wed again to the wife he remains with today. In 2003, his older brother Michael passed away and Wayne took over as Chairman of The John Wayne Cancer Institute. His mother passed away only two months after his brother at age ninety-five.

Patrick Wayne is now seventy-eight. Understand- ably, much of his relevance to interviewers has to do with his legendary father, though he did work in over thirty movies himself and did plenty of television (and also plenty of dinner theatre and other stage productions along the way. He and his younger brother Ethan worked together in a production of "Come Blow Your Horn" in 1985.)

Always handsome and always humble about his good fortune and the mid-level career he achieved from it, he was hand-picked to work with some of the cinema's top directors and stars, but wasn't willing to forgo family obligations when his greatest career opportunity lay before him. As a father himself to three children, he can be proud of the work he did and the familial and professional legacy he continued.