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Angel and the Badman

Angel and the Badman(1947)

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teaser Angel and the Badman (1947)

By 1946, Wayne had been a contract actor at Republic Studios for 8 years. He enjoyed working there but desired more control over his films and his roles, so he told studio chief Herbert Yates that he wanted to produce a movie himself. Yates, fearful of losing Wayne to the bigger studios, gave the actor his chance, and the result was Angel and the Badman (1947), a modest Western about a gunman torn between violence and the Quaker girl he falls in love with. A mystical story, especially for Wayne, the film turned out well but was not a big hit. The Duke's fans probably found it too lacking in action.

The script had been written by James Edward Grant, who had never written for Wayne before but whose work the Duke greatly admired. Grant had also never directed before and was anxious to try so Wayne gave him a shot. (Grant would only direct once more, the 1954 Ring of Fear, though he continued to collaborate with Wayne as a screenwriter until he died in 1966.) Wayne made sure the rest of the cast and crew were filled with top talent which included himself, Harry Carey and Gail Russell, a ravishing brunette beauty from Paramount Pictures. Legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt came aboard as stunt coordinator and 2nd-unit director, and Archie Stout was hired as the director of photography. Stout was a true Hollywood veteran with over 100 features to his credit, many of them low-budget Monogram Westerns. By the time he retired in 1954, he had photographed Wayne in 27 pictures. (Stout also won a cinematography Oscar for his 2nd-unit work on The Quiet Man (1952), to this day the only Oscar awarded to a 2nd-unit D.P.)

Wayne had recently married Esperanza 'Chata' Baur, and his new workload as producer didn't sit too well with her. She later complained, "He talks of {business} constantly. When he reads, it's scripts. Our dinner guests always talk business, and he spends all his time working, discussing work, or planning work." Chata also grew convinced that Wayne and Gail Russell were having an affair. Wayne vehemently denied this. He had, however, taken a great interest in the young, troubled actress, listening to her problems and offering advice.

Russell was not only notoriously shy and fearful of the camera but also of the entire Hollywood machine and her rising success in it. She had been discovered while still in high school and placed into the star system by Paramount despite her total lack of acting experience - and with the pressing of her mother, who herself had always wanted to be an actress. "Everything happened so fast," Russell said. "I was going to Santa Monica High and the next thing I knew I was being groomed for a picture." She turned to alcohol to calm herself on sets, and over time gradually succumbed to alcoholism, dying of the disease in 1961, at age 36.

As her career and life deteriorated, Wayne continued to help her and give her roles when he could. Russell appreciated the interest, later saying of Wayne: "The one word that defines Duke is 'honest.' He's an honest man. He can't be otherwise." Wayne went on to produce 20 films (some uncredited), including two of director Budd Boetticher's best pictures: Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) and Seven Men From Now (1956), the latter of which featured Gail Russell in one of her final roles - the result of John Wayne trying to help the troubled actress one more time.

Producer: John Wayne
Director: James Edward Grant
Screenplay: James Edward Grant
Cinematography: Archie Stout
Film Editing: Harry Keller
Art Direction: John McCarthy Jr., Charles S. Thompson
Music: Richard Hageman
Cast: John Wayne (Quirt Evans), Gail Russell (Penelope Worth), Harry Carey (Territorial Marshal Wistful McClintock), Bruce Cabot (Laredo Stevens), Irene Rich (Mrs. Worth), Lee Dixon (Randy McCall).
BW-100m.

by Jeremy Arnold

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