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In Tycoon (1947), John Wayne plays an engineer hired by Cedric Hardwicke to build a railroad in the Andes. The two clash over the railroad's route, however, with Wayne favoring a bridge and Hardwicke demanding a tunnel through a mountain, which would be shorter but much more dangerous to construct. The friction is only exacerbated when Wayne falls for lovely Laraine Day - Hardwicke's daughter.
There was plenty of friction off-camera as well. Day had recently married Leo "the Lip" Durocher, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers (and soon the New York Giants) and one of the most colorful baseball personalities ever. According to Maurice Zolotow's biography of John Wayne, Shooting Star, Wayne later said that Durocher was the most openly jealous husband he had ever met. "The Lip" hovered on the set each day, making rude comments or glaring at Wayne whenever he and Day were filming romantic scenes. Ultimately, Wayne got so fed up he ordered the set closed, the only time in his career he ever did so.
Day's and Durocher's marriage lasted 13 years. Day took such a huge interest in baseball that she became known as the "First Lady of Baseball." A radio show in which she interviewed baseball players led to a 1951 variety program on ABC television called The Laraine Day Show as well as an evening TV series which revolved around sports figures. In 1953 she and Durocher hosted a sports series called Double Play with Durocher and Day. Meanwhile, her big-screen appearances waned, though she did make an impression in The High and the Mighty (1954). Day was the first to admit her new professional emphasis: "My life is Mrs. Leo Durocher and baseball comes first," she declared. She also said, "Let someone else be the world's greatest actress. I'll be the world's greatest baseball fan." In 1960 Day and Durocher divorced, and Day was re-married to television producer Michael Grilikhes. That marriage has lasted to this day (as of 2006).
Laraine Day's role in Tycoon was originally meant for Maureen O'Hara, who had to be replaced due to a scheduling conflict. It would have marked the first pairing of O'Hara and Wayne. The two finally appeared together in Rio Grande (1950) and would pair up for five pictures in all.
Up and coming actor Anthony Quinn is also featured in Tycoon as Hardwicke's engineer nephew who is almost killed in a tunnel accident in one scene. Quinn, who had already appeared in almost 50 pictures, took four years off from the big screen after Tycoon in order to start his Broadway stage career. His next feature would be The Brave Bulls (1951).
RKO plunked $3.2 million into Tycoon, the most it had ever invested in a single movie. It wound up taking an enormous loss of just over $1 million. Critics, too, were unimpressed. Variety admitted that "Miss Day is beautiful in Technicolor" and noted the "spectacular action in the final reel," but also stressed that "trimming as much as 30 minutes off the picture wouldn't have hurt." In the end Tycoon was an "off" picture for all involved but certainly not a career killer. John Wayne would follow up with three bona fide classics, Fort Apache (1948), Red River (1948) and 3 Godfathers (1948), and writer Borden Chase would go on to the likes of Red River, Winchester '73 (1950) and Bend of the River (1952).
Producer: Stephen Ames
Director: Richard Wallace
Screenplay: Borden Chase, John Twist, C.E. Scoggins (novel)
Cinematography: W. Howard Greene, Harry J. Wild
Film Editing: Frank Doyle
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Albert S. D'Agostino
Music: Leigh Harline
Cast: John Wayne (Johnny Munroe), Laraine Day (Maura Alexander Munroe), Cedric Hardwicke (Frederick Alexander), Judith Anderson (Miss Braithwaite), James Gleason (Pop Mathews), Anthony Quinn (Ricky Vegas).
C-129m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold