Movie star John Wayne worked with legendary filmmaker John Ford on a variety of features, including Stagecoach. They remain one of the most iconic duos to ever hit the Hollywood industry, but that isn’t to say that they didn’t hit some speed bumps along the way. Ford took credit for a major Stagecoach discovery that Wayne made, which made him “so goddamn mad” at the filmmaker.
Ford was infamous for being difficult to work with, but he did successfully get impressive performances from his cast. Wayne looked up to the director as a mentor since his early days working with props at Fox before he took the dive into acting with Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail in 1930
Ford “bullied” Wayne into getting good performances out of him, and Stagecoach was no exception. He yelled at him take after take, but it didn’t end there. The filmmaker also tried to pit him against other cast members to get a rise out of him. According to Maurice Zolotow’s Shooting Star: A Biography of John Wayne, Ford downright embarrassed the Stagecoach actor by changing the tone of Wayne’s prop suggestion to sound like an attack on co-star Andy Devine.
Wayne revealed to Zolotow that he kept a major Stagecoach secret “for many years.” He revealed that he was actually the person who found Monument Valley, which would become the primary filming location for classics such as Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Wagon Master. Wayne told Ford about this filming location back in 1929, which he found while he was propping and stunting for George O’Brien in Arizona.
The movie star described that he was on a Navajo reservation during sunset. He came across Monument Valley, where he thought it was “kind of like it was another world.” He added that “this would be a fine location for a Western because the cloud formations were fantastic in this area. Those two buttes–I guess they were over 1,000 feet high–sure would frame a composition.”
Wayne said that the location stuck with him when Ford started talking about location scouting for Stagecoach. Therefore, he decided to share his gorgeous find with Monument Valley, but the filmmaker had never heard of it before. When they arrived at the location along with the team, Ford “pretended to see the buttes, and said, ‘I have just found the location we’re going to use.’”
“The old buzzard looked me straight in the eye,” Wayne said. “I said nothing. He wanted to be the one who found it. I don’t know why he never wanted to give me credit for tellin’ him about Monument Valley.”
Before Wayne had the opportunity to star in Stagecoach, he experienced failure with The Big Trail and a series of B-movie Westerns. However, the movie star would find huge success after starring in Stagecoach even though it was more of an ensemble piece.
Wayne would continue working with Ford on other classics, such as The Quiet Man, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. They continue to influence future generations of filmmakers and actors.