FORT APACHE star John Agar said he’d “go to hell and back” for John Wayne after Duke patiently mentored the young actor, who was constantly being baited by director John Ford over his pregnant wife and co-star Shirley Temple. Henry Fonda also suffered the filmmaker’s bullying to the point of tears, according to Duke’s son.
In 1947, John Ford and John Wayne kicked off the first of their Calvary Trilogy movies in Fort Apache, which would be followed by She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande. The Western was filmed in the director’s favoured Monument Valley where the blazing heat, high winds and desert storms proved a challenging shoot for the cast and crew. To add to the difficult conditions, the eccentric Ford would berate and bully on set, partly to assert his dominance and also to try and squeeze out the best performances he could from his stars.
The actor who was insulted and poked the most by Ford on Fort Apache was John Agar, who was making his film debut at 26-years-old.
The young lad, who was playing Lt Michael Shannon, was newly married to his Miss Philadelphia Thursday co-star Shirley Temple.
The director would constantly call him Mr Temple in front of the cast and crew and slam his lack of horse riding experience and the way he delivered lines.
This eventually seriously got to Agar one day on set. As a result, he stormed off claiming he would quit the movie.
Fort Apache: Generous John Wayne helped John Agar after John Ford feud over Shirley Temple (Image: GETTY)
John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Henry Fonda and John Agar on Fort Apache (Image: GETTY)
However, Wayne, who was playing Captain Kirby York, came alongside Agar and mentored him with the more difficult aspects of the production.
The young actor never forgot the star’s kindness to him and later said: “I would go to hell and back for Duke.”
The Lt Mickey actor wasn’t the only member of the cast to suffer Ford’s rudeness and bullying though.
Wayne’s Lt Col Owen Thursday co-star Henry Fonda found the director’s stubborn refusal to rehearse emotional scenes infuriating.
John Ford directing (Image: GETTY)
Henry Fonda and John Wayne in Fort Apache (Image: GETTY)
Fonda found that if he wanted to discuss a scene with Ford, the director would just change the subject or tell him to shut up.
The star also found the filmmaker’s swearing and bullying very uncomfortable, even to the point of making him cry.
Wives and girlfriends weren’t allowed on the Monument Valley set, but Duke’s son Michael Wayne was. He recalled: “I literally saw tears coming out of Henry Fonda’s eyes n Fort Apache. He just turned and walked away.”
Despite all they had to put up with, both Wayne and Fonda couldn’t deny Ford’s sheer genius as a filmmaker.
Fonda, who would work with Ford nine times and felt the director was responsible for some of his best movies. Film critics at the time believed he turned him from a movie star into a proper actor.
As for Wayne, he would give over to the director’s dictations and put up with his terrible temper and insults since he made him a Hollywood star.
Admiring his filmmaking talents, Duke once said: “When he pointed the camera, he was painting with it. He didn’t believe in keeping the camera in motion; he moved his people toward the camera and away from it.”