The Wild West US Marshall role would be his best known, starring in the series for an incredible 20 years. Yet when it came time to return the favour, Wayne would be severely disappointed.
By the end of the 1950s, Duke had been working on his passion project for almost 15 years: a big budget movie about the Battle of the Alamo. He had been originally offered just $3 million by Republic Pictures and ended up feuding with the studio and leaving to found Batjac himself.
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Wayne had planned to play the small role of Sam Houston in 1960’s The Alamo. However, he couldn’t get the $12 million ($120 million today) budget he wanted from backers without starring as Davy Crockett himself. The incredibly invested Duke also had to contribute $1.5 million of his own money by taking out second mortgages on his houses and using his cars and yacht as collateral to obtain loans.
Now the role of Houston was open and the Western legend – who was also making his directorial debut with The Alamo – reached out to his old friend Arness about the part.
James Arness in 1990s Gunsmoke TV movie (Image: GETTY)
Arness had been starring for five years in Gunsmoke and hadn’t made a movie since the Wayne-produced Gun the Man Down in 1956. The only exception was a cameo as Dillon in Bob Hope’s 1959 comedy Western Alias Jesse James.
Duke had set up an interview with Arness, hoping he would have time to play the small role of Houston in The Alamo. However, to his dismay, his old pal never turned up. The story goes that Wayne never really forgave him for the snub and Richard Boone was cast instead. Arness never made another cinematic movie after that.