Why John Wayne Felt Cahill U.S.Marshal Was His Worst Western

John Wayne made dozens of Westerns during his career, but here’s why he was particularly unhappy with how 1973’s Cahill U.S. Marshal turned out.

Here’s why John Wayne was unhappy with his 1973 Western Cahill U.S. Marshall. Wayne’s career spanned from 1926 to 1976 and he is thought to have starred in over 80 Westerns during that time. He was uniquely suited to the genre, to the point where he would sometimes feel a little ill-suited to the more modern roles he attempted towards the end of his career. He famously passed on 1971’s Dirty Harry, but his attempts to ape their success with thrillers like McQ or Brannigan didn’t work.Towards the end of Wayne’s career, his declining health and the waning in popularity of the Western also impacted his career. He received some career-best reviews for 1972’s The Cowboys, but the likes of Rio Lobo – a Western that later convinced Tarantino he must retire – or his only sequel Rooster Cogburn showed his popularity with audiences was on a downward slope. Wayne’s final movie would prove to be 1976’s The Shootist, which was both a critical and commercial success.

Cahill U.S. Marshal also arrived towards the end of Wayne’s career. This 1973 Western cast him as the title lawman, who is on the trail of some escaped bank robbers. What he doesn’t realize is that his two sons – who are somewhat neglected down to Cahill’s dedication to his job – helped rob the bank too. While the film has an intriguing setup, it was a financial disappointment and earned Wayne some of his worst reviews since the infamous 1956 “epic” The Conqueror, where he played Genghis Khan. Wayne himself didn’t mince words about Cahill U.S. Marshal either.

In Film Heritage in 1975, Wayne – who only made one horror movie – admitted Cahill U.S. Marshal “…wasn’t a well-done picture.” While he said the intended message was good, he felt it needed more care in its execution and that it “… needed better writing.” The movie does feature one of Wayne’s gentler turns and some solid supporting actors like the great George Kennedy, but much of Cahill U.S. Marshal falls flat. From the pacing to the characters there’s little to invest in, and the movie felt out of sync with the more cynical Westerns being produced during the time.

Some have suggested the anti-racism themes featured in Cahill U.S. Marshal were added following the response to Wayne’s 1971 Playboy interview. This interview later resurfaced in 2019 and led to renewed controversy, with the star’s views on race relations in America and homosexuality making for unpleasant reading. Wayne’s – who was nicknamed “Duke” – Cahill was a much more tolerant figure in the movie, though its attempts to make his half-Comanche friend Lightfoot a key character is undermined by the fact he’s played by American actor Neville Brand in make-up. Cahill U.S. Marshal is far from John Wayne’s worst film – an honor that might go to The Conqueror or 1957’s Jet Pilot – but despite meaning well it just doesn’t come together

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About The AuthorPadraig Cotter (3740 Articles Published)

It’s pronounced Paw-rick, not Pad-raig. Now that’s out of the way, a brief introduction. Padraig has been writing about film online since 2012, when a friend asked if he’d like to contribute the occasional review or feature to their site. A part-time hobby soon blossomed into a career when he discovered he really loved writing about movies, TV and video games – he even (arguably) had a little bit of talent for it. He has written words for Den of Geek, Collider, The Irish Times and Screen Rant over the years, and can discuss anything from the MCU – where Hawkeye is clearly the best character – to the most obscure cult b-movie gem, and his hot takes often require heat resistant gloves to handle. He’s super modern too, so his favorite movies include Jaws, Die Hard, The Thing, Ghostbusters and Batman. He can be found as i_Padds on Twitter making bad puns.

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