John Wayne wasn’t always able to keep his anger under control. However, he did often own up to situations where he felt the anger wasn’t justified. A photographer was on the other end of that rage when he took a photograph of Wayne using an oxygen mask on the set of The Sons of Katie Elder.
John Wayne played John Elder in ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’
The Sons of Katie Elder follows four sons who reunite in their old Texas hometown to attend their mother’s funeral, including John (Wayne) and Tom (Dean Martin). However, they learn that things are a lot worse than they could have imagined. Their father gambled away their family ranch, which ultimately resulted in his murder.
The four brothers decide to avenge their father’s death at all costs. They plan to win back their family ranch, but they’re way in over their heads. The situation suddenly escalates with the local sheriff and the violent conflict with the rival Hastings clan. The critics praised Wayne for his performance in The Sons of Katie Elder, as well as the remainder of the cast.
John Wayne ‘exploded in rage’ when a photographer took a picture of him using his oxygen mask on the set
Randy Roberts’ John Wayne: American explores Wayne’s career, including his time on the set of The Sons of Katie Elder. The actor was battling his cancer diagnosis at the time, which is why he initially recommended Kirk Douglas for the role. However, director Henry Hathaway fought to get Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder.
As a result of his health, Wayne had an oxygen tank on the set in Durango, Mexico. It was 6,000 feet above sea level, making it difficult for the actor to breathe. However, he “exploded in rage” when a photographer named Gene Sysco from The Globe took a picture of him using the oxygen mask.
“You goddamned son of a b****!,” Wayne shouted. “Give me that f***ing film!”
Sysco obeyed and gave the film to the actor. As a result, the entire set fell silent in an uncomfortable exchange.
However, Wayne ultimately realized that he overreacted on the set of The Sons of Katie Elder. The actor approached the photographer in the motel dining room to apologize.
“I’m a grown man,” Wayne said. “I ought to be able to control myself better than I did today. I’m sorry.”
The legendary Western star was terrified that making the oxygen mask public would destroy his persona as a tough cowboy.
The actor didn’t allow his health to affect his performance in ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’
John Wayne: American explained that the Western actor’s co-star, George Kennedy, talked about his behavior in The Sons of Katie Elder. He continued using the oxygen tank and even stopped smoking cigarettes, but he still enjoyed having cigars. He only had one lung, although he wasn’t ready to completely give up that pleasure.
Nevertheless, Wayne did some of his own stunts in The Sons of Katie Elder. The actor wanted to prove that he wasn’t going to allow his diagnosis to defeat him. He completed a scene where he had to be dragged down a river. He also almost caught pneumonia, but he was insistent on keeping up his persona at all costs.