John Wayne’s Costar Chris Mitchum on the Duke Making Same Movie Three Times

by Liz Holland

Actor and screenwriter Chris Mitchum had the pleasure of working with John Wayne several times before Wayne’s passing in 1979. In a 2019 interview with A Word on Westerns, the icon shared some of his experiences working with the Duke. Mitchum also shared what it was like to work with filmmaker Howard Hawks, the mind behind many of Wayne’s films. Hawks’ last project before his passing in 1977 was the classic, “Rio Lobo.”

Hawks’ approach to film-making involved a lot of improvisation from actors. Additionally, Hawks had an interesting secret behind what he says made his films a success. Mitchum says of Hawks, “He made that movie three times. First it was called Rio Bravo (1959). Then he did “Rio Lobo”, and then he did “El Dorado.” It’s the same movie. If you watch all three movies, you see five scenes in it that are similar. He told me, he said, ‘You don’t need to advertise film, just get five scenes that people talk about, picture will be a hit.”

Chris Mitchum Talks ‘Rio Bravo’ and Working With Howard Hawks

The film was undeniably a success. “Rio Bravo” was nominated for several accolades, including a “Top 10 Western” list produced by the American Film Institute. Mitchum goes on to explain what exactly Hawks’ “five scene” method looked like for “Rio Bravo”. “So, in all three movies, there’s one where the guys’ running down the alley [past] the bad guy, breaks into the store and there’s a girl topless,” Mitchum explains. 

He continues, “All three movies, the same scenes were in all the movies. Matter of fact, in “Rio Lobo”, the girl who was topless in that movie was a young lady by the name of Sherry Lansing, who found another career.” The actress and model in question, Sherry Lansing, served as chairman for Paramount Studios from 1992 to 2004.

Her time in the top chair came after her stint in acting, including her role for “Rio Bravo.” Mitchum says Lansing’s nervousness before the scene was comical. “She was so funny, she was so nervous for the screen testing [that] she had like, a 20mg valium. [She] said, ‘Do you think I should take it?’ I said, ‘No, you’re caught topless by this guy, use that nervousness in the scene! Use it for the acting.’ But she couldn’t stand it, she dropped the valium,” Mitchum says. 

Sherry Lansing Belonged in Power

According to Lansing, acting was never really her calling anyways. In an interview with CBS news, the former Hollywood starlet explains that working in production was the perfect fit for her. Lansing laughs as she tells the interviewer of her acting, “First of all, I had no talent. I really was a bad actress, so I just want to say that. I really, really was a bad actress!” She quit acting and started reading scripts. 

“I had a desk and I had a script, and as uncomfortable as I felt when I was acting, I felt equally the opposite reading scripts,” she explains. Lansing continues, “And strangely enough, I wasn’t afraid to express my opinions.”

It wasn’t long before Lansing worked her way up to being named President of Production for 20 Century Fox in 1980. She would go on to serve as chairwoman of Paramount studios before retiring in 2005.