John Wayne Had High Praise for Director John Ford: ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me’

by Madison Miller
Photo by: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Over the course of his long film career, John Wayne had over 100 film appearances. Along the way, he worked with directors like Louis King, Archie Mayo, R.N. Bradbury, George Sherman, and Dick Powell.

Despite experiencing the skill and styles of a wide range of talented directors, there was one that John Wayne partnered up with more than anyone else.

Wayne worked alongside director John Ford and the two made over a dozen films side-by-side. This stretched all the way until Ford passed away in 1972. Wayne spoke highly of Ford and their career and personal relationship.

He once said, “He worked me like a godd–n dog. And you know something? It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It meant I got no chance to walk around looking for sympathy,” according to a post from the official John Wayne estate Instagram account. The account accompanied the quote with a picture of Wayne riding a horse while Ford sat close by in his director’s chair.

The two worked together on movies like “Stagecoach,” “The Long Voyage Home,” “They Were Expendable,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Rio Grande,” “The Quiet Man,” “The Searchers,” and “How the West Was Won.” The dynamic duo worked together in a number of films where John Wayne was uncredited as well.

John Wayne and John Ford’s Relationship

The two had a healthy 50-year-long working relationship and professional collaboration that actively changed the face of filmmaking. According to PBS, Ford was working as a successful director for 10 years before he met Marion Morrison, a USC student working at a Fox lot as an assistant prop hand.

He gave him a few walk-on films because he saw some kind of hidden qualities in him. Marion Morrison is John Wayne’s real name. He would change it two years later. He helped him score his first leading role in “The Big Trail,” but it was a box office failure. As a result, Wayne had been downgraded to lower-level, less popular Western films.

Despite this, the two remained friends for the next decade. They had nicknames for each other — Pappy and Duke. The two often traveled together on his yacht.

Eventually, the duo struck gold in the film “Stagecoach.” On the set, Ford would belittle Wayne and taunt him, eventually bringing more of his persona out to create The Duke. The film was a massive success and is really Wayne’s breakout role in the industry.

John Wayne’s massive respect for John Ford seems more than warranted, given he is a major factor in the Western star’s eventual success. Eventually, the tables shifted. Ford had lost popularity and struggled to get films. As a result, Wayne was always there for him professionally when he needed it. This turn of events is clear in “The Alamo,” which was Wayne’s big success as a director.

Ford filmed some of the far pick-up shots in the movie, although not many of them were used in the final cut.