John Wayne was always looking toward his next movie, even until the day that he died. Wayne unfortunately never got to film “Beau John” as he wanted. The film was supposed to be his grand follow-up to “The Shootist.”
Now, it exists somewhere alongside his failed team-up with Clint Eastwood, one of those grand Hollywood what-ifs. “Beau John” couldn’t have been more different from “The Shootist” in tone and story. “The Shootist” felt like a cowboy on his way out, exploring what getting old and dying looked like on the frontier. Meanwhile, “Beau John” was a light comedy exploring life in 1920s Kentucky.
The actor was returning to a period of his own youth (though he grew up in California). Wayne planned to star in the film as the family’s patriarch. The film was based upon an upcoming novel by “Beverly Hillbillies” producer and writer Buddy Atkinson. Wayne loved the idea for the film so much, that he bought up the film rights before the novel was even published. Some of Wayne’s inner circle believed the story could get him an Oscar nomination.
Not much is known about what a film adaptation might have looked like, according to Medium. The book itself didn’t sell well and is currently out of print. No one would rank it among the great literary works. But apparently, the novel revolved around a treasure hunt and romance as well. Wayne planned to reunite with Ron Howard on the production, possibly as his grandson. The two had starred in “The Shootist” together and formed a close bond. Wayne also wanted to recruit Hal Linden of “Barney Miller” fame.
John Wayne Never Made the Film
Unfortunately, Wayne never got the opportunity to put the film into production. In his later years, the actor experienced a number of health problems. Cancer cost him both a lung and several ribs. He also had open-heart surgery, contracted hepatitis and pneumonia as well.
A few years after Wayne played a dying cowboy, the actor learned he had stomach cancer. Wayne underwent surgery, which removed his stomach, and chemotherapy. But cancer had spread to other parts of his body. He died in June 1979 from cancer and never ended up making “Beau John.”
The film remains as one of Wayne’s unrealized dreams. “The Shootist” ended up being Wayne’s last film performance, sending the cowboy out in a hail of bullets. But there was always going to be an unfinished film for Wayne. The actor enjoyed working, and he was always looking toward the future.