John Wayne Starred Alongside ‘Gunsmoke’ Star James Arness in This Classic Western

by Katie Maloney
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Acting legends John Wayne and James Arness once teamed up to take on the wild west. The cowboy icons did so in the unforgettable film Hondo.

By the time John Wayne started filming Hondo, he had already starred in countless movies. Long before his time on Gunsmoke, Arness was just starting his career in westerns. He quickly befriended Wayne and the two worked together on several movies including, Big Jim McLainIsland in the Sky, The Sea Chase, and Hondo.

Hondo stars John Wayne as an Indian scout who attempts to escort a woman and her son to safety. The woman, played by Geraldine Page, was abandoned by her cowardly husband during an Apache attack. During their travels, the woman and the scout form a close bond. Geraldine page earned her first Oscar nomination for her role in the film.

The film did well at the box office. And, apparently, John Wayne was pleased with his performance. Reports say that after a private screening of the movie, Wayne jokingly proclaimed, “I’ll be damned if I’m not the stuff men are made of!”

John Wayne and James Arness Aren’t the Only Famous Celebrities in Hondo

In addition to John Wayne and James Arness, Hondo featured a very famous furry celebrity. Pal, who played Sam in the movie, was the same dog that played the original Lassie. However, Sam demonstrated his acting range by playing a character who was a far cry from Lassie.

Sam played a much more aggressive doggo in Hondo. At least, he was supposed to. But the temperatures were so hot on set that when it came time for Sam’s scenes, the pup simply panted instead of barking or growling. To remedy the situation, producers kept Sam in a special air-conditioned crate while he was on set. And they only brought him out when it was time for his close-ups.

That wasn’t the only time producers had to problem solve quickly. Producers originally planned to cast Katharine Hepburn as the female lead in the movie. The original script wrote her part as about equal in significance to John Wayne’s character. However, as writers developed the script, the female lead became less and less prominent.

Producer, Robert Fellows, knew it would be an insult to request Hepburn for such a small role. So, he sent a letter to Hepburn’s agent. He said that he believed the role was beneath Hepburn and that it would be an insult to offer her a part that she had to turn down. He retracted the offer and instead gave the role to Geraldine Page. However, Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne did eventually team up almost two decades later for the movie, Rooster Cogburn.

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