Is there a word more synonymous with a movie star than ‘pilgrim’ and John Wayne? Every impression of the movie star — good or bad — will include the word in the distinct cadence of his. It makes it seem as if he landed on Plymouth Rock and forgot everyone’s name.
But he only used the word pilgrim in two movies. He made closer to 200, but he used it in only two films. The first time in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and finally in McClintock. Though, in fairness, he said it a lot in Liberty Valance. He only uses it once in McClintock.
Calling someone a pilgrim, especially in the time period of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, was an insult. It meant someone from the East who’d made their way West and were in over their head. Someone who didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when they left the creature comforts of home for the rough-and-ready Wild West. Jimmy Stewart’s character qualifies in Liberty Valance.
Why the word became so synonymous with Wayne is hard to tell. It’s partly because it’s fun to say in that voice. And it’s an interesting insult we don’t hear very often.
It’s the “Play it again, Sam,” of the Western genre. For reference, that line doesn’t appear in Casablanca, but it’s become the phrase most tied to the film.
You can hear him say the word pilgrim for the last time on celluloid about 1:32 into the trailer below.
John Wayne Fought To Do Stunt in ‘McClintock’
John Wayne seemed to have a lot of fun making the 1963 film McClintock. For one, he got to perform his own stunts, despite the movie studio begging him not to.
The stunt is fairly famous. John Wayne scares Maureen O’Hara, who falls from a balcony onto a pile of hay. Wayne leaps off the balcony and onto the hay next to her. That doesn’t seem like it would be a problem, but John Wayne was the most important star in the movie. If he were to get injured, it could cause a shutdown until he’s better. And that could put the entire production in jeopardy.
But Wayne said it “looked fun,” and wanted to give it a try. The studio finally relented when he agreed to do the stunt only after a stuntman had done it first. Maureen O’Hara was less inclined to do the stunt and was happy to let a stuntwoman do the job.
Though in the famous mud fight scene, O’Hara was happy to do her own stunt work, according to True West Magazine.