How John Wayne’s Early B-Movie Days Shaped His Filmmaking Philosophy

Wayne was a man of many contradictions, and none is more striking than his stated belief in the autonomy of the director. Eyman quotes the star as saying:

“One man should serve as producer and director. Making a film is like painting a picture. If you were having your portrait painted, you wouldn’t have one artist do your eyes, another your nose and still a third your mouth. That’s why I think, as nearly as possible, production control should be centered in the talents of a single individual.”

This is difficult to square with Wayne’s penchant for overruling many of his directors by altering the staging or changing an angle, but you cannot argue with the results. While this meddlesomeness speaks to a surfeit of ego, Wayne was not precious when it came to ownership of an individual scene. “Give the scene to whom it belongs,” he said, “Even if it’s an extra. If I call a guy a bad name the audience is not interested in my reaction, which is already known, but his. So give him the camera angle.”

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