John Wayne Taught Montgomery Clift How to Fistfight on ‘Red River’ – My Blog
Movie star John Wayne and Montgomery Clift were an unlikely pair for Red River, but their casting certainly worked out for the best. The young actor certainly had a lot to learn from the veteran whom he was performing alongside. Wayne once explained how he taught Clift how to fight to make Red River work as well as possible.‘Red River’ pit John Wayne and Montgomery Clift against each other
Red River follows the stubborn Thomas Dunson (Wayne), who works on a successful Texas cattle ranch. He has the support of a loyal train hand named Groot (Walter Brennan) and his protége, Matt Garth (Clift). Thomas brought the latter in as a boy after he became an orphan.
However, things between Thomas and Matt turn sour after the Civil War when they take a cattle drive to Missouri to sell. Along the way, they don’t see eye-to-eye, resulting in them starting to class. As a result, Matt plans a mutiny in response to Thomas’ tyrannical behavior.John Wayne taught Montgomery Clift how to fistfight to make it authentic
The Red River climax pit Wayne and Clift against one another, but there was a noticeable size difference between the two actors. Wayne was just over 6’4,” while Clift stood 5’10” tall.
Carolyn McGivern’s book, John Wayne: A Giant Shadow, emphasized that this fight scene could have looked rather ridiculous. Harry Carey Jr. played Dan Latimer, and he explained how the Western movie legend acted as a mentor to the younger movie star.
“Duke coached him a lot … I’m not sure how much notice Monty took, but Duke never gave up on him,” Carey Jr. said. “[Howard] Hawks handled us with kid gloves; he was nice and gave Duke a free hand. If Ford had seen Duke telling someone what to do, he would have jumped all over him. But Duke didn’t want to out-John-Wayne Monty, he wanted that last scene to be honest.”Carey Jr. continued: “He knew he shouldn’t be able to intimidate him. I don’t think Duke was always right when he told other actors how to play things; he wanted everyone to be ballsy, like him. I’m sure he didn’t think Monty was tough enough, and he was right. He didn’t show much tact when he tried to improve things, but between them, they worked out a terrific scene.”Neither earned an Oscar nomination
Red River was the first time that Wayne considered himself a “real” actor. His performance certainly stuck with moviegoing audiences over time, ranking as one of his best films. However, he didn’t earn the awards season attention that he was expected to receive.
The film earned two Oscar nominations for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story and Best Film Editing. Unfortunately, it didn’t take home any golden statues that night.
Wayne would experience the same disappointment the following year with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, which he considered some of his greatest work.
The Western movie star would finally take home his first, and only, Oscar win for 1969’s True Grit.