Why one POPULAR ACTOR was FIRED from THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER and lost his career as a result! – Old western – My Blog
The Sons of Katie Elder(1965), directed by Western veteran Henry Hathaway, and starring John Wayne and Dean Martin, is an entertaining, old-fashioned, atmospheric Western in which 4 brothers take revenge on an evil entrepreneur who killed their father and stole their land.Most famous in John ‘Duke’ Wayne’s filmography for being the first film he made after licking the ‘Big C’- to which he lost one lung and two ribs- “The Sons of Katie Elder” is a middling traditional Western directed by the ever-dependable Western Veteran Henry Hathaway, who has made better movies with Duke- remember “North to Alaska” and Oscar winning “True Grit”. This sometimes entertaining, sometimes meandering, extremely well shot- by the great cinematographer Lucien Ballard in picturesque Mexican locations- and well acted Western has its moments, but never fulfills the potential that its initial portions promised us. But the film still possess some of Hathaway’s trademarks; like the atmospheric use of locations, sets and animals(read horses), as a well as an affirmation of traditional Western values(good triumphs evil, son(s) avenges parents’ death) avoiding the reflection and self-reflection that was creeping into Westerns of the time, with a solid ensemble cast at the center. Hathaway would take this “avenging the parents’ murder” to its bloody extreme with the very violent Steve McQueen vehicle, “Nevada Smith,” which he would make the very next year. I think that film is far superior than this one, though watching John Wayne in a Western and Steve McQueen in a Western are very different kind of experiences, and each provide their own pleasures. After the more rollicking and rambunctious adventures of ‘North to Alaska“, “The Comancheros” and “McLintock!”, “Katie Elder” finds Duke in a more pensive and serious mode (a continuation of his character in “In Harm’s Way“), though the film itself becomes too silly and routine to exploit these facets of Duke’s characterization to its advantage. This two hour long film feels rather too long at times, and though they are psychological undercurrents in the film, it’s not something that would tax an average viewer. But still, the film remains more or less an engrossing watch, coasting on Duke’s charisma and a solid supporting cast. This film is about four (estranged)brothers- Duke plays John, the oldest, a gunslinger; Dean Martin is Tom, a gambler wanted for murder; Earl Holliman is Matt. an unsuccessful businessman; and Michael Anderson Jr. plays the youngest brother, Bud, attending college- who reunite in their hometown of Clearwater, Texas, in 1898 (after a long separation) for the funeral of their mother, Katie Elder. Katie, a widow, who died poor, was much loved and respected member of the community. Katie had been living in semi-poverty since the death of her husband Bass Elder several months previously under suspicious circumstances. Her former ranch is now owned by gunsmith & rising entrepreneur, Morgan Hastings (James Gregory), who is outwardly friendly but worried about John Elder’s presence. He has hired gunman Curley (George Kennedy) in case a showdown with John is necessary.