For his only collaboration with Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne resumes his role as Rooster Cogburn for “A Bible and a Gun”, a sequel to “100 dollars for a sheriff” released in 1975. A shoot that was very trying for the western superstar .
The John Wayne – Katharine Hepburn meeting
It took time for these monsters of American cinema to finally meet on screen. Whereas John Wayne debuted on the big screen in 1926 and Katharine Hepburn in 1932, it was in fact in 1975 that actor and actress present their only film together : A bible and a gun. This western directed by Stuart Millar tells the story in the 1880s of one-eyed Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, launched chasing a gang of thieves.
A mission to officially recover his badge, which was taken from him for alcohol abuse and too much use of his six-gun. He will team up during his hunt with Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn), a teacher whose father was murdered by this same gang.
A bible and a gun sequel to the movie True Grit (100 dollars for a sheriff in VF) released in 1969, in which John Wayne played the same character. This is the penultimate film of the icon of westerns, since it will definitively leave the screens one after A bible and a gunwith a final outing under the direction of Don Siegel in The Last of the Giants.
A very physically demanding shoot for John Wayne
In 1974, the year of the filming ofA bible and a gunJohn Wayne is 67 years old and failing health. Indeed, he was diagnosed in 1964 with a lung cancer, with a tumor “the size of a baseball” as his friend and journalist Jim Bacon told it in 1978 in U.S. Magazine. He was then forced by the severity of his cancer to have the affected lung removed. Ten years later, logically weakened by this medical condition, he presents himself for the filming ofA bible and a gun after a start to the year when he was severely ill, having contracted pneumonia in london.
It is therefore a shooting dangerous for the health of the star which begins, with in particular the scenes in the mountains ofA bible and a gun tours in Deschutes County, Oregon, an area located 1727 meters above sea level. At such an altitude, John Wayne has difficulty breathing, and so he very often resorts to an oxygen mask.
To top it off, during filming, he hurt his left eye teaching golf to his daughter Marisa, then 8 years old. Fortunately, his character being one-eyed, the blindfold covering his eye conceals the injury perfectly.
A sarcastic but admiring partner
Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne had never met before. The two superstars did not share the same political sympathies nor the same desires for cinema, but they had admiration and respect for each other. A distant but healthy enough relationship for the actress to send a punch line to his partner at the end of filming party, in reaction to his gruff and angry demeanor on set, notably with director Stuart Millar. Words that are reported in the biography Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne by Ronald L. Davis:
I’m glad I didn’t know you when you had your two lungs, you must have been a real motherfucker. Losing a hip softened me, but then you!
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A bible and a gun: why the shooting was very difficult for John Wayne? – CineSeries