Tuesday, June 26, 2018


The cast of BIG JAKE, top row John Wayne, Ethan Wayne, 
Maureen O'Hara, bottom row Patrick Wayne, Bobby Vinton, 
Chris Mitchum 


By Henry C. Parke

Interview Conducted May 17th, 2018

(If you missed Part 1, HERE is the link.)

First, an interesting update. When I asked Ethan, who was named after his father’s character in THE SEARCHERS, if that was one of John Wayne’s own favorite films, he replied, “It was. In fact, we found a questionnaire from the Academy of Motion Pictures where they asked actors to list their five favorite films. And he did put THE SEARCHERS down at number five.”

I asked Ethan if he could send me the complete list, and a couple of days later he sent me not only the titles, but a photo of the questionnaire. As it turns out, it was not from the AMPAS, but from THE PEOPLE’S ALMANAC, a hugely successful series of books by bestselling authors David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace.  He listed: 1.) A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, 2.) GONE WITH THE WIND, 3.) THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (I’m assuming the 1921 Rex Ingram-directed version starring Rudolph Valentino), 4.) THE SEARCHERS, and 5.) THE QUIET MAN.  

Ethan also included John Wayne’s responses to “the 5 best motion pictures actors of all time.” The list: 1.) Spencer Tracy, 2.) Elizabeth Taylor, 3.) Katharine Hepburn, 4.) Laurence Olivier, and 5.) Lionel Barrymore. Sadly, of the group, he only acted with Katharine Hepburn, in 1975’s ROOSTER COGBURN.  

In part one of our interview, we discussed Ethan’s childhood, his relationship with his father,  and his film career. In part two, Ethan talks about his stuntman career, and his work running both John Wayne Enterprises, and The John Wayne Cancer Institute.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I didn't feel like the work had been done to try to create something timeless, and authentic, with a level of quality that was appropriate for my father or something that he would have enjoyed if he was still here and would like to see his name on.  Trying to change what the company did was another learning experience for me. We had some family disputes and that was totally unexpected, but also a nice learning experience. And I think everybody's on the same page now. We have a bourbon released called Duke Bourbon. It's a very nice product, and Tequila is just arriving at stores now. It’s called Duke Spirits and we have a Bourbon, a Rye and a Tequila

HENRY PARKE:       Great -- three things I drink!

ETHAN WAYNE:     When I took over the company, we found there was sort of an archive that had been stored since his death.  A lot of things were pulled out; all his artwork and memorabilia collections went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The rest of the house was sort of stored in a wooden vault in one of those giant warehouses. Just a number on it.  When we started going through it, we realized there was a lot of great information in there. It was a terrific archive that had been preserved for many, many years. And something that was in there was all the alcohol from his house, and from his boat. So we had a real good idea of what he liked. And there's a tremendous amount of texture material, correspondence, notes, speeches, doodles. And so we were able to sort of piece together a profile of what he really liked and his Bourbon and this Tequila. And that's what sort of spawned this project. The other reason is when he would go on location, it'd be my job to load the car with the things that we would want. You're in Mexico for three months. You end up with a go-to pair of boots, a go-to jacket, go-to work gloves that you wear, a mug that you like for your coffee in the morning. And he'd go to a house. You find the things that you use, so I put those things in the car that we would send down to the locations. And I thought, oh my goodness, this is a great idea. This this how we ended every day, around certain items, and a little drink with his friends to recall the day, have a laugh and then go to bed, start over again. So Bourbon on the one hand, and now we're working on a coffee to come out soon and yeah, that's how we started every day there.

HENRY PARKE:       Do you deal with a lot of unauthorized use of the John Wayne Image?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Constantly. Yeah.

HENRY PARKE:       What sort of things do people do that you have to stop?

ETHAN WAYNE:     They run ads, they put a signature on things, they make products with him on it. It's just constant. We'll have a license with somebody like Case Knives and then somebody in China starts making copies. They intercept them at customs and we deal with it. So it's all the time. 

HENRY PARKE:       Your father has been gone a long time. How aware of John Wayne are the younger generations out here?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Well, great question. That's really hard to answer because obviously he has this audience that we're losing every year, the guys who actually went and saw him in the theater. But he's also been passed down from one generation to the next by millions of people who share John Wayne with their sons and daughters and their families. And so he's still very relevant to a lot of people, and he means a lot to a lot of people, because of his value set. And because the person that he represented on screen is the guy that we all want to be. And that John Wayne hoped to be.  I mean, he crafted that guy and constantly worked on him right up until his last film. You know, (when filming THE SHOOTIST, director) Don Siegel was like, ‘And then you shoot him in the back.’ ‘No, I won't. I haven't done it in 50 years. I'm not going to do it now.’  It was a big deal; they had an actual argument over it. He's like, ‘I don't do that. That's not me. I know who I am.’ He knew who he was and he was very, very protective of that guy. 

HENRY PARKE:       What does the John Wayne Cancer Foundation do now?

ETHAN WAYNE:     The Cancer Foundation supports research through grants. We support the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, at Saint John's Hospital, and it does research. The Cancer Foundation and the Enterprise have supported that research for many, many years. Along with the research, general surgeons will graduate and they can go into private practice or they can come to John Wayne and become a specialist in noninvasive neurosurgery, breast, melanoma, G.I. urology. A bunch of different disciplines. And then they go out there, top of the charts for those types of surgery. So 150 of those guys have graduated. And one thing the Foundation has done recently is connected them all, supported them all. We're sending four grants out tomorrow. It's for research that these surgical fellows are working on. We have a panel from the Society of Surgeons, Oncology, American Association of Breast Surgeons.

ETHAN WAYNE:     We've got an oversight panel that helps pick what research to fund.  So, training surgeons, funding research and educating kids how to avoid cancer. We have something called Block the Blaze, that started here in Newport Beach. Are you familiar with the Junior Lifeguard programs? There's a mass exodus of kids to the beach when school's out and they get into this program. You have to be able to swim (well) to qualify for it. It's for kids eight to 14. Thousands of kids become Junior Lifeguards, and they learn about rip currents, but nobody was teaching them about Sun Safety. So we go down and we have young people do these fun presentations. They get a John Wayne Cancer Foundation hat. We give them a John Wayne Sunscreen, which is ocean safe, reef safe, non nano, non paba; no chemicals. It's a terrific product. And that program has grown in the last three years from just being in Newport Beach, to every Junior Lifeguard program from the Mexican border to Canada and I think 11 or 12 other states, and it continues to expand rapidly. We've had kids find malignant melanoma; they’ve come to us for treatment at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and have successful recoveries. So it's really an amazing program. And then we have athletic fundraising programs. They do whatever type of event they want and do peer to peer fundraising and raise money for the Foundation. 

ETHAN WAYNE:     My little sister (Marisa) has a number of spin studios (GritCycle) and she started doing a one-day spin class to raise money for the Cancer Foundation. I think this is the fourth year that they've done it. So it's just one spin class, right? They just raised over a million dollars so far this year. The event is June first, down here in Newport Beach. It's called the Gritty Up.  

HENRY PARKE:       I wanted to ask you a little about stunting.  Your credits include THE BLUES BROTHERS, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, BABY GENIUSES, RED STATE. Are there any particular stunts that you specialize in?

ETHAN WAYNE:     I worked on a lot of B. J. AND THE BEARS, and a number of KNIGHTRIDERS, as a stunt person, and I had acting parts in those as well. I was okay on a motorcycle. I could do a wheelie, I could jump it out of the back of the semi, I could do a cable-off.  I drove cars in THE BLUES BROTHERS.

HENRY PARKE:       What was John Landis like to work for it?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Well, you know, I was 17. I didn't know how to put my shoes on the right foot at that point. I was good at being quiet, listening and doing exactly what I was told to do.  Eddie Dano was a stunt man that was around on most of the films that that my father made when I was a boy, and he ended up being a great stunt guy. He doubled John Belushi on that show, but then they do a lot of other things. So we were rolling this car, and he was driving. And it was not just our car rolling.  We went over this embankment and down this steep hill, and then six or seven cars go over the embankment, and all these cars are crashing on top of it! I just remember like, they don't say anything, it’s just like hop in, put this hat on. It was terrifying when the other cars started landing on our car. Dirt starting to come in the windows, and it's shoveling its way into this wet soil. Oh man, I couldn't get out of that thing fast enough. But those guys were great.  They're like, eh, just hold still. It will be fine. You know, they were tough old dudes.

HENRY PARKE:       Well, when you hosted Westerns Icons With Ethan Wayne on HDNET, they show three of your father's great pictures, THE ALAMO, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, and THE UNDEFEATED. Do you have a favorite among those?

ETHAN WAYNE:     You know, it changes all the time for me. I know all the struggles that went into THE ALAMO. I know how important it was to him. So I have a soft spot in my heart for that film. I think SONS OF KATIE ELDER is probably the one that I like to watch the most. THE UNDEFEATED, I was there for. I have vague memories of it, but I don't think I've watched that film in quite a while.

HENRY PARKE:       What were your favorites among the films shown that didn't star your dad?

ETHAN WAYNE:     There was one with Omar Sharif, MACKENNA’S GOLD.It's not the greatest movie ever, but they had pretty cool special effects. So I got a kick out of that. They mounted the camera on something, it was like on a horse running through the trees, and there was a giant earthquake, and cliff fall when this thing collapses, and I just thought that was pretty aggressive for that time period.

HENRY PARKE:       I was wondering if any of the stars were favorites.

ETHAN WAYNE:     I love Lee Marvin. I loved him in LIBERTY VALANCE. He was just such a man. Just a frightening character. He was terrific. And Joel McCrea, I mean iconic. And then Randolph Scott. I don't know why I always liked that guy. Just something about him that I took to, you know? He seemed like a good guy. So I liked watching his movies.

HENRY PARKE:       And as long as we're talking about LIBERTY VALANCE, Lee Van Cleef.

ETHAN WAYNE:     Lee Van Cleef, that's right. I crossed paths with him on one of my horrible films -- I can't remember which one it was.

HENRY PARKE:       He became one of the kings of European films.

ETHAN WAYNE:     Exactly. Let me tell you something: it's not a bad place to be king.

HENRY PARKE:       What was the best part of it?

ETHAN WAYNE:     Go to Italy. You get an apartment, you work and you're getting paid. You're living in Italy! I mean, it's good. I felt the same way about Germany, France, Spain, England, just life experience. You know, as long as I was working I was really enjoying it. I felt like I was learning. And I wanted to learn, to get to a level where I was comfortable coming back and really going after work that would satisfy me, or be at a level that was significant compared to what I'd done here.

HENRY PARKE:       If a good acting role were to come along would you still be interested?

ETHAN WAYNE:     In a heartbeat!  I would love to do that sometime. That'd be terrific.


And speaking of John Wayne, starting this Friday, June 29th, and continuing throughout July, every weekend movie will be a John Wayne classic! On Friday night it’s THE ALAMO, Saturday night HONDO, and Sunday afternoon THE QUIET MAN. Following weekends will feature THE WAR WAGON, CAHILL – UNITED STATES MARSHAL, THE UNDEFEATED, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, BIG JAKE (featuring Ethan Wayne), THE SHOOTIST, and Wayne’s most popular Western comedy, MCCLINTOCK! 


Finally: a contemporary Western/Eastern slacker comedy-drama! Deputies Thurman Hayford (Jake Dorman of LADYBIRD) and Jim Doyle (Martin Starr of SILICON VALLEY) know they must be doing a good job of policing crime in their rural New York State community. After all, they make no arrests, so there must be no crime. But the Sheriff (Ron Perlman) doesn’t see it that way. He fires the pair. But the phone rings as they’re cleaning out their desks: a prisoner has escaped. Perhaps, the pair reasons, if they can catch the escapee they can earn back their badges!

But after capturing Prisoner #614 (George Sample III), they begin to suspect that he’s an innocent man. This comedy, by turns broad and droll, is always amusing and often laugh-out-loud funny. It also indulges in the almost frightening humor inherent in incompetent people with firearms.
Perlman, who made his Western bones starring in the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN TV series (1998-2000), and played Judge Garth in the 2014 remake of THE VIRGINIAN, is so well-suited to the West that the degree to which the deputies are outmatched is as laughable as it is menacing. Written and directed by Zach Golden, played straight and played well by a talented cast, photographed to take full advantage of the unexpected New York State locations, it’s a very enjoyable, and at times unexpectedly thoughtful, way to spend an hour and a half. From LIONSGATE, THE ESCAPE OF PRISONER 614’ goes on sale today, June 26th, $19.98 for DVD, $21.99 for Blu-ray plus digital. It’s also available from Amazon Prime and other platforms.


If you’re anywhere near the town too tough to die on Saturday, June 30th or Sunday, July 1st, you’ve got to go to that real town to see the folks who immortalized TOMBSTONE on the big screen!  Attending will be Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo), Joanna Pacula (Kate), Peter Sherayko (Texas Jack Vermillion), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Mattie Earp), Frank Stallone (Ed Bailey), Sandy Gibbons (Father Feeney), Billy Zane (Mr. Fabian), Costume Designer Joseph Porro, and Producer Bob Misiorowski.  Julie Ann Ream will be panel moderator. Some events will take place at the legendary Crystal Palace and at The Bird Cage Theatre – one of the most wonderfully spooky places I have ever been! There will also be tours of Mescal, where so much of TOMBSTONE was shot. And unlike its sister-studio Old Tucson, which is always open, Mescal is almost never open to the public – so don’t miss it!  You can learn more HERE.


The contemporary Western series from Taylor Sheridan, who brought us HELL OR HIGH WATER and WIND RIVER, premiered with a two-hour episode on Wednesday night on the Paramount Channel (formerly Spike TV). The story of the Dutton clan, led by Costner, and their struggles to preserve the largest private ranch in America, is a hit!

According to Deadline: Hollywood, the premiere reached nearly five million viewers in Live + 3. In case you, like me, are not familiar with ‘live +’ terminology, what it refers to is the number of viewers who watched the program live, plus those who DVR’d it and watched over the next three days.

That number makes it the most-watched summer premiere so far on cable or broadcast TV. In fact, it’s basic-cable’s biggest premiere ratings since 2016’s THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON.


Zahn & me

I’ve been a fan of actor Zahn McClarnon ever since we met on the set of YELLOW ROCK back in 2011. He’s been awfully busy since then, varying humor and chilling intensity in movies like LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, BONE TOMAHAWK, and as a regular in the series THE RED ROAD and FARGO, really making his mark as the hostile Officer Mathias in LONGMIRE. This past November, when I ran into him at the American Indian Arts Marketplace at The Autry, I had to tell him he was brilliant as Toshaway, the Indian raising the young Eli McCullough (Jacob Lofland) in AMC’s THE SON. When I told Zahn it was the best role I’d ever seen him do, he grinned and said, “Wait until you see what I do in season two of WESTWORLD!” He wasn’t kidding. The website Gold Derby, which handicaps the Hollywood awards races, was the first to publicly predict that Zahn will get an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Akecheta, particularly for episode 8, which is entirely centered on his character. The season closer for HBO’s WESTWORLD aired Sunday night.
If he were to win, he would be the very first American Indian to win an acting Emmy, and only the second to be nominated – the first being August Schellenberg, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, for playing Sitting Bull in 2007’s BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE.  For the record, the only American Indian who has won an Oscar is Buffy Sainte-Marie. She and Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings shared the Best Original Song Oscar for “Up Where We Belong”, the theme from 1983’s AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.


The good folks at the INSP channel asked me to write something for their blog for Father’s Day, and I decided to write about Fess Parker, with input from Darby Hinton, who played his son Israel Boone on the DANIEL BOONE series. If you’d like to read it – and you should – HERE is the link!


I must note the recent passing of an extremely talented producer and awfully nice man, Kent McCray, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 89. He started out as a Production Manager on live TV, and when the medium began turning towards film, he did as well, soon becoming Production Manager on David Dortort’s BONANZA, as well as Dortort’s HIGH CHAPARRAL. Kent became friends with Michael Landon during the BONANZA years, and when Landon decided to make LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, he and Kent became Co-Producers on that, and later on HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN.
I got to know Kent and his lovely wife and partner Susan during the recent HIGH CHAPARRAL 50th ANNIVERSARY celebration, and had the pleasure of interviewing Kent for a few hours. I have only posted a small part of that interview thus far – a technical glitch has made it very slow to transcribe. But I promise the rest of it is coming soon.


Happy Trails,

All Original Contents Copyright June 2018 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved