WAYNE;JOHN AN AMERICAN ICON COLLECTION
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John Wayne remains, without a doubt, a legend of the silver screen and one of Hollywood's most talented and versatile leading men of all time. See "The Duke," with his rugged good looks and undeniable charm, take command of the screen in the amazing collection of five unique films from his long and illustrious film career. This must-own set confirms John Wayne's status as a true American icon!Seven Sinners (1940)Wayne shines as a handsome naval officer who sacrifices everything for the love of a cabaret singer (Marlene Dietrich) with a mysterious past.The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) As part of a family of Ozark moonshiners, Wayne is a simple man sworn to protect the land he loves and a secret that threatens to tear the community apart.Pittsburgh (1942)Wayne stars with Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott in this patriotic rags to riches adventure of two coal miners who risk it all to take on the ruthless steel industry.The Conqueror (1955)In one of his most memorable roles, Wayne conquers ferocious armies and the heart of a princess (Susan Hayward) to become the legendary fighter Genghis Khan.Jet Pilot (1957)As heroic Air Force Colonel Jim Shannon, Wayne takes to the skies to save a beautiful Russian lady pilot (Janet Leigh) accused of being a spy.
He was no one's (including his own) idea of a great actor--one senses that the one Oscar he won, for True Grit in 1970, was as much for his longevity as his talent--but "icon" is an apt description for John "Duke" Wayne, who starred in scores of movies in a career that spanned 50 years. Five of them are collected on John Wayne - An American Icon Collection, a two-disc, no-frills (as in no bonus material) set offered at a very reasonable price. Ranging from 1940 to 1957, these items reveal that although he didn't have a lot of range ("I play John Wayne in pretty much every film I do," he once admitted), Wayne was at least willing to tackle other genres besides the Westerns with which he's so closely identified; here he portrays a coal miner, a moonshiner, and a legendary warrior, along with the more expected military roles. As for the quality of the films, lets just say that "good" and "entertaining" don't always go on the same page, and the set at least has plenty of the latter. Seven Sinners ('40) is the best of the lot, with Marlene Dietrich sly and radiant as the delightfully named Bijou Blanche, a South Pacific cabaret singer who tantalizes naval officer Wayne. At the other end of the spectrum is The Conqueror ('55), generally regarded as Wayne's worst feature ever, but even it is a campy hoot. Sporting a Fu Manchu 'stache and many silly hats and delivering some preposterously stilted dialogue ("Hi, Mom" becomes "I greet you, my mother!"), Wayne plays Mongol warlord Temujin, soon to become Genghis Khan, who's obsessed with a beautiful princess (Susan Hayward as a Tartar? Mayonnaise is more like it) who just happens to be the daughter of the man responsible for the death of Temujin's father. Pittsburgh ('42), again pairing Wayne with the luminous Dietrich, is considerably better, charting the rise, fall, and redemption of miner-turned-captain-of-industry Charles "Pittsburgh" Markham in a story that's both humorous and dramatic before devolving into flag-waving World War II propaganda. Neither The Shepherd of the Hills ('41), sentimental hokum about a clan of drawling, superstitious Ozark hicks, nor Jet Pilot ('57), with a pre-Psycho Janet Leigh as a Russian spy (!), ranks as what you'd call a classic--indeed, there are no classics to be found anywhere here--but the Duke, always a man's man, probably wouldn't mind. "When people say a John Wayne picture got bad reviews," he said, "I always wonder if they know it's a redundant sentence, but hell, I don't care. People like my pictures and that's all that counts." --Sam Graham
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"Seven Sinners" (1940), offers Duke's first teaming with the legendary Marlene Dietrich, with whom he'd have a brief but torrid off-screen affair. An atmospheric drama set at the 'Seven Sinners' bar on an exotic Pacific island, Dietrich is, as usual, a sultry chanteuse, loved and lusted after by every man who meets her, especially 'bad boy' Antro (played with finesse by screen veteran Oskar Homolka). When the Fleet arrives, however, and 'Golden Boy' officer Wayne sets eyes on her, she falls hard, and he is willing to sacrifice his career for her. Of course, the 'Higher Good' prevails, but not before audiences get a healthy dose of romance!
Co-starring Broderick Crawford, Anna Lee, and a surprisingly sympathetic Albert Dekker, the Dietrich-Wayne chemistry would prove so potent that they would make two more films together.
"Pittsburgh" (1942), the third and last Dietrich-Wayne pairing (following the Alaskan epic, "The Spoilers"), does a flip-flop in the characterizations from the Gold Rush tale, making Randolph Scott the 'good guy', and Wayne an opportunistic heel, willing to 'walk over' anybody, even his love, Dietrich, to get rich in the steel industry (although he'd redeem himself, by the finale). Playing a victim was uncharacteristic of the tough actress, however, and, while Wayne would eventually prove an excellent 'anti-hero', audiences wouldn't accept Wayne so 'out-of-character' at this point in his career. The film would not do well at the box office, ending the Dietrich-Wayne pairings...but has gained a devoted following, over the years!
"The Shepherd of the Hills" (1941), Wayne's first teaming with director Henry Hathaway (who would direct Duke to his only Oscar, 28 years later, in "True Grit"), was also the first color film in Wayne's career. A tale of life in the Ozark Mountains, Betty Field, as moonshiner Wayne's love interest, 'steals' the film, but it does offer the novelty of screen legend (and Wayne friend) Harry Carey playing Duke's long-absent father. Occasionally involving, but the Duke seems a bit out-of-place in the proceedings!
"Jet Pilot" (filmed in 1950, released in 1957), marked Wayne's first film for producer Howard Hughes (yes, THAT Howard Hughes), in a cartoonish anti-Communist 'epic', as Air Force officer Duke converts Soviet pilot Janet Leigh to the joys of America (while she 'lures' him to defect, leading to a Wayne sojourn to Russia, and his easily stealing Red technology for the West). This film is truly awful (which was why it was 'shelved' for seven years), with Hughes' signature emphasis on long, lingering views of Leigh's top-heavy figure (while Josef von Sternberg is credited as the director, Hughes was clearly in charge). "Jet Pilot" is better known as the film where the legendary Chuck Yeager (who first broke the sound barrier, in 1947), was nearly killed performing the aerial stunts (while on 'loan' from the USAF). The aerial footage is, certainly, the most impressive aspect of the film.
"Jet Pilot" could have been the worst film of Duke's career, but Hughes had bigger plans, and topped even this epic with...
"The Conqueror" (1956), the infamous showcase of John Wayne as Asian warrior Temujin (who would eventually be known as GENGHIS KHAN). This film is so summarily awful, and has so many legends associated with the production (shot in the radiation-drenched sands of the Atomic test range in Utah...with many of the cast and crew eventually dying of cancer), that by notoriety, alone, it should be an 'essential' for any Wayne fan collection!
Directed (with a straight face) by the usually reliable Dick Powell, between the flowery dialog, the clunky costumes, and Susan Hayward as the least desirable red-headed princess you'll ever find, enjoy the campier moments, like Mexican Pedro Armendariz and short, roly-poly William ("Cannon") Conrad as Wayne's BROTHERS; veteran actor Thomas Gomez as 'Wang Khan' (that really IS his character's name); and the climactic moment when the Duke, surrounded by enemies, hisses the immortal words, "Come and TAKE me, mongrels - if you DARE! While I have fingers to grasp a sword, and eyes to see your cowardly faces, your treacherous heads will not be safe on your shoulders. For I am Temujin, the Conqueror! No prison can hold me, no army defeat me!" (Seriously, LAURENCE OLIVIER couldn't deliver those lines believably...maybe Sylvester Stallone could...)
Whether you're a John Wayne fan, or not, this collection offers plenty to talk about, at a very reasonable price! I promise, you'll never get a better opportunity to see the Duke as you've NEVER seen him before!
I happen to like Pittsburgh. This is the first time I am able to see it on DVD, and enjoy the quality of the movie. I am not a fan of The Conqueror or Jet Pilot, but having them from Universal gives me the assurance that the quality of the movies will be superior. As for Seven Sinners well, it's a Duke movie with Marlene Dietrich.
I have not heard from any person reviewing this collection on the quality of sound and picture. Frankly, I am not interested in thier opinion of these movies since I have seen almost all of them. These movies are great in the quality of the picture. They come from a great production company; Universal. If you've seen Jet Pilot and The Conqueror from past DVD copies, then you must agree that this is much better in quality.
If you are a big John Wayne fan then these movies will complement your collection. They are great in sound & picture quality. As for the movies themselves, well that is for you to decide. I don't rank them as my top John Wayne movies, that will come out next week (June 6). But as a collector of his movies (I have over 80 of his movies to date in both VHS and DVD) I am glad to have these in my collection. If you are not a Duke fan, I would NOT recommend purchasing this collection. There are better Duke movies out there.
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