Tags: Hollywood | john wayne | roles | supporting | star | shined

John Wayne in Supporting Roles: 5 Times the Star Shined Without Being Lead Actor

By    |   Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015 12:52 PM

John Wayne's roles weren’t all leads. However, he did star in 142 movies, which is a record, according to the IMDb. Wayne was “too tall, too handsome, and too full of raw talent to play anything but a leading man,” says “John Wayne: American” author Randy Roberts.

In 1931’s “The Deceiver,” he played a corpse. Yet, not all of Wayne's supporting roles were so flat.

Consider these five John Wayne supporting roles.

1. Steve Pickett, “Texas Cyclone,” (1932)

Even when he played a secondary cowpoke, Wayne charmed. His character of Steve Pickett was simply a side role, but he distinguished him as a gun-toting man who wasn’t intimidated by the bad guys in the film. It bore Wayne’s characteristic allure, making early fans of the Diamond Bar Ranch cowboy.

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The movie, according to Classicflix.com, is among Wayne’s works that show him as an up-and-coming legend.

2. Buzz Kinney, “Lady and Gent,” (1932)

Beat-up boxer Buzz Kinney’s glory days were behind him in the Paramount film. But playing the part helped set the Duke’s glory days before him. “John Wayne has little to do and practically no dialogue but looks promising in this early film,” wrote IMDb reviewer Arne Andersen. The role then led Wayne to an improved deal with Warner Brothers, according to Roberts.

3. Smith, “The Life of Jimmy Dolan,” (1933)

Wayne played a prizefighting boxer simply called Smith, but he bore the characteristic charisma of his better-known roles. In the movie, the Duke’s spirited character dies in the boxing ring. While the role isn’t typically Wayne, it does show range. In one pre-match scene, he is nervous, biting his nails, and pacing. But fear quickly gives way to animated confidence: “That’s what I’m gonna do, box his ears off!” After another bout of nerves, the Duke again declares his opponent’s doom. It was a minor but fulfilling role for Wayne, according to Roberts.

4. Jimmy McCoy, “Baby Face,” (1933)


He’s used and rejected by one woman, and degraded and yelled at by another: “Wake up, kid!” says the latter. But Wayne’s brief bit as a low bank manager in the 1933 film shows his alluring vulnerability nonetheless. And for the viewers keen enough to catch it, Wayne’s physical appeal, with smile and suit intact before his lady friend’s rejection, woos nonetheless. But alas, his supporting role did little for his success, according to Roberts.

5. Ole Olson, “The Long Voyage Home,” (1940)

Although Wayne’s role as a Swedish sailor — with a Scandinavian accent to boot — was minor, he was billed as the picture’s star. Duke’s portrayal of Olson was one of the most challenging parts of his career, according to Donald Shepherd and Robert Slatzer, authors of “Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne.” His extraordinary performance widened his perceived acting range, according to the authors.

Film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said he believes that Wayne
may have deserved an Oscar win for his supporting role. He also stated that it was one of Wayne’s “few genuinely actorly performances.”

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John Wayne's roles weren’t all leads. Wayne was “too tall, too handsome, and too full of raw talent to play anything but a leading man,” says “John Wayne: American” author Randy Roberts. But consider these five John Wayne supporting roles.
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