LOGAN – As a treat for classic film buffs, the Utah Theatre in downtown Logan plans to observe the 115th anniversary of screen icon John Wayne’s birth with a month-long festival of his most respected movies during May.
The film festival will include a free, old-fashioned double-feature screening of the classics “Red River” and “The Horse Soldiers” on Wednesday, May 26, which is Wayne’s birthday.
John Wayne, whose real name was Marion Robert Morrison, was an actor and filmmaker. During a 50-year career that stretched from the silent film era of the 1920s through the Golden Age of Hollywood, Wayne became an American icon for his roles in western films.
In all, Wayne starred in 142 films with other important Hollywood performers and earned an Oscar as best actor in 1969 for his portrayal of the cantankerous one-eyed marshal Roster Cogburn in “True Grit.”
The Utah Theatre’s salute to Wayne will include some of his best westerns, plus gritty war films and one African adventure film.
The festival will lead off with “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” a 1949 war film, on Saturday, May 1. Wayne earned his first Academy Award nomination as a strong-willed Marine sergeant who leads his men from training through the World War II invasions of Tarawa and Iwo Jima.
On Monday, May 3, the Utah Theater will screen the offbeat “Hatari,” a romantic comedy adventure directed by the legendary Howard Hawks in 1962. In “Hatari,” Wayne plays the leader of a group of professional game-catchers in modern Africa.
Next up is the acclaimed “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” on Wednesday, May 5. In the 1962 film directed by John Ford, Wayne co-starred with veteran actor Jimmy Stewart and led an all-star cast that included Vera Miles, Lee Marvin and Edmund O’Brien.
Wayne’s personal favorite film, “The Searchers,” will be presented on two nights (Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8). Also directed by John Ford, the 1956 film follows Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran pursuing a Comanche war band that abducted his niece, played by Natalie Wood. Film critics and historians have proclaimed “The Searchers” to be one of the most influential westerns ever made.
The Utah will screen “Hondo” on Monday, May 10. Directed by John Farrow, “Hondo” is a Hollywood oddity because it was filmed in an early version of 3-D technology. The movie is also notable because it was one of the first film versions of a story by renowned western novelist Louis L’Amour.
As an example of a film typical of Wayne’s later career, “The Sons of Katie Elder” will be shown at the Utah on Wednesday, May 12. The 1965 film was directed by Henry Hathaway. Wayne co-starred with Dean Martin, Earl Holliman and Michael Anderson, Jr.
The inexplicably popular “The Cowboys” will then be screened on three nights (Friday, May 14; Saturday, May 15; and, Monday, May 17). Spoiler Alert: this 1972 film is mostly remembered as one of the few westerns in which Wayne’s character dies, murdered by the dastardly Bruce Dern.
Screen legends Wayne and Jimmy Stewart were reunited in “The Shootist,” which is set to be shown on Wednesday, May 19. As an aging gunslinger dying of cancer, Wayne led an all-star cast that included Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian and Harry Morgan. The critically acclaimed 1976 film by director Don Segal marked Wayne’s last role on-screen.
The Utah will screen one of Wayne’s most beloved films, “Rio Bravo,” on Friday, May 21 and Saturday, May 22. In the 1959 classic by Howard Hawks, Wayne co-stars with Dean Martin, Rickie Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan and Ward Bond.
The festival will continue with a presentation of “Rio Grande,” on Monday, May 24. Released in 1950, “Rio Grande” was the final installment in John Ford’s trilogy of films saluting the U.S. Cavalry in the Old West. The previous films in that series, all of which starred Wayne, were “Fort Apache” in 1948 and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” in 1949.
The aforementioned double-feature screening on Wayne’s birthday (Wednesday, May 26) will begin with the Howard Hawk’s 1948 classic “Red River” at 5 p.m., followed by “The Horse Soldiers,” a 1959 Civil War adventure directed by John Ford, at 7:30 p.m. There will be no admission charges for these films.
The last weekend of the local film festival will feature a two-night screening of “The Alamo” on Friday, May 28 and Saturday, May 29. Wayne starred in and directed the 1960 epic about the battle for Texas independence.
The John Wayne tribute will close out with “In Harm’s Way” on Monday, May 31. The 1965 film by director Otto Preminger is a moody epic that realistically explores the lives of U.S. Navy officers in the early days of World War II.
With the exception of the double-feature on May 26, the curtain times for all the films in the John Wayne festival will be 7 p.m.
A native of Iowa, John Wayne was born in 1907 and grew up in southern California. After losing a college football scholarship as a result of an injury, he drifted into the infant film industry in the late 1920’s and landed his first leading role in “The Big Trail,” a western directed by Raoul Walsh in 1930. Wayne finally became a mainstream Hollywood star in 1939 for his role in John Ford’s classic “Stagecoach.”
While many of John Wayne’s movies were filmed in Technicolor, that was not always the case in the early days of his career. Some of the films slated for the upcoming film festival at the Utah Theatre — including “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Rio Grande,” “Red River” and “In Harm’s Way” – will be shown in what film buffs refer to as “glorious black and white.”
Originally constructed as a movie palace, the newly renovated Utah Theatre is now home to classic films and live theater performances. The theater is located at 18 West Center St. in Logan.