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The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) Poster

Trivia

When John Wayne is dragged into the river, you can hear a child calling out, "Dad!". This was his three-year-old son Ethan Wayne, who was watching off camera and knew how ill his father was. Wayne nearly contracted pneumonia from filming this scene.
This picture marked the return of John Wayne to work after having a cancerous lung and two ribs removed just four months earlier. He insisted on doing some of his own stunts to show the public that the illness hadn't slowed him down.
The film was loosely based on the real-life story of the five Marlowe brothers.
The hearse featured at the funeral of Katie Elder currently resides in front of the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World.
Tommy Kirk was fired from the film after being arrested for possession of marijuana at a party on Christmas Eve 1964. Photographs of him wearing police handcuffs made the front pages of newspapers, and consequently he found it increasingly difficult to get film roles.
Filming was due to begin in October 1964, but had to be delayed until January 1965 after John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Dean Martin later said of John Wayne, "Someone else would have laid around, feeling sorry for himself, for a year. But Duke, he just doesn't know how to be sick . . . he's recuperating the hard way. He's two loud speaking guys in one. Me, when people see me, they sometimes say, 'Oh, there goes Perry Como.' But there's only one John Wayne, and nobody makes any mistakes about that."
When Bud tells John they could be famous like the Dalton gang, John reminds him the Daltons "were hung". Actually, three members of the Dalton gang were shot to pieces by the outraged citizens of Coffeyville, KS, when the gang tried to rob both town banks simultaneously in 1892. Survivor Emmett Dalton was shot 23 times, and spent 14 years in prison.
John Wayne's own stunt double Chuck Roberson stood in for George Kennedy in the scene where John Elder hit Curley with an axe handle.
After John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer on 13 September 1964, he suggested Kirk Douglas should take his part in the movie. Henry Hathaway was determined not to recast, insisting that only Wayne should play John Elder. The producers suggested Robert Mitchum or William Holden in case Wayne did not survive surgery or recover in time.
Beginning with this movie, Chuck Roberson would double for John Wayne in long shots on horseback.
The film was originally to have been made in 1955 with Burt Lancaster and directed by John Sturges. However, Lancaster felt the story was routine.
Despite this being a big-budget movie with a large cast, Karl Swenson was utilized to play two parts. He played "Doc Isdell" and also the bartender in the scene where the Dean Martin character auctioned his eye. The bartender part actually had more lines of dialogue.
George Kennedy recalled he was surprised to find that John Wayne still smoked cigars during filming despite having undergone major surgery, although he had stopped smoking cigarettes.
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Michael Anderson Jr. replaced Tommy Kirk at very short notice.
Before John Wayne signed for the film in June 1964, Charlton Heston had been sought to play John Elder.
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When Robert Mitchum was being considered for the John Wayne part, Stephen Boyd was being courted for the Dean Martin role.
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This film premiered on ABC television the same night as the infamous Heidi (1968) incident on NBC.
According to the tombstone, Bass Elder was born in 1834 and died in 1898, making him 63 or 64 at the time of his death. The film is set in 1898 or early 1899, and his eldest son is played by 57-year-old John Wayne.
John Wayne, aged 57, was 36 years older than Michael Anderson Jr., who played his younger brother Bud. It is estimated that Wayne's character John Elder was supposed to be in his late 30s or early 40s.
Despite having undergone major surgery to remove his left lung, John Wayne still managed to film a TV special on behalf of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.
While John Wayne was recovering in the hospital from lung cancer surgery he learned that his younger brother Robert E. Morrison had also been diagnosed with lung cancer.
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At 1:21:32, 1:21:39, 1:22:04 into the film and at the far left side of the screen, a swastika is clearly visible, scratched into the wall of the jail cell and at 1:22:05. John Wayne places his right hand over it.
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John Wayne caught a heavy cold towards the end of filming.
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When the Elder brothers are being driven out of town in chains, you can see an American flag flying over a building and right under it a Texas flag.
Remade in a modern setting as Four Brothers (2005).
John Wayne and George Kennedy also starred together in In Harm's Way (1965) and Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973). They were allies in "In Harm's Way" and enemies in the other two films.
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John Wayne's paycheck was $600,000, plus 10% of the profits.
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Henry Hathaway had previously directed Dennis Hopper in From Hell to Texas (1958), where they had personality clashes. Here, there were no such clashes. Hathaway even told Hopper that he had become a better, smarter actor since then.
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John Wayne, Dean Martin and Dennis Hopper would often go out drinking together.
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John Wayne was widely felt to be miscast in this film, due to his age.
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Johnny Cash sang a song in 1965 also called "The Sons of Katie Elder". Elmer Bernstein (who did the music for the film) and Ernie Sheldon wrote the song.
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Four years later, Henry Hathaway also directed John Wayne in True Grit (1969). In addition to Wayne, John Doucette, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper, James Westerfield and Jeremy Slate were in that film as well.
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In a December 1994 interview with Charlie Rose, Dennis Hopper credited John Wayne with saving his career, as Hopper acknowledged that because of his insolent behavior, he could not find work in Hollywood. Hopper stated that because he was the son-in-law of Margaret Sullavan, Wayne hired Hopper for a role in the film.
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John Wayne was often spotted between takes swallowing vitamin pills, washed down with a heavy swig of mescal. He'd then shake himself before thundering, "Goddamn, I'm the stuff men are made of".
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The second western to feature John Wayne and Dean Martin. The first was Rio Bravo (1959).
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The name "Kate Elder", was one of several names used by Mary Katherine Horony Cummings, better known as "Big Nose Kate", a western icon and sometime companion of Doc Holliday.
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Earl Holliman enjoyed working with John Wayne, although he did not like some of the reactionary things Wayne said.
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Paramount Pictures purchased the story by William H. Wright and Talbot Jennings in 1955. The story concerned five brothers and centered around a cattle drive from Texas to Colorado. Samuel J. Briskin was assigned as producer. Frank Burt was to write the script, John Sturges was going to direct and Alan Ladd was to star, making a return to Paramount after several years' absence--he still owed Paramount one film. Noel Langley signed to write a version of the script and filming was to start in April 1956. However, in July 1956 it was announced that Ladd bought himself out of his Paramount commitment by paying $135,000 and he would no longer make the film (Henry Hathaway put this figure at $250,000).
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When the film was released there were complaints that the plot was no different than a B-western from the 1930s.
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