‘Beau John’: The untold story of John Wayne’s last project

In numerous 1978 interviews, including an Oct. 29 conversation with Bob Thomas of Associated Press, the longtime actor talked of commissioning a Beau John script and selecting his dream cast. Still reeling from a myriad of health problems, notably open heart surgery, hepatitis, prostate infection, and pneumonia, the genial cowboy revealed that he was drawn to the project because of its native humor.

While The Shootist unintentionally became iconic actor John Wayne’s final film when released to theaters in August 1976, many fans may not realize that the Duke had another project in the pipeline before he succumbed to stomach cancer three years later.

Entitled Beau John, the movie would have been a complete departure from the actor’s tried and true cowboy persona. Based on an apparently unpublished novel by author Buddy Atkinson, it demonstrated light comedy overtones, centering on Kentucky small town life in the 1920s with the Duke portraying a family patriarch.

Wayne felt strongly about the project, actually purchasing the film rights before the manuscript was in galley proof via his company, Batjac. He had not attempted such a feat since producer Hal Wallis outbid him in 1968 for True Grit, ultimately Wayne’s only Oscar win. Friends even claimed that the movie could score their buddy a third Oscar nomination and propel Wayne to new artistic heights [Sands of Iwo Jima was the first accolade in 1949].


Complete text linked here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *