Todd Gault's Movie Serial Experience

Todd Gault's Film Serial Experience: Movie serials, cliffhangers and reviews. A gallery of movie serial stars.
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"The Hurricane Express"; Mascot, 1932

One of the biggest stars of all time John Wayne, born Marion Morrison, first starred in Raoul Walsh's big budget western "The Big Trail" (1930), the first wide screen film. Unfortunately it came out at the wrong time. Theater owners had just invested a lot a money into the new sound technology and were not about to put out even more money for bigger screens which caused the film to be a box office failure.Wayne then went to the poverty row studios to pay his dues making low budget westerns. His agent secured him work at Mascot for three serials. "Shadow of the Eagle" (1932) had the Duke cast as a circus stunt flyer trying to prove his boss, and sweetheart's father, was not a mystery villain called the Eagle who was trying to destroy an aviation company. That same year he would make "The Hurricane Express" (1932) as a pilot seeking revenge for the murder of his train engineer father at the hands of mystery villain the Wrecker. It was a tough job as the Wrecker had bunches of masks and could impersonate anyone, even Wayne.

The Duke's last serial was a modern update of Alexander Dumas's "The Three Musketeers"(1933). Once again cast as a pilot Wayne helped three Foreign Legion soldiers fight the evil machinations of Arab rebel leader El Shaitan while also trying to clear himself of his best friend's murder. Next Wayne went to Lone Star Pictures to make a string of B-Westerns.

Wayne went along for the ride when Lone Star was incorporated into Republic Pictures with Mascot and several other poverty row studios. He replaced Robert Livingston as Stoney Burke in the popular Three Musketeers film series. Ironically when Wayne left the series to make his big breakthrough film, John Ford's classic "Stagecoach"(1939), Livingston was reinstated as Musketeer Stoney Burke.

Now a major film star Wayne would go one to make a list of films that is unequaled. He would work with his favorite director John Ford in such films as "Fort Apache"(1948), "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"(1949), "The Quiet Man"(1952), and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"(1962).

Wayne would also go on to be a director himself,"The Alamo"(1960), and win a Best Actor Oscar for "True Grit"(1969). His last film "The Shootist"(1976), as an aging gunfighter dying of cancer who goes out in a blaze of glory with one last shoot out, could be seen as the culmination of his amazing career of over 150 films.

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