I wouldn’t have believed John played an author unless I’d seen it with my own eyes. Sure enough, in the lesser known John Ford patriotic film The Wings of The Eagle, John Wayne plays an author, and, to my surprise, plays a fairly credible author at that. Probably the worst example of an actor-playing-an-author would have to be Steven Seagal–believe it or not, he plays an author in Driven to Kill, a movie I have yet to force myself to watch but can, in good faith, assume is terrible.
I love a good John Wayne movie as much as the next guy, but I’d never given him much credit as any sort of literary actor. I think in this movie he’s decent because he doesn’t try to be an author, meaning he doesn’t go out of his way to invest his character with too many tics, neuroses, and odd habits. His character is an alcoholic, and is pretty wild in some scenes, but I’ve come to like the thought of people seeing authors as someone like John Wayne rather than Sean Connery in Finding Forester. I once told one of my friends I wanted to be an author, and he, showing overmuch concern, looked me in the eye and said “Corey, don’t become one of those authors who lives alone and is depressed all the time.” Would he have said that to John Wayne?
The Wings of the Eagle is a pretty enjoyable movie, but don’t go way out of your way to see it. If you have Netflix queue it up, but don’t spend a lot buying it or anything. One highlight is a scene where John Wayne pilots an army plane and shows off a bunch of barnstorming tricks that’s as zany as anything in the Abbot & Costello Air-Force movie Keep ‘Em Flying.
The main highlight of the movie for me was a scene where John Wayne’s character meets up with a director played by Ward Bond. Bond frequently collaborated with John Ford and John Wayne, but here, as a metafictional movie twist, Ward Bond dresses and acts like John Ford, signature tobacco pipe and all. Ward Bond and John Wayne are filmed watching the dailies together… I wonder if, when they were done filming, Wayne and Bond watched the dailies of them watching the dailies? This is turning into an Escher print in my head right now.
Are there any other strange examples of actors playing authors? Please list them in the comments box.
“Writing is nothing but telling lies and wrapping it up in fancy paper.”
–line from The Wings of the Eagle.
I also recently watched His Kind of Woman, a movie where Vincent Price plays an author. To read my review of that, click here.
I ramble more about the actor-author relationship in my post about meeting Michael Chabon.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my post about the John Wayne western The Man From Utah.