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John Wayne Is Back in the TV Saddle as ‘McLintock!’ : Movies: The Western comedy, which will air on TNT, is one of the Duke’s most popular films yet has been kept out of regular syndication.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Wayne made so many movies that not everybody agrees on the exact number. Some experts say roughly 250. His eldest son, Michael Wayne, says 152.

What is not in dispute, however, is that the Duke made a lot of movies and that 114 of them are on videotape.

On Sunday, for the first time in about 15 years, “McLintock!"--a 1963 Western comedy co-starring Maureen O’Hara--will be shown on television (TNT, 8 p.m.).

Presumably, the broadcast will help slake the public’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for a Hollywood legend who was named the country’s most popular movie star in a recent Harris poll. The Duke, who died in 1979, outpointed Clint Eastwood, the former champ, who is now rated second.

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“It’s mind-boggling to me,” Wayne’s eldest son, Michael, 60, said in a telephone interview from his office in Beverly Hills, where he heads Wayne Enterprises and Batjac Productions.

“It must be my father’s whole body of work that makes him so popular. Maybe it’s because he made so many Westerns and military pictures. Those kinds of things don’t get old. They were old when they made them. They’re the same now as they always were.”

John Wayne’s popularity may also have to do with his shrewdness in marketing himself.

Michael Wayne, who worked on 21 of his father’s pictures and produced or co-produced nine of them--including “The Alamo,” “The Green Berets” and “McLintock!"--points out that his father always chose a picture “on the basis of whether he thought his fans would like to see him in it.”

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“He didn’t choose his films on whether they gave him a chance to act or not,” Wayne emphasized. “There was only one picture my father ever made because he wanted to--and that was ‘The Alamo.’ ”

He chose it “because he thought it showed a true incident in American history,” Wayne said. “He always wanted to please his fans. But on that one, my father said, ‘If they don’t like it, give ‘em their nickel back.’ ‘The Alamo’ was about real heroes, martyrs who died for their country.”

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What, then, makes “McLintock!” special?

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For one thing, it’s hardly a rip-snorting Western. The picture takes comic cues from the age-old battle of the sexes with a plot vaguely inspired by the conflict between the obstinate lovers Kate and Petruccio in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

For another, pent-up demand.

Michael Wayne, who licensed “McLintock!” to TNT, says he has kept it off the air for years despite the fact that it has consistently been among his father’s most-requested movies.

“I believe less is more,” he said. “Instead of putting it into syndication, I felt it should have a periodic release. I model myself after Disney. If the public wants to see a picture it hasn’t seen for a long time, there’s more impact with a periodic release.”

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“McLintock!” became available on video in 1993. “Hondo,” another popular John Wayne vehicle controlled by Batjac, went to video last year. And, his son said, “The High and the Mighty” will be released in 1996.

Michael Wayne will host the TNT broadcast with Patrick Wayne, another of the Duke’s sons, who has a major supporting role in “McLintock!” (Their sister, Aissa, also appears as a child.)

“A lot of the family worked on that movie,” Michael recalled. “It was a lot of fun to make.”

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* “McLintock!” airs on Turner Network Television on Sunday at 8 p.m.


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