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DUKING IT OUT

If I may add some comments to Garry Wills’ article on the making of “Red River” (“The Birth of the Duke,” April 20):

Early casting choices for the leads were Cary Grant and Gary Cooper, but feeling they weren’t right for it, they both turned it down. Only then was John Wayne cast as Dunson, John Ireland as Cherry Valance and then Montgomery Clift as Matthew Garth.

Wills discusses how the role of Cherry Valance, played by my father, was written out of the script. Author Borden Chase’s comments are based on what Wayne told him, and Hawks’ comments regarding my father’s supposed drinking are equally off the mark, though I can only guess as to Hawks’ motives.

This is the story as my father told it to me and as it will be in my biography of him.

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First, my father quit the picture. He felt he had been lied to and cheated out of money by his agent, Charlie Feldman, who, it turned out, was partnered with Hawks in the company making the film. Hawks was furious when my dad said he wanted out, and Hawks told Wayne “that son of a bitch should do the part for nothing.”

Second, Howard Hawks only wished Joanne Dru was his girl; she was not yet my father’s. Joanne was still married to singer Dick Haymes. Hawks’ girlfriend was an actress with a small part in the film named Abigail Adams. My father and Joanne did not become romantically involved until both again worked together in “All the King’s Men,” for which my father received a best supporting actor Oscar nomination.

Third, my father and Monty Clift, both with New York stage backgrounds, became close friends during the filming. And they were walking away with the picture, which made John Wayne nervous. Monty tried to talk my father out of leaving the movie, believing that the part of Cherry had some of the best lines. The person my father didn’t get along with was Wayne, who first tried to “teach” my father how to walk. My father told him that if he was going to imitate anyone’s walk, he’d rather imitate Henry Fonda.

The only reason Cherry was around at the end of the film is that those scenes were shot before my dad’s falling out with his agent and Hawks. It was then that Duke told Borden Chase, who told my father, that “we’re dumping Cherry Valance . . . every scene he has left will be cut.”

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JOHN IRELAND

Los Angeles

*

Ireland’s “Living in Hollywood and Other Crimes of Passion” is due later this year, published by Katco Literary Group in Fresno.

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Hawks might have made John Wayne a star in “Red River,” but what I recall most about it is an incredible fight scene with Wayne and Clift. Here was scrawny little Clift repeatedly decking Wayne, who was nearly twice his size, with these incredible haymakers.

Also very hard to take was Clift as a gunfighter. Bogart, Cagney and Alan Ladd were little guys who were able to project strength and menace that belied their size, but Clift, fine actor that he was, looked like a pasty-faced kid on vacation from an Eastern prep school.

CHARLES F. QUEENAN

Encino

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