The War Wagon (1967)

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    Photo with the courtesy of lasbugas


    Plot Summary
    Taw Jackson returns from prison having survived being shot, to the ranch and gold that Frank Pierce stole from him.
    Jackson makes a deal with Lomax, the man who shot him 5 years ago to join forces against Pierce and steal a large gold shipment.
    The shipments are transported in the War Wagon, an armored stage coach that is heavily guarded.
    The two of them become the key players in the caper to separate Pierce from Jackson's gold.
    Summary written by John Vogel

    Full Cast
    John Wayne .... Taw Jackson
    Kirk Douglas .... Lomax
    Howard Keel .... Levi Walking Bear
    Robert Walker Jr. .... Billy Hyatt (as Robert Walker)
    Keenan Wynn .... Wes Fletcher
    Bruce Cabot .... Frank Pierce
    Joanna Barnes .... Lola
    Valora Noland .... Kate
    Bruce Dern .... Hammond or Brown
    Gene Evans .... Hoag
    Terry Wilson .... Sheriff Strike
    Don Collier .... Shack
    Sheb Wooley .... Snyder
    Ann McCrea .... Felicia
    Emilio Fernández .... Calito
    Frank McGrath .... Bartender
    Chuck Roberson .... Brown/outrider
    Boyd 'Red' Morgan .... Early (as Red Morgan)
    Hal Needham .... Hite
    Marco Antonio .... Wild Horse
    Perla Walters .... Rosita
    Ariadna Welter
    Margarite Luna .... Asian girl (uncredited)
    Cliff Lyons .... (uncredited)
    Miko Mayama .... Asian girl (uncredited)
    Midori .... Asian girl (uncredited)
    José Trinidad Villa .... Townsman at bar (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    Clair Huffaker (novel Badman)
    Clair Huffaker (screenplay)

    Original Music
    Dimitri Tiomkin

    Jim Burk .... stunts (uncredited)
    Steven Burnett .... stunts (uncredited)
    Everett Creach .... stunts (uncredited)
    Eddy Donno .... stunts (uncredited)
    Richard Farnsworth .... stunts (uncredited)
    Jerry Gatlin .... stunts (uncredited)
    Chuck Hayward .... stunts (uncredited)
    Tom Hennesy .... stunts (uncredited)
    Cliff Lyons .... stunts (uncredited)
    Frank McGrath .... stunts (uncredited)
    Gary McLarty .... stunts (uncredited)
    Boyd 'Red' Morgan .... stunts (uncredited)
    Hal Needham .... stunts (uncredited)
    Chuck Roberson .... stunts (uncredited)
    Alex Sharp .... stunts (uncredited)
    Dean Smith .... stunts (uncredited)
    Robert Warner .... stunts (uncredited)
    Jack Williams .... stunts (uncredited)

    William H. Clothier

    Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
    Al Jennings .... assistant director
    Cliff Lyons .... second unit director

    Other crew
    Ed Ames .... singer: title song

    As Lomax is riding into Chabisco, the music coming from the saloon is an instrumental version of "The Ballad of the War Wagon."

    During the production, Kirk Douglas was late to the set because he was shooting a commercial endorsement for the Democratic Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown. John Wayne was furious, and was late to work the next day because he was shooting a commercial for the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan.

    According to director Burt Kennedy, he gave up half his salary so that he could afford to hire Kirk Douglas (quoted in the Production Notes on the Universal Western Collection DVD).

    The "War Wagon" itself was built mostly of plywood and other lightweight materials, and painted to look like iron (appropriate "metallic" sound effects-such as when the "heavy" iron doors are opened and closed, etc.) were added to complete the illusion. For many years, at least through the 1980's, the deteriorating remains of "The War Wagon" were displayed in "The Boneyard" (a collection of old outdoor movie props) as part of the Universal Studios Backlot Tour in California.

    Average Shot Length and Median Shot Length = ~5.8 seconds.

    According to the production notes on the 2003 DVD release, Keenan Wynn's battered hat that he wears in the picture was Leslie Howard's Confederate cavalry hat from Gone With the Wind which Wynn purloined from MGM. Wynn first wore the hat in a 1942 MGM screen test and "wore it in every picture he made".

    According to John Wayne, the fight in the saloon was his 500th on-screen fight.

    Although Keenan Wynn plays the crazy old man, he was in fact nine years younger than John Wayne.

    Length of the War Wagon: 47.5 feet, from lead horse to the back end of the wagon.

    John Wayne, who had lost his entire left lung and several ribs in major surgery for cancer in 1964, had great difficulty breathing on an airplane while flying to the location for the start of filming and had to use an oxygen mask throughout the journey. Kirk Douglas recalled that he hadn't realized just how fragile Wayne was until this moment.

    * Anachronisms: Pierce's men carry Henry rifles, but their bandoleers hold .30-40 Krag ammunition. Henry rifle ammunition was short and blunt, not long and tapered.

    * Revealing mistakes: As Pierce looks out of the gun port modification to the war wagon at the adobe wall with pots on it, the magazine of the Gatling gun is seen to be empty. Also there is physically not enough room above the gun for one to fit on the gun.

    * Incorrectly regarded as goofs: Although he is able to speak and understand Spanish throughout the movie, Taw Jackson still needs an interpreter while bargaining with Wild Horse. Given that Wild Horse doesn't want "the white man" in his camp or at his dinner table, it is reasonable that he would refuse to bargain directly with him. Also, it may be that Jackson didn't want Wild Horse to know that he spoke and understood Spanish.

    * Revealing mistakes: In the Pierce's ranch, after Lomax and Billy enter in the shack, Lomax lights the lampion. Then his shadow holding the lampion is projected on the wall, but the only light inside the shack comes from the lampion itself.

    * Continuity: After he opens the safe, Lomax takes a bottle of nitroglycerin and delivers it to Billy. It is completely full. When Billy begins to spill it in another bottle, it is almost empty.

    * Revealing mistakes: The wagon that runs ungoverned, after the last barrel with gold falls, is driven through the opening below the seat.

    * Revealing mistakes: When the Gatling gun is fired against the wood wall, you can see that the squibs fired from the back side of the boards.

    * Continuity: As Pierce and Lomax are talking to each other, at the top left corner of the screen, you can clearly see Billy enter the bar with his empty whiskey bottle too early.

    * Factual errors: The bandoleers of ammo that guards have across their chests contain ammo too large to fit any of the guns (Colts revolvers, Henry repeating rifles) they are carrying.

    * Continuity: During the fight in the saloon, Taw's hat is alternately on/off/on between shots.

    * Continuity: When the war wagon crashes, we see one wheel on the upside-down wagon spinning counter-clockwise. In the next shot, it's spinning clockwise.

    * Revealing mistakes: When Lomax is opening the safe with the nitro, he sets the lamp (the only light source) in a position which would put the lock in the shadow of the safe itself, yet there is remarkably plenty of light on the lock.

    * Continuity: When the gold wagon crashes it stops with it's right side wheels up. When Taw gets to it, it has it's left side wheels in the air.

    * Continuity: When Taw is standing by the front of Wes' wagon and notices the loose gold near Wes's hiding spot, he turns back to the rest of the gang. When the camera angle changes he turns back towards the gang again.

    * Continuity: From the outside of the War Wagon, the port for the Gatling gun extends to the roof of the turret. From the inside, there is a large metal panel between the top of the port and the roof.

    * Revealing mistakes: In the scene where the Gatling Gun is fired at a barrel of water, although large holes in the barrel are pouring out gallons of water, the level of the water in the barrel never goes down.

    * Revealing mistakes: In the scene where Pierce is inspecting the war wagon, there are 2 small spots visible on the wagon not covered by black paint, revealing that the wagon is actually made of wood, not metal.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Durango, Mexico
    Sierra de Organos, Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Mexico
    Six Points Texas, Backlot, Universal Studios - 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 12 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The War Wagon is a 1967 Western Technicolor film starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas,
    released by Universal Pictures, directed by Burt Kennedy,
    produced by Marvin Schwartz and adapted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel.
    The picture, which featured Wayne in one of his few roles as technically a "bad guy"
    (i.e. acting outside the law), received generally positive reviews.
    The supporting cast includes Howard Keel, Robert Walker, Jr., Keenan Wynn, Joanna Barnes, and Bruce Dern.

    Wayne and Douglas had earlier made In Harm's Way together.

    Although not one of Duke's all time classic westerns,
    I really like this film, and is one of my personal favourites.
    I love every bit of it, right down to the title tune, da da da, dum dum, da da da, dum dum!!
    Can't you just hear it now!!!

    Although Duke and Kirk were not bosom friends, they respected one another,
    and the chemistry between the two, is magic, constantly bouncing remarks off
    one another, some of which are mentioned in the Memorable Quotes.
    Kirk, said of Wayne, that he was a bully on the set, and bullied Kennedy, shamelessly.
    Kennedy, admitted he was tough, especially, as it was his company.
    With support from Howard Keel and Bruce Cabot, and guess who,
    that nasty piece of work Bruce Dern!!!

    Although the film was judged, an above average, horse-opera, much of its
    humour failed to come off, even with Duke and Kirk in it., and it's plot bordered on the cliche.

    The NY Times, branded it,


    Pretty, flabby prairie stuff

    I like this film, apart from what the critics said, and I thought
    it made for, a good all round, family piece of entertainment.


    User Review


    Interesting, Well-Paced and Colorful; a Fine Noir Western All Round
    28 June 2005 | by silverscreen888 –

    This is a "caper" film, about what would be a heist in other circumstances. Since the ethics of the perpetrators are those which should have made the authorities make the robbery unnecessary, their act is justified in this situation. This noir western is a bit slick-appearing at some times; but it is physically attractive, has a good cast portraying colorful and somewhat desperate characters, and a strong theme song. Dimitri Tiomkin supplied the very capable score; and Burt Kennedy did a solid job of directing throughout. The very appealing storyline concerns Taw Jackson, played ably by John Wayne, who returns from prison to get back what he can from Bruce Cabot, who stole his ranch and framed him. All he can do is to recruit a group of "mission fighters", beginning with the man who had shot him 5 years earlier, Lomax, played by dynamic Kirk Douglas-and raid the "war wagon"--his enemy's vehicle for transporting gold, a Gatling-Gun-equipped armored stagecoach. Taw's team includes a drunken young dynamite expert he met in prison Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn who is insanely jealous of his young wife, Valora Noland as the wife, Levi Walking Bear in the charismatic person of Howard Keel, his liaison to needed Indian allies, and more. Gene Evans, Joanna Barnes, Ann McRea, Terry Wilson and Frank Mcgrath are among those also doing good professional work in this interesting narrative. Only Noland is a bit weak in this cast. There are some humorous lines and interesting character moments as Wayne assembles his group and plots an attack worthy of "The Dirty Dozen" or "Where Eagles Dare", involving trees that fall at the right moment, Indians faking an attack as a diversion, dynamite used to block off access to a bridge, and a log that swings down and opens the rolling piggy bank violently. What happens after this successful robbery leads to a compromised denouement and ending; but the film is vividly put together, professionally mounted and decently scripted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel. The film stands as a reminder of what any well-made film about an ethical central character can provide relative to any un-ethical and not-fictional man's story competing for a cinema viewer's attention. Moments such as Wayne's visit to his ranch and his talk with the man who stole it, the recruiting of Lomax, the relations of the group, and the raid itself are all memorable. Underrated and always visually interest


    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 2 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Hi,
    I have been researching all the threads, back to the start of the JWMB,
    looking for previous discussion, relating to the movies.
    I have found the following, comments, and have copied them here,
    so that they are now under one forum:-

    The War Wagon

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 6 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • One of our FAVORITE lines, especially since it was upon the death of Bruce Dern's character. Unfortunately, he wasn't the taller of the two :lol: .

    Deep Discount DVD has this movie at the unbelievable price of $6.10! They also have one movie poster.

    Amazon has it for a slightly higher price, although it is still less than $10.

    Chester :newyear:

  • The rivalry between Wayne and Douglas is very funny, and apparently not on-screen only. A thoroughly entertaining movie

    I don't believe in surrenders.

  • I never listed this movie amoung my great favorites, but when I watch it I always enjoy it. And it never became dull to watch. Music is certainly among my favorites. And this company of good losers who almost get that money and lost it at the final moment. I think this way the ending is much better, as if they get all at last.
    I don't like Douglas, but he is right in the place here.
    I shall watch it again this week.
    Senta :rolleyes:

  • This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and it's still one I really enjoy; one of the most fun Duke Westerns. I've always been a fan of Kirk Douglas as well. Duke and Kirk did a couple of good war movies together, but I always wish they would have done more westerns like this.

  • Not much to add to what others have said. Over one and a half hour of entertainment with everything you want in a western. I like these movies having a touch of comedy. Maybe it's not great art, but I enjoy every minute of this one.

    Popol Vuh

  • Decent movie, pretty funny in places as has been stated. The 'War Wagon' was pretty cool, making this like a bank heist on horses.

    Wasn't the duke wearing the exact same outfit from one of his other movies? Or maybe he just re-wore this outfit in a later movie. Or I'm just crazy.

    Well worth an hour and a half.

    [SIZE=3]That'll Be The Day[/SIZE]

  • Quote

    Originally posted by dc65@Nov 13 2006, 05:49 PM
    Wasn't the duke wearing the exact same outfit from one of his other movies? Or maybe he just re-wore this outfit in a later movie. Or I'm just crazy.


    Hi dc65,

    No you're not going mad,
    he wore more or less the same clothes,
    in most of his westerns, from
    The Comancheros (1961) onwards.

    The same leather waistcoat,
    is there in all, but a couple of films afterwards.
    The Red-River 'D' belt buckle appears,
    in Hawk's films.
    You can bet the same hat, shirts and trousers,
    are also re-cycled!!

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi all,
    What always interest me, why these horses they going among while visiting the his former ranch are in such a bad shape. It seems they brought them to the movie location from the slaughter house. :fear2:

  • Hi Vera,

    The same probably applied to the horses too.
    They probably used them in every movie also,
    no wonder they were looking worn out by
    the time they appeared in this film!!!

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • This is really a fun movie to watch. I particularly like Howard Keel in the role of the Indian. He had some really funny lines. But the banter between Wayne and Douglas is what makes this movie really enjoyable. Plus Tiomkin's music and Ed Ames' (he of tomahawk fame :rolleyes: on Johnny Carson's tonight show) balladering in the title song.
    Cheers - Jay :D

    Cheers - Jay:beer:
    "Not hardly!!!"

  • Hi Keith

    I dont remember seeing that. When do you reckon the photo was taken?

    It would be typical of Universal to have it in some warehouse now rather that exhibited for fans.


  • Hi All

    I remember viewing this picture in the 'John Wayne film society' magazine based in England some years ago. Its good to know our beloved 'War Wagon' is still about.