A simple unfussy design as “Rooster Cogburn” takes centre stage in this “True Grit” Quad movie poster from the U.K. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
In this article we are going to look at one of the true greats of the 20th century cinema: John Wayne, the epitome of the all-American hero, and the posters of his movies available in the United Kingdom.
For much of his career, Wayne was the archetypal star of the movie Western. Though the popularity of the Western genre has waned slightly over the years, Wayne’s classics still command good prices. Of course, Wayne also appeared in other genres too, giving rise to some other interesting collectables here as well.
The Archetypal Western Hero
Though “Stagecoach” (1939) signalled Wayne’s arrival as a star of international standing, wartime privations (1939-45) and immediate post-war austerity meant that full-color U.K. Quad movie posters did not re-appear till the later 1940s. Another classic Wayne Western of this period was “Red River” (1948). The U.K. Quad for this release was a boring three-color affair but collectors rightly focus on the early 1950s re-release Quad, which depicted Wayne in full colour glory. Nice examples of this poster will cost $450.
A classic image of Wayne as the archetypal cowboy hero is featured in the “Red River” Quad. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
It couldn’t be bettered so the American art was retained for the British release of the film “The Alamo.” (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
Once Wayne found his oeuvre, an endless stream of movies followed, most casting Wayne as the no-nonsense, straight-talking, quick-fighting man’s man. While these films may not have stretched Wayne’s acting talents, they gave the public (on both sides of the Atlantic) exactly what they wanted. As a kid in the 1960s, you knew that any film on TV with John Wayne in was going to provide proper “boy’s fun!” Released in 1960, “The Alamo” bequeathed Wayne another heroic role: this time as Colonel Davy Crockett.
Irrespective of the strict historical veracity of the movie, Wayne’s association with America’s heroic past further cemented his name as a bastion of American virtue. Unusually, the U.K. Quad Poster was largely based on the original American design by Reynold Brown, the landscape format of the Quad providing a greater panoramic effect. This poster fetches up to $700 when it appears.
The ‘Later’ Wayne Westerns
Wayne’s close association with the Western genre proceeded unabated through his career. Most Hollywood actors found that once they hit the age of 60, roles began to diminish. However, Wayne’s gravitas & enduring box office appeal meant that roles were still offered, and with films like “True Grit” (1969) and “Chisum” (1970), Wayne was able to corner the market for grizzled, modern resisting curmudgeons.
The U.K. Quad Poster for “True Grit” makes it very plain who the star of the film is. Unlike the U.S. one-sheet poster, which also shows Glen Campbell and Kim Darby, the Quad relegates these actors to mere foreground footnotes. The sepia color of the Quad is obviously designed to evoke a retro image of the old West. A nice “True Grit” Quad retails around $200 to $250.
One of the best John Wayne poster images anywhere is “Chisum,” as Tom Chantrell anticipates the “Dirty Harry” look. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
The U.K. Quad for “Chisum” is another particularly collectable piece of John Wayne memorabilia. The British poster artist Tom Chantrell provides an almost photographic likeness of John Wayne on this poster. Being a Chantrell, it is also characteristically colourful and is one of the most sought-after of all John Wayne U.K. posters, the Quad costing $500 to $600.
Wayne’s War Movie Posters
Though Wayne became synonymous with the Western, he acted in a range of other film genres (even though the characters he played all invariably conformed to his “tough-guy” stereotype). The War movie genre was also ideally suited to Wayne & the public’s perception of him as an all-American hero: “Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949) & “The Longest Day” (1962) being two good examples.
Chantrell lists the stellar cast of “The Longest Day” and, for once, Wayne’s visage is nowhere to be seen. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
“The Green Berets” features superb Frank McCarthy illustration for a poster with a $500-$600 price tag today. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
The “Longest Day” is another Chantrell-illustrated poster. Expect to pay $400 for one of these currently. Perhaps more interesting though is “The Green Berets” (1969), which Wayne both directed and starred in. As America’s fortunes in Indo-china took a turn for the worse and as the rumblings of domestic anti-war sentiment began to emerge, so Wayne courageously took on the controversial subject of the Vietnam War with a determinedly patriotic approach.
“The Green Berets” may not have been a huge commercial success but it has bequeathed to us another collectable Wayne poster, this time the U.K. Quad utilising Frank McCarthy’s artwork for the American promotion.
The Cop & a Very British Collectable
Continuing the theme of John Wayne’s work in non-Western genres, we come to “Brannigan” (1975). In this film, Wayne plays a police officer sent to London to retrieve an errant mobster.
A rare outing for Wayne in London and some brilliant Bysouth artwork in the “Brannigan” Quad. (Photo: moviepostermem.com)
The film contains some great location shots of Wayne in and around London and is thus of particular interest to U.K. fans. “Brannigan” was also one of Wayne’s last films, which makes it more poignant still. The British artist Brian Bysouth crafted a beautiful image of Wayne, gun at the ready (the film and the poster design undoubtedly influenced by Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” films). The poster design also makes good use of some of London’s trademark sites and will cost $250-$350 in nice condition.
It’s a Wrap
John Wayne will forever more be associated with the Western, but his body of work (from 1926 to 1976) contained plenty of non-cowboy roles. The collectability of Western genre posters has ebbed somewhat in the past 10 to 15 years, but Wayne’s position as the archetypal Western hero means that his Western posters have been better able to buck the trend than most others.
In other genres, Wayne also made some interesting films, and in the field of U.K. Quad poster collecting, any John Wayne film illustrated by one of the premier British or American poster artists will cost good money and is worthy of investment consideration.
Mike Bloomfield has been collecting cinema & music memorabilia, with a particular focus on U.K. concert memorabilia & quad cinema posters from the 1960s and ’70s, for 30 years. He runs the two MEM Music and Cinema Memorabilia websites—RockPopMem and MoviePosterMem holds private exhibitions too, provides insurance valuations, a consultancy service to the auction industry, and has contributed to various book publications. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org“>email@example.com.
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