Can John Wayne Sing

Ellen Grant
• Thursday, 19 November, 2020
• 10 min read

Most notably producer, Paul Tavern; director, Robert North Bradbury; his son, early western star Bob Steele; And screenwriter Lindsey Parsons; Smith Ballet never dubbed JohnWayne’s singing voice.

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(Source: www.express.co.uk)


Both Bob Steele, his father, Robert North Bradbury and Lindsey Parsons, Sr. Bill Bradbury sang with a higher tenor, and therefore could not have dubbed with the lower voice.

During one of Wayne’s many interviews, he was asked who had provided his voice in the later Lone Star films. And eventually went to producer Nat Levine and told him that he could no longer pretend to be singing.

As some of his films contain both the apparent (dubbed by others) and actual singing voice of John Wayne. A number of songs have been written and made famous by groups like the Sons of the Pioneers and Riders in the Sky and individual performers such as Gene Au try, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Bob Baker and other “singing cowboys”.

Singing in the wrangler style, these entertainers have served to preserve the cowboy as a unique American hero. Many of these early recording artists had grown up on ranches and farms or had experience working as cowboys.

The full popularity of the singing cowboys was not reached until the spread of sound films and the emergence of the commercial country music industry. John Wayne as “Singing' Sandy” Saunders in Riders of Destiny Early in his career, 27-year-old John Wayne appeared as “Singing' Sandy Saunders” in Riders of Destiny (1933) and also made seven more films for Monogram Pictures.

(Source: www.flickr.com)

The films were successful and boosted Wayne's career after several failures in the wake of the widescreen classic The Big Trail (1930), but he refused to renew his contract in 1935, although he did continue making nonsinging Westerns for Monogram's successor, Republic Pictures. Because Wayne could not sing, his filmed songs were dubbed by the son of director Robert N. Bradbury, making the obligatory personal appearances a continuous embarrassment for the young actor.

Wayne also emphasized authenticity in his westerns and knew that real cowboys did not routinely sing on the way to a gunfight or wear Singing' Sandy's elaborate costumes. The choice was so successful that, at the time of his death in 1998, Au try was still on the top 10 list of Hollywood western box office moneymakers.

Au try, initially a rodeo competitor, first rose to popularity as a singer, but his acting career started off quickly with the 1935 film serial The Phantom Empire, and he became a prolific star. Au try's early popularity, both for his radio and film performances, quickly paved the way for a multitude of imitators, but most attempts didn't get close to his success.

Au try, and later Roy Rogers, often appeared in contemporary western settings rather than the 19th century wild west era. This allowed the stars to appear in modern clothing alongside motorcars, airplanes, and telephones.

Fred Lee don Scott made a series of films initially with Jed Bell's Spectrum Pictures beginning with Romance rides the Range (1963). Au try's status as the top singing cowboy was never in question until 1937, when disagreements made him temporarily walk out on his contract with Republic Studios.

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(Source: kfgo.com)

The studio's chosen replacement, Roy Rogers, who had previously appeared only in minor roles (including a memorable appearance opposite Au try while still billed under his real name, Leonard Skye), quickly grew popular when given the chance to star. By the time Au try returned, he found himself challenged for top movie singing cowboy status by the blossoming career of his new rival Rogers, although Rogers never neared Au try's juggernaut level of record sales.

Having a variety of experience in supporting roles in many Westerns, Producers Releasing Corporation gave Eddie Dean a series of films beginning with Song of Old Wyoming in 1945. Other notable actors who became famous as singing cowboys were Jimmy Likely and John 'Dusty' King who appeared in the Range Busters series.

Non-singing cowboy actors such as Buck Jones complained that producers would find it too easy to pad out the length of a film with songs rather than action, characterization, or plot exposition. With the advent of television, the making of B-movies dropped off and the era of singing cowboys was coming to an end.

Au try and Rogers went on to star in The Gene Au try Show and The Roy Rogers Show, respectively, but the series' runs ended by the close of the decade (1950s), and the singing cowboy gradually ceased to exist in popular culture except as an exercise in nostalgia. Though he did not appear in the film, Tex Ritter sang the continuing ballad of High Noon.

Once, during a celebrity auction, where participants bid to purchase the talents and time of various celebrities in order to benefit charity, an anonymous bidder put up one thousand dollars to hear JohnWaynesing The Shadow of Your Smile. Duke tried in vain to avoid the “honor,” but after the bidding rose to five thousand dollars, he took the stage and warbled out the familiar tune. In 1933, the “Singing Cowboy” was born with the Lone Star film, Riders of Destiny, wherein Wayne portrayed undercover agent “Singing Sandy Saunders”, the very first of Hollywood’s singing cowboys.

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(Source: www.rescuehumor.com)

Over the years, many alleged experts have claimed that Wayne’s voice was dubbed by either early western singer Smith Ballet or by Glenn Strange (who was best known as Sam the bartender on television’s Gun smoke). However, according to those who were there on the sets of those early Wayne westerns, most notably producer, Paul Tavern; director, Robert North Bradbury; his son, early western star Bob Steele; and screenwriter Lindsey Parsons; Smith Ballet never dubbed JohnWayne’s singing voice.

Bill Bradbury sang with a higher tenor, and therefore could not have dubbed with the lower voice. During one of Wayne’s many interviews, he was asked who had provided his voice in the later Lone Star films.

It bothered him when he went on publicity tours and fans would ask him to sing, and he would have to make up some story to avoid exposing the fact that someone had to dub his voice. Although Levine was reluctant to lose his new-found “singing cowboy” gimmick, he did listen to Wayne’s solution to this dilemma.

That young fairly unknown singing cowboy who later became a Hollywood legend was none other than Gene Au try. It was back in the 30’s, and I was playing a cowboy, and the director thought it might be a good idea if every time I got mad I’d start to hum.

John Wayne (1907-1979) was an American actor who helped cement the Western as a glamorous Hollywood film genre. A top box-office draw for three decades, Wayne also helped epitomize both the cowboy and the film star as part of the American imagination, though it would later come to light that some of his views left quite a bit to be desired.

piano album john rutter sheet
(Source: johnrutter.com)

Wrecking his shoulder, Wayne (then Marion Morrison) lost his place on the University of Southern California football team, along with his athletic scholarship! John Wayne was the first person to publicly refer to cancer as “The Big C.” He came up with the idiom to make his struggle with the illness less “scary” to studio executives in the early 60s.

Later in life, Wayne had zero regrets about helping get the movie’s screenwriter, Carl Foreman, blacklisted and run out of the country. Wayne got his first leading role in The Big Trail (1930), after director Raoul Walsh spotted him when he was a handsome young prop boy moving furniture on the set of another film.

The western was a smash hit, but initially, Wayne’s history as a B-movie regular made it hard for director John Ford to secure funding for the film. Although many of his Hollywood peers volunteered to fight, Wayne himself did not make particularly great efforts to change his own draft exemption.

Although he wrote to his friend about wanting to enlist, he kept postponing until he “finished just one or two pictures.” Part of this procrastination might have been because Republic Studios was very resistant to losing their only A-list actor under contract. Broderick Crawford eventually took the role, winning the 1949 Academy Award for Best Actor…incidentally beating out Wayne who was nominated for Sands of Two Jim (1949).

Despite a long and critically acclaimed career, Wayne was only nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars twice: once for Sands of Two Jim (1949), then winning 20 years later for True Grit (1969). In 1974, the conservative, pro-Vietnam War actor was invited by The Harvard Lampoon to accept the “Brass Balls Award” for his “Outstanding machismo and penchant for punching people.” Wayne graciously accepted in person at The Harvard Square Theater, riding out on an armored personnel carrier manned by the “Black Knights” of Troop D, Fifth Regiment.

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(Source: songstolearnandsing.blogspot.com)

For the first time in his life, Wayne got hate mail from Republicans after he sided with President Jimmy Carter and the Democrats over the Panama Canal. Wayne’s first wife, Josephine, was a native of Panama, and he himself was close friends with the late Panamanian leader Omar Corridos Herrera.

He requested that his tombstone read, “Few, Puerto y Formal,” a Spanish epitaph Wayne described as meaning “ugly, strong, and dignified.” Thankfully, the chosen quote is a little more pacific than the rest of the article: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.

There’s an urban legend that John Wayne died with 40 pounds of red meat lodged in his digestive tract. However, many are quick to point out that since Wayne died naturally of cancer, he didn’t receive an autopsy, ergo, no opportunity for meat discovery.

John Wayne publicly made numerous anti-gay remarks over his life, denouncing homosexual themes in films such as Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and They Came to Conduct (1959). Despite his prejudice, Wayne costarred in films and played chess with Rock Hudson, even though he knew about the latter actor’s sexuality.

Unfortunately, his fanboy ism didn’t stop the Soviet leader from contemplating assassinating Wayne because of his loud, anti-communist views. The most popular early Westerns were “Singing Cowboy” movies, featuring the likes of Gene Au try and Roy Rogers.

In some of JohnWayne’s earlier roles even he appeared as “Singing’ Sandy Saunders;” Wayne had a terrible voice, and his songs were dubbed in by the director’s son. As a boy, Wayne was given a hard time for his feminine-sounding birth name, “Marion Morrison.” Thus, he rebranded himself as “Duke,” after his Airedale Terrier.

Married three times, Wayne’s most acrimonious divorce was with his second wife, the Mexican actress Esperanza Bar. After Wayne came home very late from the wrap party, a drunken Esperanza greeted her soon-to-be-ex with a shotgun, attempting to shoot him as he walked through the door.

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