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John Wayne is one of Hollywood’s most popular icons. His career started in the silent era and he would later become one of the biggest draws to getting audiences in theaters for decades. However, Wayne had an “exasperated tantrum” on the set of Four Sons that got quite heated over a pile of leaves. As a result, he stormed off the set.

What is ‘Four Sons’ about?

'Four Sons' John Wayne holding a rifle for 'Shepherd of the Hills'
John Wayne | Bettmann/Getty Images

1928’s Four Sons is a silent drama film. John Ford directed a screenplay written by Philip Klein. It follows Mother Bernle (Margaret Mann), a widow who has four sons named Franz (Ralph Bushman), Johann (Charles Morton), Andreas (George Meeker), and Joseph (James Hall). They all set out to fight in World War I, which tears the family apart. Wayne worked on the set of Four Sons very early in his career.

Four Sons later received a remake in 1940. Archie Mayo directed the remake, written by John Howard Lawson. The cast’s top billing included Don Ameche and Eugenie Leontovich. The Four Sons remake updated the story to follow War War II instead.

John Wayne had an ‘exasperated tantrum’ over a pile of leaves on ‘Four Sons’

Hourly History’s John Wayne: A Life From Beginning to End follows his personal life and career that grew exponentially over time. The text explains that Wayne’s first job with Fox was Ford’s Four Sons. However, he wasn’t a leading man. His job was to dump leaves onto a fan to mimic the illusion of fall weather.

“Although innocuous in nature, this scene was very important for the production team and had to be done several times in order to get it just right,” Hourly History wrote. “This put John Wayne in the tedious position of continuously dumping leaves, sweeping them up, and then dumping them again.” 

Hourly History continued: “Wayne was growing weary of the retakes, and somewhere along the way lost his order of operations and found himself sweeping up leaves when he should have been dumping them, completely messing up the shot. The crew was frustrated, but when Wayne realized what he had done, he was even more aggravated and threw his broom down, marching right off the set in what amounted to an exasperated tantrum.” 

John Wayne’s uncredited performance


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Four Sons is a famous film for more than the reason that it’s one of Ford’s only surviving silent movies. The inclusion of a young Wayne in an uncredited role draws a lot of attention to it. However, Wayne is currently credited on IMDb as “Officer (uncredited).”

However, Wayne’s tantrum didn’t upset Ford on Four Sons. Rather, Hourly History said, “Ford was apparently once again entertained by what he perceived to be John Wayne’s sense of comic relief in action.”

The filmmaker saw something special in Wayne, which would ultimately drive him to become one of the biggest names in the history of the entertainment industry.