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John Ford provided John Wayne with several of his earliest roles. As a result, the actor would eventually become one of the world’s most iconic Hollywood actors. However, their interactions weren’t always the most positive, even though the two had a long-lasting friendship. Ford once screamed at Wayne and kicked him off the set after going off-script in this Hangman’s House scene.

What is ‘Hangman’s House’ about?

John Wayne and John Ford talking while wearing cowboy hats
L-R: John Wayne and John Ford | Bettmann/Getty Images

1928’s Hangman’s House is a romantic drama silent film. Ford directs inter-titles written by Malcolm Stuart Boylan. The story comes from Brian Oswald Donn-Byrne’s novel of the same name. Philip Klein adapted the story that is famous for having Wayne’s first confirmed performance in any of Ford’s movies.

Hangman’s House is set around Connaught O’Brien (June Collyer). Her stern father, Lord Chief Justice James O’Brien (Hobart Bosworth) is forcing her to marry a man that she doesn’t love. Connaught is ready to give up on her true love, Dermot McDermot (Larry Kent). When her father dies, she regains her hope that she might find happiness one day.

John Ford screamed at John Wayne and kicked him off the ‘Hangman’s House’ set

Hourly History’s John Wayne: A Life From Beginning to End explores the substantial moments in the actor’s life, including his time working with Ford. Hangman’s House is particularly famous for Wayne’s first visual performance in one of Ford’s movies. His role was small, yet still memorable for folks who follow Wayne’s career.

“He was a fiery young Irish youth who worked up a fury and stomped down a section of a picket fence,” Hourly History wrote. “This troubled character was then eventually brought before a hanging judge who mouthed the words, ‘You shall hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead.’ The actors merely mouthed their lines since this was a silent film with subtitles.”

Hourly History continued: “But upon being exposed to such an odd line, Wayne couldn’t help but laugh, and instead of following the script he let out a comical, ‘Amen!’ This bit of adlibbing did not sit well with the director, Ford, at all, and he immediately began shouting for Wayne’s removal, screaming, ‘Get that son of a b**** out of the prisoner’s box! Get him off the stage! Get him off the damned lot! I don’t ever want to see him again!'”

“But this time, the bark was much worse than the bite, and after a couple of days, John was brought right back onto the set,” Hourly History concluded.

John Wayne hit big moving to Warner Bros.


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Hangman’s House was enough for Wayne to pursue his interest with other studios. He worked at Warner Bros. as an extra on Noah’s Ark. Hourly History reports that director Raoul Walsh saw Wayne moving luggage around as a part of his prop job. The actor’s good looks ultimately got him the lead role in a Western called Saturday Evening Post.

This fateful moment officially set Wayne’s career on the path to success. He boasted his iconic delivery that would later become legendary across the entertainment industry, which continues to inspire filmmaking and television to this day.