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Actor John Wayne knew that he excelled in Western and war movies. He could acknowledge which of his films were good and which left something to be desired. However, Wayne really couldn’t stand one of his features that he called one of his “worst movies ever.”

John Wayne starred in many cheap B-movies

John Wayne as Col. Jim Shannon in 'Jet Pilot,' one of his worst movies. He's in a pilot uniform, sitting in the cockpit.
John Wayne as Col. Jim Shannon | RKO Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images

Wayne originally took part in many B-movies over the course of his career. As a result, the Hollywood industry associated him with cheaper productions throughout the 1930s. Director John Ford had difficulty getting funding for Stagecoach because his lead actor’s name didn’t necessarily ensure guaranteed success at the box office. All major studios turned him down, but he was able to strike a deal with independent producer Walter Wanger.

Stagecoach would go on to become a critical and box office success. As a result, Wayne started to get requests for bigger movies after starring in Stagecoach. Some of his co-stars, such as Louise Platt, felt his undeniable potential to become famous for his portrayal of the “everyman” in his performances. Wayne had movies he would much more proud to star in further along in his career, such as She Who Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

John Wayne considered ‘Jet Pilot’ 1 of his worst movies ever

Marc Mompoint’s John Wayne: A Photographic Celebration shares some critical quotes over the course of the actor’s career. Wayne called 1957’s Jet Pilot “undoubtedly one of my worst movies ever.” Unfortunately, the critical response certainly didn’t disagree with him regarding the level of quality here.

Jet Pilot takes place during the Cold War when a Russian jet is taken to an American air base. Anna Marladovna (Janet Leigh) is the pilot onboard who demands asylum. However, she refuses to come clean regarding any Soviet-related information. Meanwhile, Col. Jim Shannon (Wayne) must befriend Anna to gather information on the Soviets. Their situation becomes complicated when they fall in love, but is there any truth to their connection?

Unlike many of Wayne’s movies, Jet Pilot went through some behind-the-scenes issues. There were several directorial changes that further complicated the production. Josef von Sternberg initially worked on the movie until Philip Cochran took over for aerial sequences. Jules Furthman, Edward Killy, Byron Haskin, Don Siegel, and Howard Hughes all had a shot in the director’s seat.

Jet Pilot publicized that it would show off the U.S. Air Force’s latest jets, but they were all terribly outdated by the time the film hit silver screens. Hughes took quite some time tinkering with the feature, and it went through a distributor change from RKO to Universal-International after the sale. Modern aircraft already replaced the ones in the movie, making the feature unable to deliver on its major marketing point.

Director Howard Hughes disagreed with the actor


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While Wayne called Jet Pilot one of his worst movies, Hughes absolutely loved the film. He called it one of his favorite motion pictures that he repeatedly watched in the later years of his life. Some critics could appreciate the film’s sense of humor, but critics at the time considered the film outdated beyond its aircraft. The general consensus considered the direction, script, and performances as missing the mark.

Wayne’s most dedicated fans might want to check out all of his movies, but even the Duke himself turned his back on this one.