‘The Alamo’: John Wayne Threw an Actor Against a Wall in a ‘Violent Confrontation’

Actor John Wayne stepped behind the camera for his first official directing credit for The Alamo. It was a passion project of his for years, but it took quite some time for his dreams to become realized. However, that would ultimately only be the beginning of his hardships involving the production. Wayne had a “violent confrontation” with The Alamo actor Richard Widmark after their personalities clashed on the set.

John Wayne had difficulties working with Richard Widmark on ‘The Alamo’

'The Alamo' John Wayne as Col. Davy Crockett and Richard Widmark as Col. Jim Bowie smiling as they walk alongside one another wearing Western clothes
L-R: John Wayne as Col. Davy Crockett and Richard Widmark as Col. Jim Bowie | Tom Nebbia/Corbis via Getty Images

Wayne directed, produced, and starred in The Alamo as Col. Davy Crockett. However, his issues with the production started from inception all the way through shooting on location. Wayne’s mentor, John Ford, showed up at the set, but it wasn’t simply for a visit. Ford micromanaged Wayne, which resulted in him having to find ways to keep him busy while he completed his work.

According to Pilar Wayne and Alex Thorleifson’s book, John Wayne: My Life With the Duke, the actor didn’t get along with Widmark on The Alamo, who played Col. Jim Bowie. Pilar called him “a difficult man” with a “scratchy” personality. She wrote that he began to challenge Wayne at every opportunity starting when he first arrived in Bracketville for filming. However, things would only escalate from there.

‘The Alamo’ director John Wayne ‘threw’ Richard Widmark against a wall in a ‘violent confrontation’

Wayne understood how the relationship between actors and directors could be volatile long before making The Alamo. He saw plenty of these actors in action over time and wasn’t sure how he would deal with that when the time came for him to deal with it as a director. Some filmmakers would shout out their difficult talent, but others tried to be understanding.

“Duke tried patience and understanding first because he respected Widmark’s talent,” Pilar wrote. “But Widmark seemed to interpret Duke’s patience as a sign of weakness. He kept on arguing with Duke in front of the rest of the cast and crew.”

However, Wayne wouldn’t be able to hold onto his patience for much longer, as Widmark considered his understanding as a sign of weakness. The situation ultimately came to a head, which resulted in a “violent confrontation.”

“He kept on arguing with Duke in front of the rest of the cast and crew,” Pillar recalled. “Predictably, the day came when Duke’s patience ran out … Widmark and Duke had a violent confrontation and Duke threw the smaller man against a wall.”

The director and actor finished the film without further incident

The Alamo cast and crew worried that Wayne and Widmark wouldn’t be able to work together moving forward. Some rumored that Widmark would walk out on the film, but they didn’t predict their dedication to finishing any feature that they agreed to finish out.

Pilar wrote that regardless of their differences, they would work through the remainder of the film without another physical altercation. Wayne was quite intimidating when he wanted to be, so it comes as no surprise that they had no further incident afterward.

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