Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

John Wayne & Harry Carey, Sr.

If we count just the screen appearances that John Wayne and Harry Carey, Sr., made together in feature-length films, we would have to limit our number to a mere four. But Harry Carey had been making movies nearly 20 years before John Wayne stepped in front of a camera; and, in keeping with Mr. Carey’s legendary status at the time, as well as his reputation for generosity, it’s not surprising that he was moved to mentor the young neophyte. It’s also not surprising that, in keeping with John Wayne’s immense respect for the veteran actor that he gratefully accepted Mr. Carey’s guidance and friendship. It was a relationship that continued, as Mr. Wayne would readily acknowledge, well beyond Harry Carey’s death in 1947, putting Mr. Carey, in spirit at least, in far more productions with Mr. Wayne than just four.

And perhaps in the most visible way, his influence, his omnipresence, his importance to John Wayne manifests in the gesture Mr. Wayne makes at the very end of The Searchers (1956). There he stands arms at his side facing the camera that has framed and, in a sense, isolated him in the doorway; and, just before he turns to walk away and dissolve into the blowing dust outside, he lifts his right hand, grabs his left arm just below the elbow, and freezes in a pose that Harry Carey’s widow, Olive, who plays the wife of a family friend in the movie and is standing off camera, recognizes as a gesture she had seen her late husband make many times before. She naturally saw the gesture as a tribute from one legendary actor to another.

In each of the four films where these two legendary actors appear together, Harry Carey is cast as a kind of father figure (if not a father altogether, as in The Shepherd of the Hills) or an older man of sage-like wisdom and always a man who has in mind the best interest of all concerned, even when it means he must seemingly take sides against John Wayne’s character. This was the case in Harry Carey’s next-to-last film Red River (1948), which was released the year following his death. where he counsels the characters played by Montgomery Cliff and John Ireland in their opposition to John Wayne’s wrongheadedness.

Here is the list of Mr. Carey and Mr. Wayne’s four films together:

The Shepherd of the Hills (1941)
The Spoilers (1942)
Angel and the Badman (1947)
Red River (1948)

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