"This is a good collection of perhaps lesser known films starring John Wayne that show a wide range of roles for the actor. This is not one of Warner Bros. "Signature Collections", so don't expect extras other than a vintage short and cartoon for each movie.
"Allegheny Uprising"(1939) was made before Wayne's break-through role in "Stagecoach", but released afterwards, thus Claire Trevor is billed ahead of Wayne. Wayne actually didn't look back very fondly on this film or his role in it, but it has its good points. It's basically a western set east of the Mississippi concerning Pennsylvania settlers in pre-Revolutionary times who are angry that they are being attacked by Indians supplied by white traders. The settlers prevail upon the British to outlaw trading with the Indians, and the British oblige. The businessmen and the settlers go back and forth over this issue both inside and outside the law. The businessmen's sentiment - "What's the government for if not to protect business? Certainly not to interfere with it!" - is one that is still timely.
"Reunion in France" (1942) again has Wayne being second billed to the other lead, Joan Crawford. This is a film that was obviously targeting a wartime audience with the objective of building patriotism and morale, so you have to look at the miscasting in the context of the times. Joan Crawford plays a French woman who seems to be plumbing the depths of shallowness in her high-rolling lifestyle until the Germans invade. She returns to Paris to find her fancy home confiscated, her boyfriend helping the Germans, and her inner patriotism aroused. She runs across an RAF pilot (Wayne) who has been shot down, and she must play up to her boyfriend and his German friends in order to help Wayne evade capture. Forget the fact that the actors playing Frenchmen don't sound French, that Wayne doesn't sound British, and that the Germans are portrayed as not being smart enough to find Berlin on a map, and just have fun with it.
"Without Reservations" (1946) is a romantic comedy that is much like "It Happened One Night" with a twist - with Claudette Colbert even costarring. In this version, however, Colbert is playing an analog of Gable's old role - she's an author - and Wayne is first the object of her professional attention and then her romantic attention. This doesn't sound like it could work on paper, but in the end Colbert and Wayne have amazing chemistry.
"Tycoon" (1947) was actually RKO's biggest failure of the year. This movie has Wayne playing an engineer who is building a railroad bridge across a gorge. He and his financier partner in this effort dislike each other intensely with spats that range from the inadequate financing of the project to the shotgun wedding of Wayne's character to the tycoon's daughter. This is where The Duke completely breaks from the hero he normally plays and acts like a spoiled child who believes that he who dies with the most toys wins. He and the tycoon's spat escalate to the point that sabotage is occuring and lives are being lost. There's some beautiful cinematography in this one, and although the plot just didn't work for me, Wayne's acting did. Most people don't like this film at least in part because Wayne convincingly plays someone completely unlikeable - and that's the point. He's given a role completely out of step with what he usually plays and does a good job.
"Big Jim McLain" (1952) has Wayne back playing the heroic patriotic persona that most of his fans will recognize. However, this is clearly a propaganda film that will have most people rolling their eyes in light of what has been revealed to be the truth about this episode in history. Thus, this is another Wayne film you must look at in the context of the times in which it was made. John Wayne plays the title role of Jim McLain, a federal agent working for the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee in search of a pesky ring of Communists believed to be operating in Hawaii. I resist the urge to call this movie good campy fun mainly because of all of the lives and careers that were ruined in the actual investigations. However, history aside, it is an entertaining film perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Notice that the people hunting the Communists are all good-looking, athletic, and well-liked while the Communists, on the other hand, look like they spent to much time indoors as children and are unlikeable introverted types. And Alan Napier, the beloved Alfred of the 60's Batman TV series, as the murderous Sturak? Holy (retrospective) strange casting decision Batman!
"Trouble Along the Way" (1953) shows the sentimental side of Wayne as he plays a former professional football coach recruited to put together a winning football team for a Catholic college that is short on funds. The head of the college, played by Charles Coburn, thinks that a winning football team is the thing to open the checkbooks of the alumni, and believes that Steve Williams (Wayne) is the man for the job. I was surprised to find that the old football quote "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" actually was first said by Wayne's character in this movie. The other plot in this film is that of Wayne trying to keep custody of his little daughter. Williams has to be employed to keep his ex-wife from winning her case, and Wayne's scenes with Sherry Jackson in the role of Williams' daughter are quite touching. To me, this film was the best of the six. It had many opportunities to turn into an melodramatic potboiler, and yet it didn't.
This collection, purely on the merit of being six random films, would rate about four stars. On the merit of displaying the range of John Wayne's acting abilities in a wide variety of roles I would give it 4.5 stars. I round up to give it my five star rating."
The John Wayne Film Collection
Joel T. Graham | jacksonville, FL USA | 06/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection of John Wayne movies comes out right in time for the 100 year anniversary of his birth. He stars with Claire Trevor in Allegheny Uprising, his costar in Stagecoach. This was made in 1939 as he was beginning his rise to super-stardom. Reunion in France was made in 1942 and costarred Joan Crawford. Without Reservations was made in 1946 with Claudette Colbert. Tycoon came out in 1947 with Laraine Day as his costar. Big Jim McLain released in 1952 saw Wayne fighting a Communist espionage ring in Hawaii with James Arness as his partner, who Wayne would later recommend for the part of Matt Dillon on TV's Gunsmoke. Trouble Along the Way teamed Wayne with Donna Reed and had Wayne as a win at any cost football coach who reforms in the end to keep from losing his daughter. Three decades of movies that demonstrate the range of an actor that still ranks as one of the top three actors of all time. And he did not play the cowboy in a single one. A must have collection for anyone who has ever seen the great man's movies."
ALLAN LADD | 06/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a welcome release from WB, 6 very different films. The quality overall is good, although I do not think any of the films have been fully restored they are all reasonable prints. All discs have a period related extra and some have trailers. I would have liked to have seen the colorized version of Allegheny Uprising included as a bonus. The box set discs are identical to the individual releases at a good saving in price."
Melanie Mansfield | Yucaipa, CA United States | 07/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this set for my husband who is an avid fan of The Duke. He was surprised that he had not seen any of these. Great movies."
The John Wayne Film Collection
J. V. Ortiz | Sunland, CA United States | 09/16/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a lot of Duke variety. No cowboys, yay! The movies are great for the Duke fan, but this has no commentary or much in the way of extras, except for contemporary cartoons and movie shorts."