It’s the movie people always ask me about. ‘Oh, I love John Wayne, but McLintock! has to be my favorite!’”
Actor Ed Faulkner punctuates this statement with an easy laugh and a degree of earned pride. His role, as the son of Bruce Cabot’s character, Ben Sage, triggers the wild mud brawl, which ranks among the most famous of Wayne’s movie moments. Audiences loved the knockdown comedy of 1963’s McLintock!,
making the film a major hit, at a time when Wayne needed one, having just come off of the financially distressed film The Alamo.
Faulkner first worked with its director Andrew McLaglen on Have Gun—Will Travel: “I first met Andy in 1958, when he was a staff director at CBS. Andy became a mentor of mine, and we did a lot of television together. He called and said he had the chance to direct his first Duke film. He had worked on The Quiet Man as an assistant, with his dad, Mr. Vic [Victor McLaglen], playing
McLaglen had been a unit production manager on 1953’s Hondo and a top assistant director on Wayne films such as 1949’s Sands of Iwo Jima. Wayne’s company put McLaglen in the director’s chair on several low-budget films, but he had yet to direct
“Andy now had this opportunity to direct McLintock!, and he said I want you to come over to meet Duke, because I have a part for you,” Faulkner says.
Faulkner drove to Paramount Studios, thinking he’d be put through his paces for the part. “I checked in with the secretary, and all of a sudden these two French doors open, and here’s Duke filling both of them, literally,” Faulkner says. “He grabbed me and said, ‘Come on in, I want you to meet your Pappy!’ That was Bruce Cabot, who played my father. This was a big thrill for me, to be cast in a John Wayne movie, but also Maureen O’Hara? That was something!
“I really didn’t have any scenes with her, but I got to observe her, and she was game for anything. She was just gorgeous, with that hair and coloring, but she did her own stunts in that mud fight.”
In the movie, Faulkner’s character Ben Sage has taken Jones’s [Leo Gordon’s] daughter for a romantic ride, but Jones thinks she’s been kidnapped by Indians, so he is ready to start a one-man war. That’s when Duke steps in as George McLintock. “I ride in on the horse, with Leo’s daughter on the back, well, that’s when Wayne grabs the shotgun from Leo, hits him, and he goes down into this big pond,” Faulkner says. “They built the pond with plaster slides, and we all knew where they were. They were lubricated with bentonite, which was the compound that lubricates an oil drill. Well, Maureen [playing the estranged Mrs. McLintock, who gets knocked into the scuffle], said, ‘They’re not going to use a double for me!’ I think she went down two or three times! We were in Tucson, and had wonderful weather, but when we filmed that scene, the water had a thin layer of ice on top of it, so they had to heat it up. After we’d go down into the mud and fight, then we’d go into a dressing room, and they couldn’t get the bentonite off us without being sprayed with a fire hose! That’s just an illustration of how game she was.”
McLintock! was Wayne and O’Hara’s fourth film together, and that great Quiet Man/Rio Grande chemistry was evident, even when battling each other. “They almost knew what the other one was thinking,” Faulkner says. “They obviously admired each other, and it was a wonderful, wonderful thing to see that relationship. She was just crazy about him. I was in absolute awe of her, and I watched every scene she was in. Maureen was very kind to me.”
That kindness extended to Faulkner’s family as well. “One day, my wife Barbara was in Maureen’s dressing room, and it was raining, and they were having a conversation. A reporter showed up to talk to Maureen. Maureen said, ‘Tell him he’ll have to wait, because I’m having a conversation with a friend of mine.’ And he waited.”
The film would be Faulkner’s induction into the Wayne troupe. “Pat Wayne, Stefanie Powers and I were like a threesome all through the whole show. So we were the ‘young uns’ of the movie!” Faulkner says.
But Faulkner impressed Wayne most of all, who wanted him in five more films, including 1968’s The Green Berets: “Duke treated me almost like family, and I just loved him,” Faulkner says. “I’ve never worked with an actor who was any more knowledgeable about the film industry than Duke. He knew it all. He really did. He and I played chess incessantly. I never saw Duke down. Now, if someone wasn’t giving 110 percent, he’d tear into them like a madman, because he was putting that effort in himself. Always first man on the set, ready to go.
“When people ask me about a favorite film with Wayne, I’d have to say it was McLintock!, because it was the first one I’d done, and I’d never been on a set like that before; his sets, there was a magic about them, and you just wanted to do your
best for him.”
C. Courtney Joyner is a screenwriter and director with more than 25 produced movies to his credit. He is the author of The Westerners: Interviews with Actors, Directors and Writers.