A great cast headed up by The Duke and Dean Martin and directed by Henry Hathaway, The Son's of Katie Elder is a great middle period Wayne western. Wayne had been diagnosed with cancer the year before shooting on this film began and underwent successful surgery. He was expected to take a year or so to recuperate but like the characters he played The Duke was so much larger than life and by January of 1965 he was filming this movie.
John Sturges was originally slated the direct the movie but when he became unavailable Henry Hathaway, a one time actor who had switched to directing in 1932 and cut his teeth on several B-westerns based on Zane Grey books.
The film had success written all over it and the producers were delighted when they managed to bring Wayne and Dean, who had worked together so wonderfully in Rio Bravo, back together. It was filmed in Durango which would become a favourite filming location for Wayne and had a rousing score from Elmer Bernstein which evoked the high drama of films like The Magnificent Seven - both share the same brassy backing.
The film was released in July 1965 and was so successful that Johnny Cash recorded a tie-in single that wasn't featured in the film. It initially grossed $6 million at the US box office putting it in the top ten westerns of the 60's just behind The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Following Katie Elder, Wayne would continue playing veteran characters, often wearing the same costume, for the rest of his filming days - El Dorado followed in 1966 and the much underrated War Wagon came about in 1967 and director, Hathaway was later reunited with Wayne for the Oscar winning, True Grit in 1970 which took a then massive $14 million at the box office.
The Sons of Katie Elder is an all time western classic which all the correct ingredients - whilst is isn't quite in the same league as The Searchers or Red River it would certainly rank in the top ten Wayne westerns. If you haven't see it then you'd better remedy that straight away and if you have seen it then maybe a repeat viewing is warranted.
RELATED: There is a great John Wayne fan site HERE
Johnny Cash Son's of Katie Elder
NEXT ON THE ARCHIVE - THE TEN BEST JOHN WAYNE WESTERNS