To name just a few famous performers that appeared in films with John Wayne, we may mention Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum, Maureen O’Hara, Kirk Douglas, and Katherine Hepburn. However, from Big Jake in 1971 until Wayne’s retirement, he was accompanied in all his Westerns by a horse named Dollar. Together, they worked until 1976, when Wayne passed the Dollar torch to a young Ron Howard in Don Siegel’s The Shootist by demanding screenplay modifications so he could use the horse’s proper name.
However, John Wayne detested equines
When asked about his feelings about horses, Wayne said, “I’ve never really liked horses, and I daresay not many of them liked me too much.” This comment can be found in Michael Munn’s biography John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. While riding his family’s horse Jenny to school as a young boy, Wayne (then known as Marion Robert Morrison) never developed a passion for equines. This may come as a surprise, given Wayne’s status as Hollywood’s most recognizable Western actor. In his many films, Wayne rode various horses, beginning with the miracle horse Duke in his early B westerns. While most actors would ride whatever horse the studio provided, Wayne, who stood at 6’4″, made riding tall horses his signature. He required a huge horse, as evidenced by the fact that Zip Cochise, a little Appaloosa in El Dorado, is the exception that proves the rule.
Do you say “Dollar” or “Dollar”?
In his final years as an actor, The Duke found the horse he would never ride again on screen. There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding which films this horse appeared in, but since IMDb doesn’t keep track of acting roles for equines, it’s hard to tell where the rumors began. It needs to be clarified whether the horse’s name was Dollar or Dollar. Many say that True Grit (1969), starring John Wayne and starring Dollor in a small but significant role when Wayne’s character Rooster Cogburn must replace Beau (who is killed in the film’s final gunfight), is the first film to include Dollor. He receives a new horse, which looks a lot like Dollar, but it’s not the same animal at all; to add to the confusion, this horse could be called Dollar. Many people mistake Cogburn’s new sorrel gelding for Dollor because of the white blaze on its face; however, unlike Dollor, whose fire is thin at the top and widens as it approaches the nose, this horse’s conflagration is wider at the top. It narrows as it comes to the nose. Beau had a distinctive wide white blaze down his face with a small deviation over the right eye.
Wayne’s ride in the next few Westerns is named Beau, while Dollar first appeared in George Sherman’s Big Jake (1971). The Cowboys, The Train Robbers, Cahill, Rooster Cogburn, and The Shootist are just a few of the westerns he appears in after that until Wayne retires. Even though Wayne had been riding horses his whole childhood, he didn’t develop a deep affection for one until much later in his career. The Chicago Tribune said that Wayne was so taken with Dollar that he had a contract set up with the horse’s owner, Dick Webb Movie Productions, to prevent the horse from being used in other movies. Wayne also insisted that the screenplay for The Shootist be altered so that he could use Dollor’s given name, Ol’ Dollor, throughout the film.
Film Noir with John Wayne
Thematically, many of Wayne’s finest late works deal with similar themes like legacy, family, and facing one’s mortality. The Duke plays an estranged father and grandfather in Big Jake, starring alongside his real-life son Patrick Wayne and his younger son Ethan Wayne, who plays his kidnapped grandchild. Acting as a guy who has yet to progress with the times, he portrays Rooster Cogburn, who is abandoned by a community that believes he is no longer necessary. Naturally, he faces this issue in a sequel to True Grit, the film for which he received his lone Academy Award. Marshall Cogburn is the least like the old John Wayne image, yet the picture deals with timely issues because the film industry has advanced beyond what Wayne could provide. Even while it doesn’t seem like much, he dies twice in just four years of cinema and only nine times in over half a century.
The Duke’s final picture, The Shootist, is the most accurate reflection of his last years on screen. A veteran gunfighter (or “shootist,” as the term is sometimes called) faces his mortality and contemplates his lasting legacy in this unexpectedly heartbreaking film. After receiving the news from his longtime friend and doctor, Jimmy Stewart, he wonders whether he can get rid of it. The correct response is, “Not without gutting you like a fish.” Considering Wayne’s history with cancer, which began with the removal of his left lung and a few ribs in 1964 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, this issue cannot be ignored. The Duke’s stomach cancer, which many believe was caused by his work on The Conqueror, ultimately led to his death in 1979. The community in which J.B. Books decides to end his life reacts to him with wonder, dread, and hate because of the history and notoriety that precede him. Again, the opening montage of Wayne’s past films makes it difficult to differentiate the actor from the role.
The Dollar is a minor character in The Shootist who becomes integral to the dynamic between Books and Gillom, the son of his temporary landlady (Lauren Bacall), played by Ron Howard. Gillom becomes intrigued with the new neighbor after learning from marks beneath Dollor’s saddle that he is the renowned shootist. The Dollar is a continuous presence in the film, serving as a point of contact between Books and Gillom. The young man alternates between providing the horse with food and trying to sell him out from under Books as others strive to create a reputation for themselves by eliminating Books. Books eventually give Dollar to Gillom the night before Gillom dies, capping off their deepening friendship. The Duke’s transferring his favorite horse to a young star like Howard seems appropriate for him to end his career, much like how the film’s ending involves a connection between the duo.