Adventure’s End (1937): John Wayne’s Feature, Directed by Arthur Lubin

John Wayne’s career didn’t much improve with his move to Universal, his next studio, even though his six action pictures there had bigger budgets, about $60,000 to $90,000 for each film, and better supporting casts.

Grade: C+ (**1/2 out of *****)

Adventure’s End
Adventure's End FilmPoster.jpeg

Film poster


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These pictures also were shown in better movie houses, which meant that they were taken slightly more seriously by audiences and critics.

Full of adventure, like his Republic Westerns, but set in contemporary times, thee movies provided Wayne with a diversity of roles. He played a U.S. Coast Guard commander outfighting a band of seal poachers and smugglers in “The Sea Spoilers,” and a cameraman covering the Spanish Civil War, then dispatched to North Africa to report on an anti-British uprising in “I Cover the War.”

Arthur Lubin, who directed five of Wayne’s six Universal pictures, recalled: “We had six days to shoot. There was no time schedule, as there is today, where if you go late at night or start early in the morning, you have to pay more. In those days, you could shoot twenty-four hours a day.” Lubin had the reputation of “doing pictures quickly and binging them in on schedule.”

The last of Wayne’s Universal movies, “Adventure’s End” (1937) was “very extravagant,” according to Lubin, because “we were going to shoot in ten days,” and “it was going to be a big picture,” budgeted at $90,000.

Wayne played Duke (his real life nickname) Slade, a Pacific islands pearl diver who signs up to sail on a whaling vessel. Before they sail, Captain Drew marries Slade to his daughter Janet, in order to protect him against his first mate, Rand Husk.

When the crew mutinies at sea, Slade sides with the captain.

One of the prominent considerations for making pictures, Lubin said, was “What sets are up these days that we can make pictures on, sets that won’t cost us much money.” Adventure’s End was made because “there was a boat on Universal lot, and they could use that.”

Adventure’s End
Adventure's End FilmPoster.jpeg

Film poster

Wayne didn’t make much of an impression on the movie critics. Most of his pictures, in fact, were ignored by them and those reviewed often did not even mention his name.

A typical review of the 1930s was Variety’s of “The Sea Spoilers”: “Wayne acquits himself along routine lines. He fidgets a bit in the love scenes and looks stalwart otherwise.” And reviewing “I Cover the War,” the N.Y. World Telegram wrote that the acting was amateurish and that John Wayne and the others “try their best, but their best is none too good.”

John Wayne as Duke Slade
Diana Gibson as Janet Drew
Montagu Love as Capt. Abner Drew
Moroni Olsen as First Mate Rand Husk
Maurice Black as Blackie
Paul White as Kalo
Cameron Hall as Slivers
Patrick J. Kelly as Matt
George Cleveland as Tom
William Sundholm as Chips
James T. Mack as Hooten
Britt Wood as Hardy, Old Sailor
Ben Carter as Stantul, Black Sailor
Wally Howe as Kierce
Jimmie Lucas as Flench, Black Cabin Boy
Glenn Strange as Barzeck


Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Trem Carr and Paul Malvern
Screenplay by Ben Grauman Kohn, Scott Darling, Sidney Sutherland, based on a story by Ben Ames Williams
Cinematography Gus Peterson, John Fulton
Edited by Charles Craft

Production: Universal Pictures

Distributed by Universal Pictures

Release date: December 5, 1937

Running time: 60 minutes
Budget $90,000