Salute (1929): John Ford and John Wayne

John Ford’s Salute was an inexpensive action movie about the football rivalry between the Army and the Navy. Ford asked John Wayne’s help in recruiting football players.

Shooting, however, began before the semester was over and Wayne had to persuade the university’ president to let the students appear in the movie.

Wayne did a good public relations job, stressing the rewards of such an experience: the travel to Annaplois and Washington D.C., the learning of the country’s political and military institutions, and, of course, the money.

Producer Sol Wurtzel offered each football player 75 dollars a week, but Wayne, trying to impress him with his modesty, suggested instead only 50 dollars. Then Wurtzel proceeded to tell Wayne the bad news: “I forgot to mention to you, Duke, that you’re doing double duty on this picture. You’re propping it and playing football too. Congratulations! You just screwed yourself out of twenty-five bucks a week!”

Ironically, Wayne was cast in Salute as George O’Brien’s brother, a cadet at the Annapolis Academy, something he could never achieve in his real life. The critical response to the film was moderate, but Salute was very popular at the box-office. This picture is also important for marking the beginning of a life-long work and friendship with Ward Bond, another student at U.S.C., who went on to become an actor, by accident, like Wayne.