Wayne Tribute: Fighting Kentuckian (1949)

Wayne Tribute: Honoring the Duke–Most Powerful Star in Film History

This John Wayne production was released through Republic Pictures. One of the undistinguished Westerns the Duke made in the 1940s, the tale is set in Alabama in 1818. Like “Dakota,” also a mediocre picture, “Fighting Kentuckian” reunites Wayne with Vera Ralston as his romantic interest and Hugo Haas as her father.

Wayne plays John Breen, a Kentucky trooper making the long journey homeward with his fellow men. Breen becomes involved with a plan by robber baron Blake Randolph (John Howard) to deprive hundreds of French army refugees of land granted to them by an Act of Congress.
Championing the cause of the refugees, Breen does his best to defeat Randolph and his minions–and to prevent the villain’s marriage to the French girl, Fleurette De Marchand (Vera Ralston), the daughter of a former French General (Hugo Haas).

Wayne falls for Fleurette DeMarchand, and upon meeting her, he says, “You’re uncommon gracious. I’d sure admire to meet you properly.” Responding to his kind attention, Fleurette allows him to kiss her

Breen attempts to integrate into Fleurett’s aristocratic society by trading his coonskin cap for a topper. Elegantly dressed, he carefully wipes his bots on his trousers before entering into her estate. Told she is not at home, he decides to crash a party to see her by pretending to be a musician.

Later on, Breen refuses a bribe to discontinue interfering with the powerful, rich and corrupt Blake Randolph. Breen exposes Randolph’s corruption to prevent him from marrying Fleurette; Randolph plans to deprive the French immigrants of their land with a group of villains, played by the regular actors in Wayne’s movies: Paul Fix and Grant Withers. Marie Windsor also belongs to the bad group.

In the end, Breen, assisted by his regiment, defeats the baddies and claims Fleurette for himself before leaving with the Fighting Kentuckians for other honorable missions.

Oliver Hardy makes a rare appearance without his comic partner Stan Laurel, cast as Wayne’s pugnacious, philosophical sidekick, Willie Payne.

Wayne made four films in 1949, but it was the WWII drama, “Sands of Iwo Jima,” which finally catapulted him to major stardom that would last until his death, in 1979.


Running time: 100 minutes.
Directed and written by: George Waggner
Released: September 15, 1949
DVD: May 22, 2001


John Wayne as John Breen
Vera Ralston as Fleurette DeMarchand
Philip Dorn as Col. Georges Geraud
Oliver Hardy asWillie Paine
Marie Windsor as Ann Logan
Hugo Haas as General Paul DeMarchand
John Howard as Blake Randolph
Grant Withers as George Hayden
Odette Myrtil as Mme. DeMarchand
Paul Fix as Beau Merritt
Mae Marsh as Sister Hattie
Jack Pennick as Captain Dan Carroll