Wayne Tribute: Pittsburgh with Dietrich and Randolph Scott

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

“Pittsburgh” is the tale of two coal miner friends, Pittsburgh “Pitt” Markham and Cash Evans (John Wayne and Randolph Scott, respectively), who become wealthy magnates, but success affects them in different ways.

Though he plays the lead, Wayne was billed third, after Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott.

Using a forged contract, Pitt turns a coalmine “on paper” into a huge corporation. Disregarding his love for Josie Winters (Marlene Dietrich), he marries Shannon Prentiss (Louise Allbritton), the daughter of a steel magnate. Early on, Wayne tells Josie: “I know there ain't a thing in the world I can't do–once I set my mind to it.” Shortly after, he deserts her in order to marry “better,” into high society.

Pitt's achievement of money and power is at a price for it separates him from his buddy Cash. Indeed, after success goes to his head, it turns against him: divorced by his wife Shannon, he is left with no friends, and he learns that Josie had married Cash.

Randolph Scott represents the conscientious altruist, viewing money chiefly as means to serve his employees, whereas John Wayne is selfish, ruthlessly power-driven, and abusive of his friends and family.

When Pitt’s success goes sour, Cash abandons him, his wife walks out on him, and Josie is hurt in an accident. Left alone, he tries to win friends by learning from past mistakes. He vows: “I’ll make them like me–I’ll cam it down their throats.” But his operation goes under, and he has to observe how happy Josie and Cash are now that they are married.

Turning point occurs with Pearl Harbor, when Pitt's firm is swamped with war orders. Realizing he had erred, Pitt repents by starting all over again, at the bottom of the hierarchy of Scott's plant. The two men, working with scientist Doc Powers (Frank Craven) set production records, which earns a merit citation from the governmentand makes a contribution to the War effort through the discovery of a revolutionary coal-tar formula.

Reflecting the zeitgeist, “Pittsburgh” is a morality tale, in which a higher, nobler cause, the nation's interest and the need of every citizen for the War effort, brings out the best in the American citizenry. The movie was released exactly one year after the Pearl Harbor attack and the U.S. entry into the War.

Wayne's role in “Pittsburgh” has been compared with that of Thomas Dunson in Howard Hawks's Western “Red River,” because in both, his characters begins as a ruthlessly ambitious and inconsiderate man, devoid of any humanity, but reforms in time to redeem himself and begin a new, better life.

Credits:

Running time: 90 Minutes
Release date: December 7, 1942

Produced by Charles K. Feldman
Directed by Lewis Seiler
Screenplay: Kenneth Gamet and Tom Reed, based on original story by George Olsen and Tom Reed.
Camera: Robert DeGrasse
Music: Frank Skinner