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In her an initial Western film, 1959’s The horse Soldiers, Constance Towers uncovered herself in the center of two Johns: the masterful director man Ford (seated) and the most famed cowboy gibbs of all time, john Wayne (standing). – all The equine Soldiers image courtesy unified artists –

Lovely Constance Towers became a star once she play the female command in two John Ford Westerns back-to-back: 1959’s The steed Soldiers and also 1960’s Sergeant Rutledge.

What to be Ford searching for in one actress? Towers speak True West: “Pappy had actually a means of looking at women: she was to it is in respected, kind of on a pedestal. However she had to have a many spunk and also fire. She to be feminine, but had a backbone and was always a lady.”

The courtly Ford insisted the Towers be treated that means while filming. “No one ever used bad language around any kind of women on any type of Pappy Ford set. We had tea in the afternoon, and it to be all very gentlemanly. He cure you prefer a lady desires to it is in treated; yet you had actually to have actually a sense of humor, since if girlfriend didn’t catch the subliminal points that go by you, it was a big disappointment to him.”

In The horse Soldiers, Towers played southern belle miss Hannah Hunter, whose home is populated by Union troops under Col. Man Marlowe (played by man “Duke” Wayne). Hunter go her finest to sabotage the colonel’s plans, though she gradually becomes romantically drawn to him, and to his medical officer and also nemesis, Maj. Henry kendall (William Holden).

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“I was to sing in the Persian Room that the Plaza Hotel and also boy name Rackin observed me and invited me to Hollywood to meet Ford. The truth that i was Irish probably didn’t hurt. The screen-tested 5 of us; Gena Rowlands was one, and Joanna Moore. I had actually a call from an assistant come be in ~ the Blessed Sacrament’s church Monday afternoon. I was to sit midway in a pew and also wait. Ns sat, and also someone behind me whispered in my ear, ‘You got the part.’ It was Ford, and also he insisted ~ above leaving and not talking to me, i beg your pardon was usual of him. It was always intrigue.”

For three months, Ford filmed exterior scenes in Mississippi and also Louisiana, through Towers certification opposite 2 of Hollywood’s most dynamic leading men, Wayne and Holden. “They were delightful to occupational with,” she says. “They took care of me.”

She refutes insurance claims that the two didn’t acquire along. “They also took an evening off. They cooked up a plan in the dailies, Duke’s teeth looked discolored. He entered Shreveport through Bill, supposedly to have actually his this cleaned, and, the course, they had a night top top the town. The next morning, we’re all wait for them on location. Turn off in the distance, you saw this auto driving in fast. Lock stopped, and John and also Bill acquired out, looking choose they hadn’t been to bed at all, and also Pappy Ford had actually all the stuntmen lined as much as smell your breath.

“But they were very different personalities. John Wayne was together big, friendly, as open up as he was on the screen; fantastic with fans. He’d it is in riding all day and also acting, come ago mud-caked, and also he’d stand and talk come young people.

“I heard one young male saying, ‘My dad won’t let me have actually the car on Saturday night.’ and Duke asked, ‘Well, when was the critical time you offered to wash the car?’ The boy said, ‘I haven’t.’ battle each other said, ‘Why don’t you? possibly your dad will give it come you. Now I have one more piece of advice. Once is the critical time friend told your dad you love him?’ The boy type of placed his head down. ‘Go residence and try that. That’ll work, too.’

“Bill Holden was the opposite. The was very shy, and also he believed strongly the the performance he to be paid to placed on the display screen was every he owed the public. World would ask him because that his autograph, and also he’d refuse. He to be the nicest, most polite gentleman, but he was just the the opposite of Duke.”

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A fatal loss shocked the actors of The equine Soldiers and also none more so than Constance Towers. When she ran approximately Fred Kennedy, that was doubling for william Holden, to take on him with an “Oh, mine darling,” she uncovered the stuntman unconscious. He passed away on the method to the hospital. He appeared in seven movies with john Wayne, who Kennedy stands following to, shirtless, in this tho from Rio Grande. – Courtesy Republic images –

The shoot was enjoyable, but not easy. “Louisiana has actually swamps, and also anything that taken place on my horse, I had to do, other than for one horse autumn into the water. They had a stuntman do that,” she says.

Ford appointed two guys to watch after her whenever she was on horseback. “Freddie Kennedy and Slim Hightower were wonderful old stuntmen. In the film, one’s front of me and also one’s behind me, yet we rode with a forest going what felt favor 100 mile an hour v these trees. It was a difficult location, yet wonderful.”

On the very last day on location, during the very last shot, an unforeseen tragedy occurred.

“Freddie to be doing his last fall,” Towers says. “It to be a basic shoulder fall, and Duke had actually told me to stand behind the camera and to run in. And also they wouldn’t contact ‘Cut’ till I had offered Freddie a kiss top top the cheek. I ran in, and when ns picked up his head, ns realized that he was mortally hurt. He’d fallen and broken his neck, so i really was the last human being to host him. He passed away on the way to the hospital, which certainly actors a pall ~ above the closing shot of the location.”

She love the stuntmen and remembered specifically how Ford looked after them: “Pappy didn’t pay them till their critical weekend, for this reason they would take money home. He provided them enough per diem come survive, yet on location, there wasn’t much you could do with it, however gamble.”

After nearly 50 years, Towers takes an excellent pleasure in she memories: “You take it it in stride, then later on look back, and also it’s just amazing. To it is in in my very first big, large film, through those actors, and have that be just joyous every the time, and also John Ford guiding everybody.

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It to be a rare and wonderful experience.”

Henry C. Parke is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles, California, who blogs about Western movies, TV, radio and also print news: HenrysWesternRoundup.Blogspot.com