JOHN WAYNE’S OTHER HORSE

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I was always a huge Duke Wayne fan.

 

He rode tall in the saddle and dispensed his own unique brand of frontier justice in dozens of westerns.

 

I got pretty used to the idea of the Duke as a cowboy who rode a horse to get from Point A to Point B in his movies.

 

TCM recently ran a different kind of John Wayne movie in which he played a hardened Seattle police lieutenant named Lon McHugh, thus the movie’s name was McQ. The movie was filmed in 1973 Seattle and a horse was not a transportation option for Wayne in the movie.

 

Instead the Duke drove a 1973 Pontiac Trans Am on which his movie character McQ was still “making payments” according to his script dialogue. The dark green TA was a signature ride in the movie and pushed the movie past mediocre in my opinion.

 

McQ was not a good movie role fit for Duke in my opinion because he was not a guy who looked natural behind the wheel of a car. The movie borrowed heavily from the earlier Bullitt and Dirty Harry movies and even included three car chases, one with the TA, and two with John behind the wheel of a pair of late 60s Plymouth Belvedere four-door sedans (one a police car on Seattle streets, and one along the beach).

 

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The TA displayed the most power in its chase scene when McQ melted the rear tires from a standstill start and continued his pursuit of a delivery van. I found this scene to be the most encouraging part of the movie because the Trans Am still had enough horsepower to do a great smoke show during the early stages of Detroit’s emasculation of the muscle cars in 1973.

 

Astute TA fans claim the car used in the movie was not the Super Duty (SD) 455 TA model offered in 1973. The SD 455 was listed at 310 horsepower to pacify the federal transportation people and their new regulations about horsepower limits.

 

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They believe the SD 455 had at least 370 horses under the hood and note that less than 300 SD models were even built by the General. The TA driven by Wayne in the movie was definitely a 455-equipped car but it was listed at 255 horsepower by Pontiac. The 255 horsepower figure might be light if you take into account the amount of tire smoke produced by the movie car in the chase scene.

 

The other chase cars in McQ were big American sedans that ranged from 1973 Plymouth Fury police cars to giant Cadillacs for the bad guys. Other cars included late 60s and early 70s Chevy four-door sedans used by the corrupt cops in the movie.

 

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The overall result was a John Wayne movie with a herd of 1960s-70s American iron instead of horses. It was not one of Wayne’s best efforts because he played his best roles in classic westerns.

 

The only thing classic about this movie were the cars used in it.

 

Jim Sutherland

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