John Wayne tenaciously struggled through heart problems on Brannigan set | Films | Entertainment


Having starred in 1974’s McQ, John Wayne played another tough cop in 1975 action thriller, Brannigan, opposite Richard Attenborough.

Set in London, the movie saw Duke’s Chicago detective Lieutenant Jim Brannigan organise the extradition of an American mobster, who is kidnapped and held to random.

The 67-year-old star had been suffering from major health issues for years, having had a cancerous lung removed a decade prior.

Just before filming on Brannigan began, Wayne had struggled through a severe bout of pneumonia and had also been diagnosed with heart problems, making the production particularly difficult for him.

Interestingly, Christopher Trumbo, the son of blacklisted Communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, was one of the film’s scribes. Even though Duke had been an enforcer of the Hollywood Black List and House Un-American Activities Committee, he wasn’t bothered to be working with the Western star. Even so, during the July 1974 shoot, the actor continued to support President Richard Nixon through the Watergate scandal. At one point, a TV crew came to Manor House where Wayne was staying to tape a short film of him to be used at Republican Party rallies, with the actor praising the president who would soon resign.

Aside from Sir Richard Attenborough, another future knight of the realm who co-starred opposite the Hollywood legend in Brannigan was Sir Tony Robinson. Then just 29, the soon-to-be Blackadder’s Baldrick played the motorcycle dispatch courier who Duke pushed into the Thames. A fan pointed this out to the Time Team presenter on Twitter saying: “No way! You were in Brannigan?!? Just saw John Wayne dump you in the sea. This film is a riot. Hahah! That’s the coolest thing ever.” On the acting advice Wayne gave him, Robinson replied: “He told me I needed to act more scared of him!”

During his time in London, Duke also met Katharine Hepburn for the first time, since she was in town to film 1975’s Love Among the Ruins with Sir Laurence Olivier. Despite their political differences, she greatly admired him and they ended up making True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn together. Talking of Olivier, the theatrical legend ended up having something of a small cameo in Brannigan.

Part of the movie was shot inside The Garrick Club, which had a number of famous actors as members. Traditionally filming wasn’t allowed inside, but an acceptance was made since Attenborough had been a member for a long time. During the scene where he and Wayne’s police officers are at the bar, on the wall behind them can be seen portraits of Olivier and Sir John Gielgud, both wearing their club ties.



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