Cigar Advisor debuts Smokin’ Cinema
Smokin’ Cinema is centered on legendary films and actors that have particular relevance for cigar smokers. Written by Lee Pfeiffer, Editor-in-Chief of Cinema Retro magazine, Lee not only supplies the shot from the movie, he also takes you behind the scenes.
The year was 1970. John Wayne was riding tall in the saddle, both on and off the screen. “The Duke” had recently been awarded his only Oscar®, winning the prestigious statue for his performance one year earlier in True Grit. Wayne followed with Chisum, a dramatic Western loosely based on the Lincoln County War of 1878 in New Mexico, before the territory gained statehood.
Cigar lovers will appreciate the film’s opening frame, which depicts Wayne in the title role of cattle king, John Chisum, sitting on horseback as he quietly surveys his widespread grazing lands while smoking a big stogie. The film’s story depicts the tensions that arise between Chisum, a hard-nosed but benevolent cattleman, and Lawrence Murphy, a greedy land developer played by Forrest Tucker. Murphy spreads his considerable wealth around and buys-off the local sheriff as well as a virtual army of mercenaries. His goal is to acquire as much land as possible, but Chisum’s vast cattle empire sits squarely amidst certain regions that Murphy wants. The resulting clashes begin as a war of words, but when one of his friends is killed in cold blood by Murphy’s henchmen, Chisum rounds up his men and charges his cattle through the local town, which Murphy and his gang have fortified with barricades. In the ensuing mayhem, Chisum and Murphy have a brutal and bloody fight to the death.
Chisum is rooted in fact, but the screenwriters took quite a few liberties. The historical character played by Wayne actually spelled his name “Chisholm.” The plot also includes the participation of Billy the Kid and his friend Pat Garrett (who eventually killed him), but plenty of “artistic license” is taken in defining their relationship.
Directed by Wayne’s longtime friend and collaborator, Andrew V. McLaglen, Chisum proved to be a major box office success during an era in which Westerns were still a popular genre. Wayne gives a top-notch performance, while the script is intelligently written and consistently interesting. Best of all for cigar enthusiasts, “The Duke” is chomping on stogies throughout the entire movie.
Cinema Retro Factoids:
- The film reunited Wayne with his co-stars from the 1949 film, Sands of Iwo Jima: Forrest Tucker, Richard Jaeckel, and John Agar.
- The movie was mostly shot in Durango, Mexico, a popular location for many Hollywood Westerns.
- Among the film’s fans was President Richard Nixon who said that, while he didn’t see many movies, he “enjoyed Chisum very much,” and thought that Wayne was a “fine actor.”
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