Cahill U.S. Marshall

Editors' review

December 16, 2016

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In Cahill, U.S. Marshal (1973), John Wayne plays a widowed law officer who spends his time tracking down criminals instead of raising his two sons. The boys, Danny, 17, and Billy Joe, 12, turn to crime as a way to get their father's attention. They eventually try to go straight, but the outlaw they are involved with, Abe Fraser (George Kennedy), refuses to let them go. It's up to Cahill to rescue his sons and bring Fraser to justice.

Director Andrew McLaglen, son of actor Victor McLaglen, said Cahill, U.S. Marshal is "not the usual John Wayne movie. It's a very deep, personal story about children neglected by a father who is just trying to do his job." On the surface, Cahill, U.S. Marshal may seem to be a departure from the typical Wayne film, but in John Wayne: American, authors Randy Roberts and James S. Olson state, "Guilt about family life found its way into many of Wayne's later films." They even go so far as to describe Cahill, U.S. Marshalas "very close to autobiographical." Wayne himself was often an absent father to his seven children. He was always moving on to the next film the way J.D. Cahill was always after the next criminal.

Wayne was sixty-five years old at the time Cahill, U.S. Marshal was filmed. He had already had a cancerous lung removed and was suffering from emphysema. Wayne was so weakened that he had to use a stepladder to climb onto his horse in the film. In addition to his own declining health, news that his friend and mentor John Ford was dying of cancer forced the actor to consider his own mortality. After Ford's death in August of 1972, Wayne told reporters, "I'm pretty much living on borrowed time."

After Cahill, U.S. Marshal, John Wayne went to Seattle, Washington, to film McQ (1974). Since Wayne was on location, Warner Bros. decided to hold the premiere of Cahill in Seattle in 1973. Protesters appeared at the opening claiming the film was unfair to Native Americans.

John Wayne's son Michael produced Cahill, U.S. Marshal for his father's production company, Batjac, which produced many of Wayne's later films. The name 'Batjac' came from Wayne's 1949 film Wake of the Red Witch.

Director: Andrew McLaglen
Producer: Michael Wayne
Screenplay: Harry Fink and Rita Fink. Based on a story by Barney Slater.
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Art Direction: Walter Simonds
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: John Wayne (J.D. Cahill), George Kennedy (Abe Fraser), Gary Grimes (Danny Cahill), Neville Brand (Lightfoot), Clay O'Brien (Billy Joe Cahill), Denver Pyle (Denver), Jackie Coogan (Charlie Smith), Harry Carey, Jr. (Hank).
C-103m. Letterboxed.

by Deborah Looney