In 1960, legendary actor John Wayne decided to tell the story of a historic event for the big screen. He chose to tell the story of the Battle of the Alamo, the actual battle that took place in Mexico and was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. And he went to great lengths to get The Alamo made. He and producer Robert Fellows formed Batjac, their own production company to bring the film to life.
Wayne acted as both producer and director of The Alamo, but also declined to star in the film. However, his first hurdle came when he began to struggle to secure financial backing for the film.
Adamant that his vision for The Alamo would not suffer, Wayne approached United Artists for financial support for the picture. The company agreed to contribute $2.5 million for its production as well as serve as a distributor – but there was a catch.
United Artists would only give Batjac the money if Wayne also agreed to star in the film, noting that it would be a much more financially sound investment with his face attached to the picture. Wayne agreed and took on the role of Colonel Davy Crockett.
But Wayne still didn’t have enough money to make the movie he wanted. So he had to start dipping into his own pockets.
Years after The Alamo was released, Wayne revealed that he invested over $1.5 million of his own money in the film.
$1.5 million is a lot of money today, but in 1960 it was an extraordinary amount of money (equivalent to about $9 million). But Wayne believed so passionately that the Alamo was a good investment that he would spare no expense.
Eventually, he began to despair.
Before long, he had no choice but to take out second mortgages on his homes to further finance the film. The American star also agreed to use his vehicles as collateral to acquire loans for the film.
In the end, The Alamo had a budget of $12 million, much of which was funded by Wayne himself.
But the star’s problems didn’t end there.
READ MORE: Charlton Heston refused to work with John Wayne on political views
Frankie Avalon was “intimidated” by the many rattlesnakes on set for the film, which was shot in the deserts of Texas.
And one of the actors even broke a bone in front of the camera during filming.
Laurence Harvey, who played Colonel Travis, fired a cannon shot but forgot about the gun’s recoil. The barrel rolled over Harvey’s foot, shattering him completely. But the actor did not shout or make any sudden movements.
It wasn’t until Wayne called “cut” that Harvey fell to the ground and began to writhe in pain. After this heartbreaking event, Wayne praised the professionalism of the star.
Fortunately, after all these financial and logistical difficulties, Wayne’s film was a huge success.
The Alamo earned $20 million at the box office and even earned an impressive Best Picture nomination at the 1961 Oscars.