John Wayne

John Wayne Always Wore a ‘D’ Belt Buckle in His Films After ‘Red River’ as a ‘Sign of Respect’

Legendary actor John Wayne continues to inspire generations of Western movie fans. Some specific movies of his redefined the genre forever. However, Wayne’s “D” belt buckle from the iconic movie Red River remains one of the biggest things that fans associate with the actor. He got it on the 1948 movie, which he continued to wear for his future films.

John Wayne and Montgomery Clift co-star in ‘Red River’

Production considered several actors, such as Gary Cooper, for the lead role of Thomas Dunson. However, the Red River lead role ultimately went to Wayne. The narrative is told from the perspective of a Texas cattle rancher, who sets out on an adventure with his protégé, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift). Thomas needs money and a journey to Missouri is how he plans to accrue it.

However, Red River‘s trip doesn’t go quite as planned. As a result, Thomas and Matt butt heads on the long journey. The movie earned critical and box office acclaim, but the praise didn’t end there. Wayne and Clift’s performances aid in making the movie one of the greatest Westerns ever made.

John Wayne always wore his ‘D’ belt buckle gift in his movies ever since filming ‘Red River’

John Farkis’ Not Thinkin’ … Just Rememberin’ … The Making of John Wayne’s The Alamo explains some of the behind-the-scenes information from the set of Red River. Director Howard Hawks gave each of the principal actors, including Wayne and Clift, “D” buckles made by a Nogales, Mexico silversmith. The design comes from what Wayne’s Thomas draws in the ground in the film.

“Each buckle was initialed for the intended recipient,” Farkis wrote. “Wayne, Clift, Walter Brennan, Russ Harlan, son David Hawks, and a few others received full-size buckles, while Joanne Dru and Hawks’ wife, Slim (Nancy), and daughter, Barbara, among others, received smaller versions.”

Wayne took great pride in his “D” belt buckle. As a result, it became a piece of iconography to stick around for quite some time past Red River.

Farkis continued: “Wayne and Hawks exchanged their buckles in a gesture of friendship, and in subsequent movies, whether Wayne was a cowboy or cavalry officer or sheriff, he always wore it as a sign of respect.”

‘D’ belt buckles became iconic for the Western film actor

Wayne’s “D” belt buckle is seen in nine other movies. He wears it in North to Alaska, Circus World, Hatari! Rio Bravo, El Dorado, McLintock!, and Rio Lobo. His son, Michael, wanted to get it duplicated for the family, but the “D” belt buckle went missing. However, fans covet knock-off versions that look strikingly similar to the real thing.

Wayne is one of the biggest stars to ever step into the Hollywood scene. He died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72, but his films, his family, and his legendary iconography live on. Wayne didn’t earn an Oscar nomination for Red River, but he would ultimately win for True Grit.

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