Batjac Production Company

When we think of the different types of hats that John Wayne wore through out his career, most of us will think of actor, a few might remember he did direct two movies. But how many of us have thought of him running his own production company? Well in 1952 that is exactly what he did, it was originally called Wayne-Fellows productions but then latter changed to Batjac. It first started in 1952 and ran through 1974, from 1960 through 1974 most of those films with the exception of a TV show “Hondo “in 1967 most of the latter films had just stared John Wayne. But what about before 1960, what about post 1974? Whatever happened to this production company? Why After John Wayne’s death have we not seen any films made by them for either tv or the cinema.

My goal through this post is to be talking more about the “other” films produced by Wayne, and maybe also shed some light on what happened to his production company. First lets look into why Wayne would want to start his own production company, the year was 1952 Duke had already had one Oscar nomination under his belt had been acting in Hollywood since 1928, so why not start your own production company? Well for a star to able to do that at that time was unheard of, only directors were really doing that and they were far and few. But at the same time why not produce movies and make some profit out of them? Why not make movies that you do not have to star in but that you could over see? Why not give some up and coming along with a few veterans that chance to direct or star in a movie? Batjac Productions is an independent film production company founded by John Wayne in the early 1950s as a vehicle for Wayne to produce as well as star in movies.

Wayne and producer Robert Fellows founded Batjac in 1952 as  Wayne/Fellows Productions.  When Fellows left the company several years later,  Wayne re-named the corporation after a fictitious trading company mentioned in the 1948 film Wake of the Red Witch. The company name in Wake of the Red Witch was spelled Batjak,  but Wayne’s secretary misspelled it as Batjac on the corporation papers, and Wayne let it stand. Having his own company gave Wayne artistic control over the films he made. Their first film was in 1952 Big Jim Mclain. One of the early directors that Wayne used for his production company was William Wellman, He had a good working relationship with him, he directed Duke in three  movies: Island in the sky 1953, High and the Mighty 1954 and Blood Alley 1955. All together Wellman directed six  movies. John Farrow directed two movies and Budd Boetticher directed one movie. Andrew McLaglen 5 movies also. A lot of known directors like Hathaway stepped up and directed a few movies also. But why after 1973 did Batjac fold under? Was it financial was it more of a personal reason? Those are a lot of questions I would  love to find answers to but sadly no information is found about the latter days. With Michael Wayne Duke’s own son – the head of the company – why did they not continue to make Westerns for either Film or TV?

I understand Duke had the dream to start the company and I understand his vision for films, but was the vision lost? Those are questions that can only be answered by Duke himself and the sunset has sat around him. The company was passed on to his son and later to Michael’s wife who now owns the company since Michael Wayne’s  passing. But through that a lot of Duke’s movies have been saved and restored – The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky to name a few.

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