The Alamo was a two decade labor of love for Wayne, who would ultimately stake a large portion of the production budget out of his own pocket and slide into the director’s chair to ensure that the story about the most famous battle of the Mexican-American War got told.
The 202-minute, roadshow version of The Alamo only played a small number of engagements when it was released in 1960. United Artists order Wayne to have the film trimmed by half an hour in order to accommodate more screenings per day in its regular release. For some reason, the studio then destroyed all of the cut footage from the circulating prints, as well as the original negative!
Wayne fans long considered the longer version lost to the mists of history, until 1990 when Canadian fan Bob Bryden remembered that he had seen the full length version at a sparsely attended screening in Toronto a decade earlier. Some calls and a little bit of detective work and it was confirmed that a print of the longer version did indeed exist.
While MGM used the newly discovered print to strike a special laserdisc and VHS release for home video, they mismanaged the storage of the print. Today, the elements in the Toronto print have deteriorated to the point where they would be unusable for a new digital transfer for DVD or Hi-Def without major restoration work, which MGM doesn’t seem that interested in investing in.
Oddly enough, while it does list the 202 minute run time, TCM’s website doesn’t make any other mention that this is the longer version. If there is a John Wayne fan in your life, you will definitely want to give them a heads-up for this. Personally, this will be one film that I will want to transfer from the DVR to a more permanent storage medium.
The Alamo is running as part of an all-day marathon of Wayne films, starting at 6 am with 1934’s Sagebrush Trail and ending with The Quiet Man (What else do expect them to run on St. Patrick’s Day?) at 8 pm.