Mini Bio (1)
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa, to Mary Alberta (Brown) and Clyde Leonard Morrison, a pharmacist. He was of English, Ulster-Scots, and Irish ancestry.
Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, where they tried ranching in the Mojave Desert. Until the ranch failed, Marion and his younger brother Robert E. Morrison swam in an irrigation ditch and rode a horse to school. When the ranch failed, the family moved to Glendale, California, where Marion delivered medicines for his father, sold newspapers and had an Airedale dog named “Duke” (the source of his own nickname). He did well at school both academically and in football. When he narrowly failed admission to Annapolis he went to USC on a football scholarship 1925-7. Tom Mix got him a summer job as a prop man in exchange for football tickets. On the set he became close friends with director John Ford for whom, among others, he began doing bit parts, some billed as John Wayne. His first featured film was Men Without Women (1930). After more than 70 low-budget westerns and adventures, mostly routine, Wayne’s career was stuck in a rut until Ford cast him in Stagecoach (1939), the movie that made him a star. He appeared in nearly 250 movies, many of epic proportions. From 1942-43 he was in a radio series, “The Three Sheets to the Wind”, and in 1944 he helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a Conservative political organization, later becoming its President. His conservative political stance was also reflected in The Alamo (1960), which he produced, directed and starred in. His patriotic stand was enshrined in The Green Berets (1968) which he co-directed and starred in. Over the years Wayne was beset with health problems. In September 1964 he had a cancerous left lung removed; in March 1978 there was heart valve replacement surgery; and in January 1979 his stomach was removed. He received the Best Actor nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and finally got the Oscar for his role as one-eyed Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969). A Congressional Gold Medal was struck in his honor in 1979. He is perhaps best remembered for his parts in Ford’s cavalry trilogy – Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950).
– IMDb Mini Biography By:
Trade Mark (5)
Slow talk and distinctive gravelly voice
Distinctive cat-like walk
His movies frequently reflected his conservative values
Westerns and war movies
Holds the record for the actor with the most leading parts – 142. In all but 11 films he played the leading part.
Ranked #16 in “Empire” (UK) magazine’s “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” list in October 1997.
Born at 1:00pm-CST.
His production company, Batjac, was originally to be called Batjak, after the shipping company owned by Luther Adler ‘s character in the film Wake of the Red Witch (1948). A secretary’s typo while she was drawing up the papers resulted in it being called Batjac, and Wayne, not wanting to hurt her feelings, kept her spelling of it.
In the comic “Preacher”, his ghost appears in several issues, clothed in his traditional gunfighter outfit, as a mentor to the hero of the series, Jesse Custer.
An entry in the logbook of director John Ford ‘s yacht “Araner”, during a voyage along the Baja peninsula, made a reference to one of Wayne’s pranks on Ward Bond : “Caught the first mate [Wayne] pissing in [Ward] Bond’s flask this morning –must remember to give him a raise”.
He and his drinking buddy, Ward Bond , frequently played practical jokes on each other. In one incident, Bond bet Wayne that they could stand on opposite sides of a newspaper and Wayne wouldn’t be able to hit him. Bond set a sheet of newspaper down in a doorway, Wayne stood on one end, and Bond slammed the door in his face, shouting,”Try and hit me now!” Wayne responded by sending his fist through the door, flooring Bond (and winning the bet).
His favorite drink was Sauza Commemorativo Tequila, and he often served it with ice that he had chipped from an iceberg during one of his voyages on his yacht, “The Wild Goose”.
Was offered the lead in The Dirty Dozen (1967), but went to star in and direct The Green Berets (1968) instead. The part was eventually given to Lee Marvin . He also felt that the film portrayed the military in a bad light.
The evening before a shoot he was trying to get some sleep in a Las Vegas hotel. The suite directly below his was that of Frank Sinatra (never a good friend of Wayne), who was having a party. The noise kept Wayne awake, and each time he made a complaining phone call it quieted temporarily but each time eventually grew louder. Wayne at last appeared at Sinatra’s door and told Frank to stop the noise. A Sinatra bodyguard of Wayne’s size approached saying, “Nobody talks to Mr. Sinatra that way.” Wayne looked at the man, turned as though to leave, then backhanded the bodyguard, who fell to the floor, where Wayne knocked him out by crashing a chair on top of him. The party noise stopped.
Was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
His spoken album “America: Why I Love Her” became a surprise best-seller and Grammy nominee when it was released in 1973. Reissued on CD in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, it became a best-seller all over again.
Upon being cast by Raoul Walsh in Fox’s The Big Trail (1930), the studio decided his name had to be changed. Walsh said he was reading a biography on American Revolutionary War Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne and suggested that name. The studio liked the last name but not the first and decided on “John Wayne” as the final rendition.
In 1973 he was awarded the Gold Medal from the National Football Foundation for his days playing football for Glendale High School and USC.
Arguably his worst film, The Conqueror (1956), in which he played Genghis Kahn, was based on a script that director Dick Powell had every intention of throwing into the wastebasket. According to Powell, when he had to leave his office at RKO for a few minutes during a story conference, he returned to find a very enthused Wayne reading the script, which had been in a pile of possible scripts on Powell’s desk, and insisting that this was the movie he wanted to make. As Powell himself summed it up, “Who am I to turn down John Wayne?”.
Among his favorite leisure activities were playing bridge, poker, and chess.
Buried at Pacific View Cemetery in Corona del Mar, CA (a community within his residence in Newport Beach). His grave finally received a plaque in 1999.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1974.
Because his on-screen adventures involved the slaying of a slew of Mexicans, Native Americans and Japanese, he has been called a racist by his critics. They believe this was strengthened by a “Playboy” interview in which he suggested that blacks were not yet qualified to hold high public office because “discrimination prevented them from receiving the kind of education a political career requires”. Yet all of his three wives were of Latin descent.
Was voted the 5th Greatest Movie Star of all time by “Entertainment Weekly”.
Just on his sheer popularity and his prominent political activism, the Republican party in 1968 supposedly asked him to run for President of the US, even though he had no previous political experience. He turned them down because he did not believe America would take a movie star running for the President seriously. He did, however, support Ronald Reagan ‘s campaigns for governor of California in 1966 and 1970, as well as his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.
Was initiated into DeMolay in 1924 at the Glendale Chapter in Glendale, CA.
Received the DeMolay Legion of Honor in 1970.
Was a Master Mason.
Pictured on a 37¢ US commemorative stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued on 9/9/04. The first-day ceremonies were held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Was a member of the first class to be inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on 11/13/86.
Although he complained that High Noon (1952) was “un-American”, he was gracious enough to collect Gary Cooper ‘s Oscar on his behalf. He was mainly afraid the movie would hurt Cooper’s career. He later teamed with director Howard Hawks to tell the story his way in Rio Bravo (1959).
Had English, Scots-Irish (Northern Irish) and Irish ancestry.
Was voted the 4th Greatest Movie Star of all time by “Premiere” Magazine.
Was named the #13 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute
Posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Addressed the Republican National Convention on its opening day in 1968.
On 6/11/79 the flame of the Olympic Torch at the Coliseum in Los Angeles was lit for honoring him, in memory. It remained lit until the funeral four days later.
Maureen O’Hara presented him with the People’s Choice Award for most popular motion picture actor in 1976.
During the filming of The Undefeated (1969), he fell from his horse and fractured three ribs. He couldn’t work for almost two weeks. Then he tore a ligament in his shoulder and couldn’t use one arm at all. The director, Andrew V. McLaglen , could only film him from an angle for the rest of the picture. His only concern throughout was not to disappoint his fans, despite being in terrible pain.
According to movie industry columnist James Bacon , Wayne’s producers issued phony press releases when he was hospitalized for cancer surgery in September 1964, claiming he was being treated for lung congestion. “Those bastards who make pictures only think of the box office,” he told Bacon, as recounted in 1979 by the columnist. “They figure Duke Wayne with cancer isn’t a good image. I was too doped up at the time to argue with them, but I’m telling you the truth now. You know I never lie.” After Bacon broke the story of the Duke’s cancer, thousands of cancer victims and their relatives wrote to Wayne saying that his battle against the disease had given them hope.
Underwent surgery to have a cancerous left lung removed on 9/17/64 in a six-hour operation. Press releases at the time reported that he was in Los Angeles’ Good Samaritan Hospital to be treated for lung congestion. When Hollywood columnist James Bacon went to the hospital to see Wayne, he was told by a nurse that Wayne wasn’t having visitors. According to a 6/27/78 “Us” magazine article, Wayne said to his nurse from his room, “Let that son of a bitch come in.” When Bacon sat down in his room, Wayne told him, “Well, I licked the Big C.” Wayne confessed that his five-packs-a-day cigarette habit had caused a lung tumor the size of a golf ball, necessitating the removal of the entire lung. One day following surgery, Wayne began coughing so violently he ruptured his stitches and damaged delicate tissue. His face and hands began to swell up from a mixture of fluid and air, but the doctors didn’t dare operate again so soon. Five days later they drained the fluid and repaired the stitches. On 12/29/64 he held a press conference at his Encino ranch, against the advice of his agent and advisers, where he announced, “I licked the Big C. I know the man upstairs will pull the plug when he wants to, but I don’t want to end my life being sick. I want to go out on two feet, in action.” Before he had left the hospital on October 19, he received the news that his 52-year-old brother Robert E. Morrison had lung cancer.
Regretted playing Temujin in The Conqueror (1956) so much that he visibly shuddered whenever anyone mentioned the film’s name. He once remarked that the moral of the film was “not to make an ass of yourself trying to play parts you’re not suited for.”
In 1978, after recovering from open heart surgery, he had a script commissioned for a film called “Beau John” in which he would star with Ron Howard , but due to his declining health it never happened. According to Howard, they saw each other at a function, and Wayne said to him that he had the script and said “It’s me and you kid, or it’s NOBODY!”.
In November 2003 he once again commanded a top-ten spot in the annual Harris Poll asking Americans to name their favorite movie star. No other deceased star has achieved such ranking since Harris began asking the question in 1993. In a 2001 Gallup Poll, Americans selected Wayne as their favorite movie star of all time. He has been in the top-ten of the Harris poll each and every year it has come out, and usually in the top three. He is the only deceased actor to ever appear in this poll.
He made several films early in his career as a “singing” cowboy. His singing voice was supplied by a singer hidden off camera.
In 1971 he displayed a sense of humor when he appeared on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (1969) in his usual western screen costume, flashing the peace sign to the show’s other guests that week, the then-hot rock band Three Dog Night
Of his many film roles, his personal favorite was that of Ethan Edwards from The Searchers (1956). Wayne even went so far as to name his son Ethan after that character.
In 1974, with the Vietnam war still continuing, “The Harvard Lampoon” invited him to The Harvard Square Theater to award him the “Brass Balls Award” for his “Outstanding machismo and a penchant for punching people”. Wayne accepted and arrived riding atop an armored personnel carrier manned by the “Black Knights” of Troop D, Fifth Regiment. Wayne took the stage and ad-libbed his way through a series of derogatory questions with adroitness, displaying an agile wit that completely won over the audience of students.
Although on 5/14/79 his son Michael Wayne did arrange a visit to his father by Archbishop Marcos McGrath of Panama, it was not until 6/11/79–two days before he died–that Wayne would be baptized (likely conditionally) by Fr. Robert Curtis, UCLA Medical Center chaplain.
Underwent surgery for an enlarged prostate in December 1976.
According to “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows” (8th Edition, pg. 495), Wayne was the first choice to play Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke (1955), but declined because he did not want to commit to a weekly TV series. He did, however, recommend his friend James Arness for the role, and gave the on-camera introduction in the pilot episode. In reality Wayne was never offered a TV series in the mid-1950s, as he was a major movie star.
His performance as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956) is ranked #87 on “Premiere” Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time in 2006.
After meeting the late Superman (1978) star Christopher Reeve at the 1979 Academy Awards, Wayne turned to Cary Grant and said, “This is our new man. He’s taking over”.
In 1973 Clint Eastwood wrote to Wayne, suggesting they star in a western together. Wayne wrote back an angry response criticizing the revisionist style and violence of Eastwood’s latest western, High Plains Drifter (1973). Consequently Eastwood did not reply and no film was made.
Allegedly turned down Dirty Harry (1971) because he felt the role of Harry Callahan was too far removed from his screen image. When he saw the movie he realized it wasn’t so different from the roles he had traditionally played, and made two cop dramas of his own, McQ (1974) and Brannigan (1975). Director Don Siegel later commented, “Wayne couldn’t have played Harry. He was too old. He was too old to play ‘McQ’, which was a poor copy of Bullitt (1968)”.
Made three movies with Kirk Douglas , despite the fact that the two had very different political ideologies. Wayne was a very conservative Republican while Douglas was a very liberal Democrat. Wayne criticized Douglas for playing Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956), and publicly criticized him for hiring blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo , one of the “Hollywood Ten”, to write the screenplay for Spartacus (1960). Douglas later praised Wayne as a true professional who would work with anybody if he felt they were right for the part. The two avoided discussing politics during the making of the films they worked on together.
One of the most unusual Oscar moments happened when anti-war liberal Barbra Streisand presented Vietnam war hawk Wayne with his Best Actor Oscar at The 42nd Annual Academy Awards (1970).
Publicly criticized director Sam Peckinpah for his film The Wild Bunch (1969), which Wayne claimed “destroyed the myth of the Old West”.
The inscription on the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to him in 1979 reads, simply, “John Wayne, American.”
Although never hailed as a great actor in the classic sense, Wayne was quite accomplished on stage in high school. He even represented Glendale High School in the prestigious 1925 Southern California Shakespeare Competition, performing a passage from “Henry VIII”.
Despite being best known as a conservative Republican, his politics throughout his life were fluid. He later claimed to have considered himself a socialist during his first year of college. As a young actor in Hollywood, he described himself as a liberal, and voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election. In 1938 he attended a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate in New York, but soon afterwards “realized Democrats didn’t stand for the same things I did”. Henry Fonda believed Wayne called himself a liberal just so he wouldn’t fall out with director John Ford , an activist liberal Democrat. It really wasn’t until the 1940s that Wayne moved fully to the right on the political spectrum. Even then, however, he was not always in lockstep with the rest of the conservative movement–a fact that was nonetheless unknown to the public until 1978, when he openly differed with the Republican Party over the issue of the Panama Canal. Conservatives wanted America to retain full control, but Wayne, believing that the Panamanians had the right to the canal, sided with President Jimmy Carter and the Democrats to win passage of the treaty returning the canal in the Senate. Carter openly credited Wayne with being a decisive factor in convincing some Republican Senators to support the measure.
According to Michael Munn’s “John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth”, in 1959, Wayne was personally told by Nikita Khrushchev , when the Soviet Premier was visiting the United States on a goodwill tour, that Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong had each ordered Wayne to be killed. Both dictators had considered Wayne to be a leading icon of American democracy, and thus a symbol of resistance to Communism through his active support for blacklisting in Hollywood, and they believed his death would be a major morale blow to the United States. Khrushchev told Wayne he had rescinded Stalin’s order upon his predecessor’s demise in March 1953, but Mao supposedly continued to demand Wayne’s assassination well into the 1960s.
His performance as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956) is ranked #23 on “Premiere” Magazine’s 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
After seeing Wayne’s performance in Red River (1948), directed by rival director Howard Hawks John Ford is quoted as saying, “I never knew the big son of a bitch could act.”
During his conservative political speeches in the late 1960s and early 1970s, students opposed to his political stances would often walk out of or boycott university film classes that screened his films.
Returned to Harvard in January 1974, at the height of his political activism, for a celebrity roast of himself. During the ceremony, the head said, “We’re not here to make fun of you, we’re here to hurt your feelings.” Later, Wayne said jokingly, “You know, I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to a Jane Fonda rally.”.
Following his retirement from making movies in 1976, Wayne received thousands of letters from fans who accused him of selling out by advertising insurance in television commercials. Wayne responded that the six-figure sum he was offered to star in the advertisements was too good to refuse.
The fact that all three of his wives were Latin-American surprised Hollywood; this was the only “non-American” aspect of his life. “I have never been conscious of going for any particular type,” Wayne said in response to a challenge from the press, “it’s just a happenstance”.
Wayne’s westerns were full of action but usually not excessively violent. “Fights with too much violence are dull,” claimed Wayne, insisting that the straight-shooting, two-fisted violence in his movies have been “sort of tongue-in-cheek.” He described the violence in his films as “lusty and a little humorous,” based on his belief that “humor nullifies violence.” His conservative taste deplored the increasing latitude given to violence and sex in Hollywood. In the 1960s he launched a campaign against what he termed “Hollywood’s bloodstream polluted with perversion and immoral and amoral nuances.” Most of his westerns steered clear of graphic violence.
Tried not to make films that exploited sex or violence, deploring the vulgarity and violence in Rosemary’s Baby (1968), which he saw and did not like, and Cỗ Máy Tội Phạm (1971) or Ultimo tango a Parigi (1972) which he had no desire to see. He thought Deep Throat (1972) was repulsive–“after all, it’s pretty hard to take your daughter to see it.” And he refused to believe that Love Story (1970) “sold because the girl went around saying ‘shit’ all the way through it.” Rather, “the American public wanted to see a little romantic story.” He took a strong stance against nudity: “No one in any of my pictures will ever be served drinks by a girl with no top to her dress.” It was not sex per se he was against. “Don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman are concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex,” he said, “It’s an extra something God gave us, but no picture should feature the word in an unclear manner.” He therefore saw “no reason why it shouldn’t be in pictures,” but it had to be “healthy, lusty sex.”.
During a visit to London in January 1974 to appear on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (1969) and Parkinson (1971), Wayne caught pneumonia. For a 66-year-old man with one lung this was very serious, and eventually he was coughing so hard that he damaged a valve in his heart. This problem went undetected until March 1978, when he underwent emergency open heart surgery in Boston. Bob Hope delivered a message from the The 50th Annual Academy Awards (1978), saying, “We want you to know Duke, we miss you tonight. We expect you to amble out here in person next year, because there is nobody who can fill John Wayne’s boots.” According to Loretta Young , that message from Hope made Wayne determined to live long enough to attend the Oscars in 1979.
On 1/12/79 he entered the hospital for gall bladder surgery, which turned into a 9.5-hour operation when doctors discovered cancer in his stomach. His entire stomach was removed. On May 2 Wayne returned to the hospital, where the cancer was found to have spread to his intestines. He was taken to the ninth floor of the UCLA Medical Center, where President Jimmy Carter visited him, and Queen Elizabeth II sent him a get well card. He went into a coma on June 10 and died at 5:35 P.M. the next day.
Although it has often been written that he was dying of cancer when he made The Shootist (1976), his final film, this is not actually true. Following the removal of his entire left lung in 1964, he was cancer-free for the next 12 years. It wasn’t until Christmas 1978 that he fell seriously ill again, and in January of the following year the cancer was found to have returned.
Ranked in the top four box-office stars–as compiled by Quigley Publications’ annual poll of the Top Ten Money-Making Stars–an astounding 19 times from 1949-72 (only Clint Eastwood , with 21 appearances in the Top 10 to Wayne’s 25, has been in the Top 10, let alone the top four, more times). He made the top three a dozen times, the top two nine times, and was the #1 box-office champ four times (1950, ’51, ’54 and 1971).
Was named the #1 box-office star in North America by Quigley Publications, which has published its annual Top 10 Poll of Money-Making Stars since 1932. In all, he was named to Quigley’s annual Top 10 Poll a record 25 times. ( Clint Eastwood , with 25 appearances in the Top 10, is #2, and Wayne’s contemporary Gary Cooper , with 18 appearances, is tied for #3 with Tom Cruise .) Wayne had the longest ride on the list, first appearing on it in 1949 and making it every year but one (1958) through 1974. In four of those years he was #1.
Wayne appeared in a very uncomplimentary light in the Public Enemy song “Fight the Power,” from the 1990 album “Fear of a Black Planet”. He has frequently come under fire for alleged racist remarks he made about black people and Native American Indians in his infamous “Playboy” magazine interview from May 1971. He was also criticized by some for supporting Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, after Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act.
He denounced homosexuality in Tennessee Williams Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) as “too disgusting even for discussion”–even though he had not seen it and had no intention of seeing it. “It is too distasteful,” he claimed, “to be put on a screen designed to entertain a family, or any member of a decent family.” He considered the youth-oriented, anti-establishment film Easy Rider (1969) and Midnight Cowboy (1969), which to his dismay won the Best Picture Oscar in 1970, as “perverted” films–especially when early in “Midnight Cowboy” Jon Voight dons his newly acquired Western duds and, posing in front of a mirror, utters the only words likely to come to mind at the moment one becomes a cowboy: “John Wayne!” Wayne told “Playboy” magazine, “Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of these two men in ‘Midnight Cowboy’, a story about two fags, qualifies as a perverse movie?”.
In 1971, owing to the success of Big Jake (1971), he was #1 at the US box office for the last time.
By the early 1960s, 161 of his films had grossed $350 million, and he had been paid as much as $666,000 to make a movie.
Due to his political activism, in 1968 he was asked to be the segregationist Governor of Alabama George Wallace ‘s running mate in that year’s presidential election. His response made headlines: “Wayne Wallace candidates? Wayne SAID ‘B——t!'”, as if he was shouting to the reporters.
While visiting the troops in Vietnam in June 1966, a bullet struck Wayne’s bicycle. Although he was not within 100 yards of it at the time, the newspapers reported he had narrowly escaped death at the hands of a sniper.
In December 1978, just a month before he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he joined Bob Hope and Johnny Carson in offering his services to speak out publicly against government corruption, poverty, crime and drug abuse.
Producer-director Robert Rossen offered the role of Willie Stark in All the King’s Men (1949) to Wayne. Rossen sent a copy of the script to Wayne’s agent, Charles K. Feldman ,who forwarded it to Wayne. After reading the script, Wayne sent it back with an angry letter attached. In it, he told Feldman that before he sent the script to any of his other clients, he should ask them if they wanted to star in a film that “smears the machinery of government for no purpose of humor or enlightenment”, that “degrades all relationships”, and that is populated by “drunken mothers; conniving fathers; double-crossing sweethearts; bad, bad, rich people; and bad, bad poor people if they want to get ahead.” He accused Rossen of wanting to make a movie that threw acid on “the American way of life.” If Feldman had such clients, Wayne wrote that the agent should “rush this script . . . to them.” Wayne, however, said to the agent that “you can take this script and shove it up Robert Rossen’s derriere.” Wayne later remarked that “to make Huey Long a wonderful, rough pirate was great, but, according to this picture, everybody was shit except for this weakling intern doctor who was trying to find a place in the world.” Broderick Crawford , who had played a supporting role in Wayne’s Seven Sinners (1940),eventually got the part of Stark. In a bit of irony, Crawford was Oscar-nominated for the part of Stark and found himself competing against Wayne, who was nominated the same year for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Crawford won the Best Actor Oscar.
His image was so far-reaching that when Emperor Hirohito visited America in 1975, he asked to meet the veteran star. Wayne was quoted in the “Chicago Sun-Times” as saying, “I must have killed off the entire Japanese army.”.
During the Vietnam War he was highly critical of teenagers who went to Europe to dodge the draft, calling them “cowards”, “traitors” and “communists”.
Despite his numerous alleged anti-gay remarks in interviews over the years,Wayne co-starred with Rock Hudson in The Undefeated (1969), even though he knew of the actor’s homosexuality. In this Civil War epic, the champion of political conservatism worked well with and even became good friends with Hudson, Hollywood’s gayest (although it wasn’t publicly known at the time) leading man.They remained good friends until Wayne’s death in 1979.
In 1971 Wayne and James Stewart were traveling to Ronald Reagan ‘s second inauguration as Governor of California when they encountered some anti-war demonstrators with a Vietcong flag. Stewart’s stepson Ronald had been killed in Vietnam in 1969. Wayne walked over to speak to the protesters and within minutes the flag had been lowered.
Offered Charlton Heston the roles of Jim Bowie and Col. William Travis in The Alamo (1960), saying the young actor would be ideal for either part. Heston declined the offer because he did not want to be directed by Wayne, and because he feared the critical response to the ideologically conservative movie. Wayne intended the epic to be an allegory for America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Separated from his wife Pilar Wayne in 1973, though they never divorced. When Louis Johnson, his business partner, sold all of their holdings in Arizona–The 26 Bar Ranch and the Red River Land and Cattle Co.–Wayne’s children got half of it, $24million. Pilar had already been taken care of at their separation.
Although media reports suggested he was to attend Elvis Presley ‘s funeral in August 1977, Wayne didn’t show up for it. Presley had once been considered for Glen Campbell ‘s role in True Grit (1969). The reason Presley did not appear in the film, was that his manager told Wayne that the only way Presley would appear was for an amount of money Wayne considered outrageous, and top billing over Wayne. Needless to say, those demands were not met.
Re-mortgaged his house in Hollywood in order to finance The Alamo (1960). While the movie was a success internationally, it lost him a great deal of money personally. For the next four years he had to make one film after another, including The Longest Day (1962), for which he was paid $250,000 for four days work. By early 1962 his financial problems were resolved.
Honored with an Army RAH-66 helicopter, named “The Duke”. Many people attended the naming ceremony in Washington, DC, on 5/12/98, including his children and grandchildren, congressmen, the president of the USO Metropolitan Washington, dignitaries and many military personnel. His eldest son Michael Wayne said at the ceremony, “John Wayne loved his country and he loved its traditions”.
In 1973 he was honored with the Veterans of Foreign Wars highest award–The National Americanism Gold Medal.
When he was honored with a square at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood the sand used in the cement was brought in from Iwo Jima, in honor of his film Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).
“The Greatest Cowboy Star of All Time” was the caption to a series of comic books dedicated to him. The “John Wayne Adventure Comics” were first published in 1949.
His image appeared on a wide variety of products, including 1950 popcorn trading cards given at theaters, 1951 Camel cigarettes, 1956 playing cards, Whitman’s Chocolates and–posthumously–Coors beer. The money collected on the Coors beer cans with his image went to the John Wayne Cancer Institute. One of the most unusual was as a puppet on H.R. Pufnstuf (1969), which also put out a 1970 lunch box with his image among the other puppet characters.
Barry Goldwater visited the set of Stagecoach (1939) during filming. They had a long friendship and in 1964 Wayne helped in Goldwater’s presidential campaign.
After his third wife Pilar Wayne left him in 1973, Wayne became (happily) involved with his secretary Pat Stacy for the remaining six years of his life.
Cited as America’s favorite movie star in a Harris Poll conducted in 1995.
Directed most of The Comancheros (1961) because credited director Michael Curtiz was dying of cancer and was often too ill to work. Wayne refused to be credited as a co-director.
Had plastic surgery to remove the lines around his eyes in 1969, which left him with black eyes and forced him to wear dark glasses for two weeks. He also had surgery to remove the jowls around his mouth.
Was buried in secret and the grave went unmarked until 1999, in case Vietnam War protesters desecrated it. Twenty years after his death he finally received a headstone made of bronze, which was engraved with a quotation from his infamous “Playboy” interview.
Nearly got into a fight with British film critic Barry Norman on two occasions, both times over politics. In November 1963, on the set of Circus World (1964), the two had a serious argument over Barry Goldwater ‘s presidential campaign. Nearly six years later, while Wayne was promoting True Grit (1969), the two nearly came to blows on a train over the Vietnam War. Despite this, Norman wrote favorably of Wayne as an actor in his book “The Hollywood Greats” (1986).
Listed in the 1910 U.S. Census as Marion R. Morrison, living with his parents in Madison, IA.
In 1920 lived at 404 N. Isabel St., Glendale, CA, according to the US Census.
While filming True Grit (1969), he was trying to keep weight off with drugs–uppers for the day, downers to sleep at night. Occasionally he got the pills mixed up, and this led to problems on a The Dean Martin Show (1965) taping in 1969. Instead of taking an upper before leaving for the filming, he took a downer–and was ready to crash by the time he arrived on the set. “I can’t do our skit,” Wayne reportedly told Martin when it was time to perform. “I’m too doped up. Goddamn, I look half smashed!” Naturally, Martin didn’t have a problem with that. “Hell, Duke, people think I do the show that way all the time!” The taping went on as scheduled.
Although he actively supported Ronald Reagan ‘s failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, Wayne paid a visit to the White House as a guest of President Jimmy Carter for his inauguration. “I’m pleased to be present and accounted for in this capital of freedom to witness history as it happens–to watch a common man accept the uncommon responsibility he won ‘fair and square’ by stating his case to the American people–not by bloodshed, beheadings and riots at the palace gates. I know I’m a member of the loyal opposition– accent on the loyal. I’d have it no other way.”.
Pilar Wayne wrote in her book “My Life with The Duke”: “Duke always said family came first, career second and his interest in politics third. In fact, although he loved the children and me, there were times when we couldn’t compete with his career or his devotion to the Republican Party.”.
After Ronald Reagan ‘s election as Governor of California in 1966, Wayne was exiting a victory celebration when he was asked by police not to leave the building–a mob of 300 angry anti-war demonstrators was waiting outside. Instead of cowering indoors, he confronted the demonstrators head-on. When protesters waved the Viet Cong flag under his nose, Wayne grew impatient. “Please don’t do that fellows,” Duke warned the assembled. “I’ve seen too many kids your age wounded or dead because of that flag. So I don’t take too kindly to it.” The demonstrators persisted, so he chased a group of them down an alley.
In 1975, for the first time since his arrival in Hollywood 47 years earlier, he did not act in any movies. Production began in January of the following year for his last, The Shootist (1976).
In 1967 he wrote to Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson requesting military assistance for his pro-war film about Vietnam. Jack Valenti told the President, “Wayne’s politics are wrong, but if he makes this film he will be helping us.” Wayne got enough firepower to make The Green Berets (1968), which became one of the most controversial movies of all time.
Campaigned for Sam Yorty in the 1969 election for Mayor of Los Angeles.
His great-nephew Tommy Morrison was diagnosed with HIV in 1996.
Announced his intention to campaign for Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election after Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act. Although diagnosed with lung cancer and forced to undergo major surgery in September, he still managed to host a TV special for Goldwater in October.
Directed most of Big Jake (1971) himself because director George Sherman , an old friend from Wayne’s days at Republic, was in his mid-60s and ill at the time, and not up to the rigors of directing an action picture in the wilds of Mexico, where much of the film was shot. Wayne refused to take co-director credit.
His TV appearances in the late 1960s showed that Wayne had overcome his indifference to television. In addition to appearing on The Dean Martin Show (1965), The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (1969), he became a semi-regular visitor to Laugh-In (1967), often good-naturedly spoofing his macho image and even dressing up as The Easter Bunny in a famous 1972 episode.
Did not serve during World War II. Knee injuries he received in college kept him from running the distances required by military standards.
Was a member of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society.
Campaigned for Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential election.
At the Memorial Day finale at Knott’s Berry Farm in Anaheim in 1964, Wayne and Rock Hudson flanked Ronald Reagan as the future President led 27,000 Goldwater enthusiasts in a roaring Pledge of Allegiance.
In 1965, after his battle with lung cancer, he moved out of Hollywood to Newport Beach, CA, where he lived until his death 14 years later. His house was demolished after he died.
During the early 1960s he traveled extensively to Panama. During this time he reportedly purchased the island of Taborcillo off the main coast of the country. It was sold by his estate after his death and changed hands many times before being opened as a tourist attraction.
Lauren Bacall once recalled that while Wayne hardly knew her husband Humphrey Bogart at all, he was the first to send flowers and good wishes after Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 1956.
Along with Humphrey Bogart , Wayne was regarded as the heaviest smoker in Hollywood, sustaining five packs of unfiltered Camels until his first battle with cancer in 1964. While recovering from losing his lung he began to chew tobacco, and then he started smoking cigars.
Lost the leading role in The Gunfighter (1950) to Gregory Peck because of his refusal to work for Columbia Pictures after Columbia chief Harry Cohn had mistreated him years before as a young contract player (Cohn had heard a rumor, which turned out to be untrue, that Wayne was pursuing a young starlet that Cohn was already having an affair with, and had him blackballed among the other Hollywood studios). Cohn had bought the “The Gunfighter” project specifically with Wayne in mind for it, but Wayne’s grudge was too deep, and Cohn sold the script to Twentieth Century-Fox, which cast Peck in the role Wayne badly wanted but refused to bend for. When the Reno Chamber of Commerce named Peck the top western star for 1950 and presented him with the Silver Spurs award, an angry Wayne said, “Well, who the hell decided that you were the best cowboy of the year?”. Wayne also reportedly turned down the lead in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), which also became an iconic part for Peck.
Was badly sunburned while filming 3 Godfathers (1948) and was briefly hospitalized.
Robert Aldrich , then president of the Directors Guild of America, stated in support of awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Wayne in 1979: “It is important for you to know that I am a registered Democrat and, to my knowledge, share none of the political views espoused by Duke. However, whether he is ill- disposed or healthy, John Wayne is far beyond the normal political sharp-shooting in this community. Because of his courage, his dignity, his integrity, and because of his talents as an actor, his strength as a leader, his warmth as a human being throughout his illustrious career, he is entitled to a unique spot in our hearts and minds. In this industry, we often judge people, sometimes unfairly, by asking whether they have paid their dues. John Wayne has paid his dues over and over, and I’m proud to consider him a friend, and am very much in favor of my Government recognizing in some important fashion the contribution that Mr. Wayne has made.”.
He regarded Rio Bravo (1959) as the film marking his transition into middle age. At 51 Wayne was starting to get overweight and he believed he was too old to play the romantic lead any more. His last four movies since The Searchers (1956) had been unsuccessful, and he felt the only way to keep audiences coming was to revert to playing “John Wayne” in every film.
Broke his leg while filming Legend of the Lost (1957).
Fittingly, he was buried in Orange County, the most Republican district in the US. The conservative residents admired him so much they named their international airport after him. It is about four miles from the cemetery where he is buried.
At one time he was considered for Rock Hudson ‘s role as rancher Bick Benedict in George Stevens ‘s epic western Giant (1956).
He had intended to make a trilogy of films featuring the character Rooster Cogburn, but the third film was canceled after Rooster Cogburn (1975) proved to be only a moderate hit at the box office. The third film was intended to be called “Sometime”.
In the mid-’30s he was hired by Columbia Pictures to make several westerns for its “B” unit. Columbia chief Harry Cohn , a married man, soon got the idea that Wayne had made a pass at a Columbia starlet with whom Cohn was having an affair. When he confronted Wayne about it Wayne denied it, but Cohn called up executives at other studios and told them that Wayne would show up for work drunk, was a womanizer and a troublemaker and requested that they not hire him. Wayne didn’t work for several months afterward, and when he discovered what Cohn had done, he burst into Cohn’s office at Columbia, grabbed him by the neck and threatened to kill him. After he cooled off he told Cohn that “as long as I live, I will never work one day for you or Columbia no matter how much you offer me.” Later, after Wayne had become a major star, he received several lucrative film offers from Columbia, including the lead in The Gunfighter (1950), all of which he turned down cold. Even after Cohn died in 1958, Wayne still refused to entertain any offers whatsoever from Columbia Pictures, including several that would have paid him more than one fo $1 million.
The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger , issued a proclamation making 5/26/07 “John Wayne Day” in California.
Bought a 135-foot yacht called “The Wild Goose” in 1962. He agreed to make Circus World (1964), a film he hated, just so he could sail the vessel to Europe.
In 1962 he was paid a record $250,000 for four days work on The Longest Day (1962), and in the following year he was paid the same amount for two days work on The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
On 8/20/07 the Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced that Wayne will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts in Sacramento on 5/12/07.
After undergoing major lung surgery in 1964, he would sometimes have to use an oxygen mask to breathe for the rest of his life. An oxygen tank was always kept in his trailer on locations. His breathing problems were particularly severe on airplanes, and while filming True Grit (1969) and Rooster Cogburn (1975), due to the high altitude. No photographs were allowed to be taken by the press of the veteran star breathing through an oxygen mask.
Ranked #11 in the 100 Most Influential People in the History of the Movies, according to the authors of the Film 100 Web site.
Has 25 appearances in the Top 10 at the US box office: 1949-57 and 1959-74.
Prior to making The Big Trail (1930), director Raoul Walsh told Wayne to take acting lessons. Wayne duly took three lessons, but gave up when the teacher told him he had no talent.
Voice actor Peter Cullen based the voice of his most famous character, heroic Autobot leader Optimus Prime from Transformers: Robot Đại Chiến (2007), on Wayne’s voice.
In the late 1970s Wayne made a series of commercials for the Great Western Savings Bank in Los Angeles. The day after the first one aired, a man walked into a GW branch in West Hollywood with a suitcase, asked to see the bank manager, and when he was shown to the manager’s desk, he opened up the suitcase to reveal $500,000 in cash. He said, “If your bank is good enough for John Wayne, it’s good enough for me.” He had just closed his business and personal accounts at a rival bank down the street and walked to the GW branch to open accounts there because Wayne had endorsed it.
Actor and later California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cited Wayne as a role model from his childhood.
On 1/25/50 he became the 125th star to put his hand and footprints outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
During his career his movies grossed an estimated $500 million worldwide.
His father died of a heart attack in March 1937.
Michael Caine recalled in his 1992 autobiography “What’s It All About?” that Wayne gave him two pieces of advice when they first met in Hollywood early in 1967. Firstly, on acting, Wayne told him, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.” Then he added, “And never wear suede shoes. One time I was taking a piss when a guy next to me turned round and said, ‘John Wayne!’, and pissed all over my shoes”.
His first wife Josephine Alicia Saenz died of cancer in 2003, at the age of 94.
Gave Sammy Davis Jr. the first cowboy hat he ever wore in a film.
After leaving the stage during 1979’s Academy Awards ceremony, he was greeted by his old pal Sammy Davis Jr. , who gave him a big bear hug. Davis later told a friend he regretted hugging Wayne so hard in his fragile condition, but he was told that “Duke Wouldn’t have missed that hug for anything” (the idea of the 125-pound Davis worrying about hugging him “too hard” was a sad commentary on Wayne’s failing health).
He was asked to be the running mate for Alabama Gov. George Wallace , who was running for the US presidency on a segregationist ticket in 1968, but Wayne vehemently rejected the offer and actively campaigned for Richard Nixon . He addressed the Republican National Convention on its opening day in August 1968.
In his later years he lived near Newport Beach, just south of Los Angeles, where he had a beach house and a yacht, “The Wild Goose”. His house has been torn down, but The Wild Goose sails on. It’s now a tour boat offering dinner cruises to Wayne fans young and old alike. Originally a decommissioned Navy minesweeper, it was rebuilt and customized by Wayne as a yacht; the custom interior has polished wood almost everywhere you look. It was there that in his later years he often entertained, hosting card games with his good friends Dean Martin Sammy Davis Jr. and other stars of the time.
On 5/18/53, during divorce proceedings from his second wife Esperanza Baur , his annual gross income was publicly revealed to be $502,891.
Visited Stepin Fetchit in hospital in 1976 after the actor had suffered a stroke that ended his career.
He considered Maureen O’Hara one of his best friends; over the years he was more open to her than anyone. When asked about her he always replied, “The greatest guy I ever knew.” They were friends for 39 years, from 1940 until his death in 1979. Today she is considered by many to be his best leading lady; they starred in five films together. She referred to a wing in her home as the “John Wayne Wing”.
Great Western Savings erected a bronze statue by Harry Jackson of Wayne on a horse at its headquarters in Beverly Hills. Although the building was later bought by Larry Flynt , the statue still stands at its original location.
He appeared in at least one film for every year from 1926-76, a record of 51 consecutive years. He did not act in a movie in 1975, though both Brannigan (1975) and Rooster Cogburn (1975) were released in that year.
Aa a young man, Ethan Wayne was never allowed to leave the house without carrying cards that his father had autographed to hand out to fans.
According to Mel Brooks in his commentary of Blazing Saddles (1974), he wanted Wayne as The Waco Kid. Wayne told Brooks that he thought the script was “funny as hell”, but said it was “too dirty,” and his fans would never accept him in the role. He also said he would do anything he could to help him get the picture made, and be the first in line to see it when it came out.
In 1959 he was considered for the role of the sergeant in a film that director Samuel Fuller wanted to make about his war experiences, “The Big Red One”. When the film was finally made in 1980, The Big Red One (1980), the role went to Lee Marvin after Fuller asked that Wayne be replaced so as not to overshadow his film’s story.
In the DVD documentary for 1941 (1979), Steven Spielberg says he first met Wayne at the memorial service for Joan Crawford . The two became friends and Spielberg offered the role of Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell to Wayne. He sent Wayne the script and got a call back the same day, criticizing Spielberg for making a film that Wayne felt was anti-American. The two remained friends and never discussed the film again. Spielberg says that later on Wayne pitched him a script idea about a camel race in Morocco starring Wayne and long-time friend and co-star Maureen O’Hara . Spielberg says it sounded like a good idea. However, Wayne later passed away and the film was never made.
Was the acting mentor to James Arness
In April 2014, he was honored as Turner Classic Movie’s Star of the Month.
When second wife Chata charged that Wayne had an affair with Gail Russell in their divorce proceedings, the actor countered that Conrad Hilton Jr. had become a constant house-guest of Chata’s.
In response to the California Senate voting against celebrating May 26 as “John Wayne Day” in 2016, the state of Texas declared that it would celebrate “John Wayne Day”.
Often billed as 6’4″, although he said his exact height was 6’3-3/4″.
Shortly before he began filming Legend of the Lost (1957) he was devastated when the US government sided with the Soviet Union during the Suez Crisis, and took no action in response to the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Wayne believed Richard Nixon learned from the mistakes of November 1956 to correctly handle the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
In 2014 Marc Eliot’s book “American Titan: Searching for John Wayne” alleged that Wayne deliberately avoided enlisting in the armed forces during World War II because he was afraid it would end the affair he was having with Marlene Dietrich . He also feared military service might end his career , as he would be too old to be “an action-oriented leading man”.
According to the families of Wayne, legendary director John Ford and Harry Carey Jr. , Wayne’s iconic “rolling walk” was developed during the filming of the classic Stagecoach (1939) by Duke and character actor Paul Fix , Carey’s father-in-law (who wasn’t in the film). This walk helped set Wayne apart from everyone else, and gave him more of an “edge” over other male actors of the day.
Appeared as a guest on the second episode of The Dean Martin Show (1965).
One of the referendum issues on the California ballot in the 1972 elections was a proposition that would have rigidly codified public obscenity laws, encouraging arrests of pornography peddlers. Wayne, and nearly two-thirds of California’s voters found the proposition repressive and untenable. In a radio commercial he told voters, “You don’t get rid of a bad situation with a badly written law, or cut off a foot to cure a sore toe”.
Separated from third wife Pilar in 1967 while he was filming The Green Berets (1968). However, they did not publicly announce their separation until 1973.
Plans to declare 26 May as “John Wayne Day” in California were rejected in April 2016 over allegedly racist comments the actor made in his May 1971 interview with “Playboy” magazine. In a State Assembly vote several legislators objected to having a day commemorating his birthday due to his “disturbing views towards race”. The resolution lost 36-19.
Publicly condemned the UK for sitting out the Vietnam War.
Turned down the lead role in MacArthur (1977) that went to Gregory Peck
Was considered for the role of James Averill in Heaven’s Gate (1980) that went to Kris Kristofferson
Turned down the cameo role of a cavalry officer in Around the World in 80 Days (1956).
Was originally cast in Welcome to L.A. (1976), but due to budget overruns and delays, he had to be replaced by Denver Pyle
Was the original choice for the lead role in Vera Cruz (1954) that went to Gary Cooper
Was a vocal supporter of extending the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and invading eastern Europe to drive out the occupying Soviets.
Refused to make westerns outside the US, even though many westerns were filmed in Italy and Spain, and later Israel (although he shot some of his later westerns on Mexican locations).
Ssaid he became a committed anti-Communist after reading about the Russian Revolution.
Despite the cowboy characters he often played, he actually hated the outdoors.
There were renewed calls to rename John Wayne Airport in California after controversial remarks from his infamous “Playboy” interview were highlighted by a “Los Angeles Times” opinion piece in February 2019.
Agreed with Winston Churchill ‘s proposal to use atomic weapons on Moscow in 1947 unless the Soviets withdrew from eastern Europe.
One of Kurt Russell ‘s actor heroes since childhood (his father, actor Bing Russell , worked with Wayne on The Horse Soldiers (1959)). . Russell has an uncanny ability to imitate Wayne’s voice and demeanor. This was evident during one particular bar scene with Vanessa Ferlito ‘s character in Death Proof (2007) where his character (Stuntman Mike) says, ‘You know how people say ‘you’re okay in my book’ or ‘in my book, that’s no good’? Well, I actually have a book, and everybody I ever meet goes in this book, and now I’ve met you and you’re going in the book. Only I’m afraid I must file you under chicken shit”.
According to the American Heroes Channel documentary series “Gunfighters” episode about Wyatt Earp (“Wyatt Earp: The Tombstone Vendetta”), when the legendary lawman moved to Hollywood and worked as a technical consultant on the westerns of the silent era, he befriended a young John Wayne, who was working as an extra and a crew member on movie sets. He imparted to Wayne his wisdom about law enforcement and being a gunfighter, which Wayne later used as inspiration for his roles as a lawman or gunfighter.
Was offered Michael Caine ‘s role in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) and expressed interest in the project, but changed his mind after reading the script.
Was always mad at Republic Pictures owner Herbert J. Yates having made him use Vera Ralston in The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) and said, “I think we lost the chance to have one damn fine picture”. He got his way, though, in casting Oliver Hardy as Willie Payne for comic relief. He’d previously worked with Hardy on a charity tour of “What Price Glory” and thought he’d be perfect as the food-loving Kentuckian. Hardy wasn’t keen at first, not wanting people to think that he and Stan Laurel had split up, but when he mentioned it to Stan, who was ill with diabetes and unable to work, Stan said, “Babe [Hardy’s nickname], just because I’m sick and can’t work, there’s no reason you shouldn’t. Do it”. So Hardy signed on, causing Wayne to say to fellow cast member Paul Fix , ‘Nobody’s gonna remember Vera in our film because all they’re gonna remember is Oliver Hardy and me doing our comedy scenes”. The film did decent business and got good reviews, with quite a few praising Hardy’s performance.
Greatly admired Gen. George S. Patton , despite being fully aware of the controversial general’s extreme anti-Semitism.
At the time he appeared in a leading role in Stagecoach (1939)–which is generally considered the film that made him a star–he had appeared in 82 movies, 20 of them uncredited.
The last film he appeared in was a short, Home for the Seabees (1977) about the history of the Seabees. It was shot at the Port Hueneme Museum. His co-star was Carl Irwin , who was a Seabee and actor.
In June 2020 the leaders of the Democratic Party of Orange County in California demanded the removal of Wayne’s name from the local airport due to the “racist and bigoted statements” that he made in a 1971 magazine interview.
The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts announced in July 2020 that it would remove its John Wayne exhibit, citing an initiative to promote “anti-racist cultural values” following protests from students.
Was fond of eggs and usually ate six in a single sitting. When ordering eggs at a restaurant or diner and asked how he wanted them done, he would say, “I want ’em smiling at me”. That was his code for sunny-side up.
His daughter Aissa Wayne endorsed Donald Trump during his campaign to win the Republican nomination in 2016. She said her father would have supported Trump if he had still been alive, a claim later disputed by his son Ethan Wayne , the president of the John Wayne Entreprises corporation.
John Wayne’s youngest son Ethan defended his father’s remarks on race, saying, “Any discussion of removing his name from the airport should include the full picture of John Wayne and not be based on a single outlier interview from half a century ago.”.
When John Wayne offered Ollie a part in his film The Fighting Kentuckian He’d previously worked with Ollie on a charity tour of ‘What Price Glory’ and thought he’d be perfect as the food loving Kentuckian. Ollie wasn’t keen at first not wanting people to think that he and Stan had split up but when he mentioned it to Stan, who was ill with diabetes and unable to work, Stan said ‘Babe just because I’m sick and can’t work , there’s no reason you shouldn’t. Do it’ So Ollie signed on, causing John to say to fellow cast member Paul Fix ‘Nobody’s gonna remember Vera in our film because all they’re gonna remember is Oliver Hardy and me doing our comedy scenes. The film did decent business and got good reviews with quite a few praising Oliver.
Personal Quotes (188)
I never trust a man that doesn’t drink.
[at Harvard in 1974, on being asked whether then-President Richard Nixon ever advised him on the making of his films] No, they’ve all been successful.
[on presenting the Best Picture Oscar in 1979] Oscar and I have something in common. Oscar first came to the Hollywood scene in 1928. So did I. We’re both a little weatherbeaten, but we’re still here and plan to be around for a whole lot longer.
When people say a John Wayne picture got bad reviews, I always wonder if they know it’s a redundant sentence, but hell, I don’t care. People like my pictures and that’s all that counts.
[When asked if he believed in God] There must be some higher power or how else does all this stuff work?
[Time Magazine interview, 1969] I would like to be remembered, well . . . the Mexicans have a phrase, “Feo fuerte y formal”. Which means he was ugly, strong and had dignity.
[poem, “The Sky”, he read on his 1969 Laugh-In (1967) appearance] The sky is blue, the grass is green. Get off your ass and join the Marines.
[upon accepting his Oscar for True Grit (1969)] If I’d known this was all it would take, I’d have put that eyepatch on 40 years ago.
I’m an American actor. I work with my clothes on. I have to. Riding a horse can be pretty tough on your legs and elsewheres.
[on Native Americans, from May 1971 “Playboy” interview] I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.
When I started, I knew I was no actor and I went to work on this Wayne thing. It was as deliberate a projection as you’ll ever see. I figured I needed a gimmick, so I dreamed up the drawl, the squint and a way of moving meant to suggest that I wasn’t looking for trouble but would just as soon throw a bottle at your head as not. I practiced in front of a mirror.
Communism is quite obviously still a threat. Yes, they are human beings, with a right to their point of view . . .
[on being asked about his “phony hair” at Harvard in 1974] It’s not phony. It’s real hair. Of course, it’s not mine, but it’s real.
I never had a goddamn artistic problem in my life, never, and I’ve worked with the best of them. John Ford isn’t exactly a bum, is he? Yet he never gave me any manure about art. He just made movies and that’s what I do.
God-damn, I’m the stuff men are made of!
I was overwhelmed by the feeling of friendship, comradeship, and brotherhood . . . DeMolay will always hold a deep spot in my heart.
[on the Oscars] You can’t eat awards — nor, more to the point, drink ’em.
I made up my mind that I was going to play a real man to the best of my ability. I felt many of the western stars of the twenties and thirties were too goddamn perfect. They never drank or smoked. They never wanted to go to bed with a beautiful girl. They never had a fight. A heavy might throw a chair at them, and they just looked surprised and didn’t fight in this spirit. They were too goddamn sweet and pure to be dirty fighters. Well, I wanted to be a dirty fighter if that was the only way to fight back. If someone throws a chair at you, hell, you pick up a chair and belt him right back. I was trying to play a man who gets dirty, who sweats sometimes, who enjoys kissing a gal he likes, who gets angry, who fights clean whenever possible but will fight dirty if he has to. You could say I made the western hero a roughneck.
[on America] I can tell you why I love her. I have a lust for her dignity. I look at her wonderfully classic face, and I see hidden in it a sense of humor that I love. I think of wonderful, exciting, decent things when I look at her . . .
Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.
I stick to simple themes. Love. Hate. No nuances. I stay away from psychoanalyst’s couch scenes. Couches are good for one thing.
Every country in the world loved the folklore of the West – the music, the dress, the excitement, everything that was associated with the opening of a new territory. It took everybody out of their own little world. The cowboy lasted a hundred years, created more songs and prose and poetry than any other folk figure. The closest thing was the Japanese samurai. Now, I wonder who’ll continue it.
I am a demonstrative man, a baby picker-upper, a hugger and a kisser – that’s my nature.
I don’t act . . . I react.
I have found a certain type calls himself a liberal . . . Now I always thought I was a liberal. I came up terribly surprised one time when I found out that I was a right-wing conservative extremist, when I listened to everybody’s point of view that I ever met, and then decided how I should feel. But this so-called new liberal group, Jesus, they never listen to your point of view . . .
There’s been a lot of stories about how I got to be called Duke. One was that I played the part of a duke in a school play–which I never did. Sometimes, they even said I was descended from royalty! It was all a lot of rubbish. Hell, the truth is that I was named after a dog!
Westerns are closer to art than anything else in the motion picture business.
We must always look to the future. Tomorrow – the time that gives a man just one more chance – is one of the many things that I feel are wonderful in life. So’s a good horse under you. Or the only campfire for miles around. Or a quiet night and a nice soft hunk of ground to sleep on. A mother meeting her first-born. The sound of a kid calling you dad for the first time. There’s a lot of things great about life. But I think tomorrow is the most important thing. Comes in to us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
I do not want the government to take away my human dignity and insure me anything more than a normal security. I don’t want handouts.
I don’t think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I’d like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living. I’d like to know why they make excuses for cowards who spit in the faces of the police and then run behind the judicial sob sisters. I can’t understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim.
I want to play a real man in all my films, and I define manhood simply: men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either.
I don’t want ever to appear in a film that would embarrass a viewer. A man can take his wife, mother, and his daughter to one of my movies and never be ashamed or embarrassed for going.
I am an old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, flag-waving patriot.
You can’t whine and bellyache because somebody else got a good break and you didn’t.
I think that the loud roar of irresponsible liberalism . . . is being quieted down by a reasoning public. I think the pendulum is swinging back. We’re remembering that the past can’t be so bad. We built a nation on it. We have to look to tomorrow.
Very few of the so-called liberals are open-minded . . . they shout you down and won’t let you speak if you disagree with them.
Some people tell me everything isn’t black and white. But I say why the hell not?
High Noon (1952) was the most un-American thing I have ever seen in my whole life. The last thing in the picture is ol’ Coop [ Gary Cooper ] putting the United States marshal’s badge under his foot and stepping on it. I’ll never regret having run [screenwriter Carl Foreman ] out of this country.
God, how I hate solemn funerals. When I die, take me into a room and burn me. Then my family and a few good friends should get together, have a few good belts, and talk about the crazy old time we all had together.
I’ve always had deep faith that there is a Supreme Being, there has to be. To me that’s just a normal thing to have that kind of faith. The fact that He’s let me stick me around a little longer, or She’s let me stick around a little longer, certainly goes great with me — and I want to hang around as long as I’m healthy and not in anybody’s way.
I have tried to live my life so that my family would love me and my friends respect me. The others can do whatever the hell they please.
My problem is that I’m not a handsome man like Cary Grant , who will be handsome at 65. I may be able to do a few more man-woman things before it’s too late, but then what? I never want to play silly old men chasing young girls, as some of the stars are doing. I have to be a director – I’ve waited all these years to be one. The Alamo (1960) will tell what my future is.
[on The Green Berets (1968)] When I saw what our boys are going through – hell – and how the morale was holding up, and the job they were doing, I just knew they had to make this picture.
I’m quite sure that the concept of a government-run reservation would have an ill effect on anyone. But that seems to be what the socialists are working for now – to have everyone cared for from cradle to grave.
This may come as a surprise to you, but I wasn’t alive when reservations were created – even if I do look that old. I have no idea what the best method of dealing with the Indians in the 1800s would have been. Our forefathers evidently thought they were doing the right thing.
I’m not going to give you those I-was-a-poor-boy-and-I-pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps-stories, but I’ve gone without a meal or two in my lifetime, and I still don’t expect the government to turn over any of its territory to me. Hard times aren’t something I can blame my fellow citizens for. Years ago, I didn’t have all the opportunities, either. But you can’t whine and bellyache ’cause somebody else got a good break and you didn’t, like these Indians are. We’ll all be on a reservation soon if the socialists keep subsidizing groups like them with our tax money.
Look, I’m sure there have been inequalities. If those inequalities are presently affecting any of the Indians now alive, they have a right to a court hearing. But what happened 100 years ago in our country can’t be blamed on us today.
[asked whether the Native American Indians should be allowed to camp on their land at Alcatraz] Well, I don’t know of anybody else who wants it. The fellas who were taken off it sure don’t want to go back there, including the guards. So as far as I am concerned, I think we ought to make a deal with the Indians. They should pay as much for Alcatraz as we paid them for Manhattan. I hope they haven’t been careless with their wampum.
[on Superman (1978) star Christopher Reeve after meeting him at the 1979 Academy Awards] This is our new man. He’s taking over.
I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to the point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.
Have you ever heard of some fellows who first came over to this country? You know what they found? They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing, and they also found some unpleasant little characters who painted their faces. Do you think these pioneers filled out form number X6277 and sent in a report saying the Indians were a little unreasonable? Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not! They looked at the land, and the forest, and the rivers. They looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, “Thanks, God, we’ll take it from here.”
Don’t ever for a minute make the mistake of looking down your nose at westerns. They’re art–the good ones, I mean. They deal in life and sudden death and primitive struggle, and with the basic emotions–love, hate, and anger–thrown in. We’ll have westerns films as long as the cameras keep turning. The fascination that the Old West has will never die. And as long as people want to pay money to see me act, I’ll keep on making westerns until the day I die.
If it hadn’t been for football and the fact I got my leg broke and had to go into the movies to eat, why, who knows, I might have turned out to be a liberal Democrat.
[on why he never wrote an autobiography] Those who like me already know me, and those who don’t like me wouldn’t want to read about me anyway.
I don’t think John Ford had any kind of respect for me as an actor until I made Red River (1948) for Howard Hawks . I was never quite sure what he did think of me as an actor. I know now, though. Because when I finally won an Oscar for my role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969), Ford shook my hand and said the award was long overdue me as far as he was concerned. Right then, I knew he’d respected me as an actor since Stagecoach (1939), even though he hadn’t let me know it. He later told me his praise earlier, might have gone to my head and made me conceited, and that was why he’d never said anything to me, until the right time.
I play John Wayne in every picture regardless of the character, and I’ve been doing all right, haven’t I?
Talk low, talk slow and don’t talk too much.
That little clique back there in the East has taken great personal satisfaction reviewing my politics instead of my pictures. But one day those doctrinaire liberals will wake up to find the pendulum has swung the other way.
I was 32nd in the box office polls when I accepted the presidency of the Alliance [The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a right-wing political organization he helped start]. When I left office eight years later, somehow the folks who buy the tickets had made me number one.
[on Frank Capra ] I’d like to take that little Dago son of a bitch and tear him into a million pieces and throw him into the ocean and watch him float back to Sicily where he belongs.
Television has a tendency to reach a little. In their westerns, they are getting away from the simplicity and the fact that those men were fighting the elements and the rawness of nature and didn’t have time for this couch-work.
Mine is a rebellion against the monotony of life. The rebellion in these kids, particularly the S.D.S.-ers and those groups, seems to be a kind of dissension by rote.
Just think of it. At the Alamo there was a band of only 185 men of many nationalities and religions, all joined in a common cause for freedom. Those 185 men killed 1000 of Santa Anna’s men before they died. But they knew they spent their lives for the precious time Sam Houston needed.
[on the studios’ blacklisting of alleged “subversives” in Hollywood] If it is for the FBI, I will do anything for them. If they want me to I will even be photographed with an agent and point out a Communist for them. Tell Mr. Hoover [FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ] I am on his side.
You know, I hear everybody talking about the generation gap. Frankly, sometimes I don’t know what they’re talking about. Heck, by now I should know a little bit about it, if I’m ever going to. I have seven kids and 18 grandkids and I don’t seem to have any trouble talking to any of them. Never have had, and I don’t intend to start now.
[on The Conqueror (1956)] The way the screenplay reads, this is a cowboy picture, and that’s how I am going to play Genghis Khan. I see him as a gunfighter.
 I’ve known Jane Fonda since she was a little girl. I’ve never agreed with a word she’s said, but would give my life defending her right to say it.
To me, The Wild Bunch (1969) was distasteful. It would have been a good picture without the gore. Pictures go too far when they use that kind of realism, when they have shots of blood spurting out and teeth flying, and when they throw liver out to make it look like people’s insides. “The Wild Bunch” was one of the first to go that far in realism, and the curious went to see it. That may make the bankers and stock promoters think that it is a necessary ingredient for successful motion pictures. They seem to forget the one basic principle of our business – illusion. We’re in the business of magic. I don’t think it hurts a child to see anything that has the illusion of violence in it. All our fairy tales have some kind of violence – the good knight riding to kill the dragon, etc. Why do we have to show the knight spreading the serpent’s guts all over the candy mountain?
I read someplace that I used to make B-pictures. Hell, they were a lot farther down the alphabet than that . . . but not as far down as R and X. I think any man who makes an X-rated picture ought to be made to take his own daughter to see it.
Screw ambiguity. Perversion and corruption masquerade as ambiguity. I don’t trust ambiguity.
I’m not preaching a sermon from the mount, you know. This is just my own opinion. But it does seem to me that when our industry got vulgar and cheap, we began losing our regular customers. Sure, people are curious, and they’ll go see any provocative thing once – maybe even four or five times – but eventually they’ll just stay home and watch television. There used to be this little Frenchman in Hollywood who made all these risqué movies . . . what the hell was his name? . . . Lubitsch [ Ernst Lubitsch , who was actually German]! He could make pictures as risqué as anything you’ll see today, but he made them with taste and illusion. The only sadness in my heart for our business is that we are taking all the illusion out of it. After all, it’s pretty hard to take your daughter to see Deep Throat (1972).
Not that I had thoughts of becoming a song and dance man, but, like most young actors, I did want to play a variety of roles. I remember walking down the street one day, mumbling to myself about the way my career was going, when suddenly I bumped into Will Rogers . “What’s the matter, Duke?” he asked, and I said things weren’t going so well. “You working?” he asked, and I said, “Yep.” “Keep working, Duke,” he said and smiled and walked away.
I think it was sad that Brando [ Marlon Brando ] did what he did. If he had something to say, he should have appeared that night and stated his views instead of taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit. What he was doing was trying to avoid the issue that was really on his mind, which was the provocative story of Ultimo tango a Parigi (1972). Let’s just say I haven’t made a particular point of seeing that particular picture. Brando is one of the finest actors we’ve had in the business, and I’m only sorry he didn’t have the benefit of older, more established friends – as I did – to help him choose the proper material in which to use his talent.
Watergate is a sad and tragic incident in our history. They were wrong, dead wrong, those men at Watergate. Men abused power, but the system still works. Men abused money, but the system still works. Men lied and perjured themselves, but the system still works.
It’s kind of a sad thing when a normal love of country makes you a super patriot. I do think we have a pretty wonderful country, and I thank God that He chose me to live here.
[December 1973] They’re trying to crucify Nixon [ Richard Nixon ], but when they’re writing the history of this period, Watergate will be no more than a footnote. Believe me, I have a high respect for the bulldogged way in which our President has been able to continue to administrate this government, in spite of the articulate liberal press – whose only purpose is to sell toilet paper and Toyotas – and in spite of the ambitious politicians who would deny him the help and encouragement that a man needs to face the problems of this country. I endorsed Spiro Agnew ‘s attitudes, but I knew nothing of his private affairs. I was sadly disappointed to discover his feet of clay.
- over the years, and I think he should be standing in the crowning
glory today for his accomplishments. Instead, they’ve chosen to blame him for the gradual growth of hypocrisy and individual ambition that have made our political system distasteful to the public.
The only way to get 520,000 men home – men who had been practically sneaked into Vietnam in the first place – was to make the decision to mine Haiphong Harbor. President [ Richard Nixon ] had the courage to make that decision, and when the other side started using prisoners of war as pawns, he had to make the awesome decision to bomb Hanoi. Which he did, and then he brought our prisoners of war home. Richard Nixon and I have had a long acquaintance. I respected him as a goodly man – winning or losingglory today for his accomplishments. Instead, they’ve chosen to blame him for the gradual growth of hypocrisy and individual ambition that have made our political system distasteful to the public.
[on his separation from third wife Pilar Wayne in 1973] We have separated, and it’s a sad incident in my life. It is family and personal. I’d rather keep it that way.
 My build-up was done through constant exposure. By the time I went overseas to visit our boys during the Second World War, they had already seen my movies when they were back home. Now their kids are grown up and their kids are seeing my movies. I’m part of the family . . . I think Steve McQueen and Robert Redford have a chance of becoming lasting stars. And certainly that big kid – what the hell’s his name? Jesus, I have such a hard time remembering my own name sometimes. Oh, you know the one I mean, that big kid, the one that’s been directing some of his own movies lately. Yeah, that’s the one – Clint Eastwood
Once I was working in a movie with Harry Carey and his wife Olive [ Olive Carey ], and I was complaining about being typed. “Duke,” Ollie said, “look at Harry over there – would you like to see Harry Carey play any other way?”. “Of course not,” I said. “Well,” Ollie said, “the American public doesn’t want to see you any other way, either. So wake up, Duke! Be what they want you to be.” See, I’m not against Women’s Lib. Ollie gave me some real good advice.
John Ford was like a father to me, like a big brother. I got word that he wanted to see me at his home in Palm Springs, and when I got there, he said, “Hi Duke, down for the deathwatch?” “Hell no,” I said, “you’ll bury us all.” But he looked so weak. We used to be a triumvirate – Ford and me and a guy named Ward Bond . The day I went to Palm Springs, Ford said, “Duke, do you ever think of Ward?” “All the time,” I said. “Well, let’s have a drink to Ward,” he said. So I got out the brandy, gave him a sip and took one for myself. “All right, Duke,” he said finally, “I think I’ll rest for a while.” I went home, and that was Pappy Ford’s last day.
 I’ve been allowed a few more years – I hope. My lung capacity is naturally limited now, but I had a pretty good set before the disease hit me, so it isn’t too noticeable in my everyday life.
[After failing to win the Best Actor Oscar for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)] The best way to survive an Oscar is to never try to win another one. You’ve seen what happens to some Oscar winners. They spend the rest of their lives turning down scripts while searching for the great role to win another one. Hell, I hope I’m never even nominated again. It’s meat-and-potato roles for me from now on.
[on The Alamo (1960)] This picture is America. I hope that seeing the battle of the Alamo will remind Americans that liberty and freedom don’t come cheap. This picture, well, I guess making it has made me feel useful to my country.
 I suddenly found out after 25 years I was starting out all over again. I would just about break even if I sold everything right now.
[12/29/64] I’ve had lung cancer, the big C. But I’ve beaten the son of a bitch. Maybe I can give some poor bastard a little hope by being honest. I want people to know cancer can be licked. My advisers all told me that the public doesn’t want its movie heroes associated with serious illness like cancer, that it destroys their image. Well, I don’t care much about images, and, anyway, I would have thought there was a lot better image in the fact that John Wayne had cancer and licked it.
 I drink for comradeship, and when I drink for comradeship, I don’t bother to keep count.
 I’m a progressive thinker, even though I’m not in the liberal strain.
 Get a checkup. Talk someone you like into getting a checkup. Nag someone you love into getting a checkup. And while you’re at it, send a check to the American Cancer Society. It’s great to be alive.
 Well, you like . . . each picture for . . . a different reason. But I think my favorite will always be the next one.
[on television] I don’t know if I love it or hate it, but there sure has never been any form of entertainment so . . . so . . . available to the human race with so little effort since they invented marital sex.
 And to all you folks out there, I want to thank you for the last fifty years of my career. And I hope I can keep at it another fifty years – or at least until I can get it right.
 Listen, I spoke to the man up there on many occasions and I have what I always had: deep faith that there is a Supreme Being. There has to be, you know; it’s just to me, that’s just a normal thing, to have that kind of faith. The fact that He’s let me stick around a little longer certainly goes great with me, and I want to hang around as long as I’m healthy and not in anybody’s way.
[6/78] I’m a greedy old man. Life’s been good to me, and I want some more of it.
Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure I love my country with all her faults. I’m not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be. I was proud when President Nixon [ Richard Nixon ] ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor, which we should have done long ago, because I think we’re helping a brave little country defend herself against Communist invasion. That’s what I tried to show in The Green Berets (1968) and I took plenty of abuse from the critics. Did you ever see reviews like that? Reviews with hatred and nastiness.
[his speech at The 42nd Annual Academy Awards (1970)] Wow! Ladies and gentlemen, I’m no stranger to this podium. I’ve come up here and picked up these beautiful golden men before, but always for friends. One night I picked up two: one for Admiral John Ford and one for our beloved Gary Cooper . I was very clever and witty that night – the envy of, even, Bob Hope . But tonight I don’t feel very clever, very witty. I feel very grateful, very humble, and I owe thanks to many, many people. I want to thank the members of the Academy. To all you people who are watching on television, thank you for taking such warm interest in our glorious industry. Good night.
When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it.
A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.
When the road looks rough ahead, remember the Man Upstairs and the word “Hope”. Hang onto both and tough it out.
We’ve made mistakes along the way, but that’s no reason to start tearing up the best flag God ever gave to any country.
[on his third wife Pilar Wayne ] I can tell you why I love her. I have a lust for her dignity. I look at her wonderfully classic face, and I see hidden in it a sense of humor that I love. I think of wonderful, exciting, decent things when I look at her.
The West – the very words go straight to that place of the heart where Americans feel the spirit of pride in their western heritage – the triumph of personal courage over any obstacle, whether nature or man.
There’s a lot of yella bastards in the country who would like to call patriotism old-fashioned. With all that leftist activity, I was quite obviously on the other side. I was invited at first to a coupla cell meetings, and I played the lamb to listen to ’em for a while. The only guy that ever fooled me was the director Edward Dmytryk . I made a picture with him called Back to Bataan (1945). He started talking about the masses, and as soon as he started using that word – which is from their book, not ours – I knew he was a Commie.
My main object in making a motion picture is entertainment. If at the same time I can strike a blow for liberty, then I’ll stick one in.
I think those blacklisted people should have been sent over to Russia. They’d have been taken care of over there, and if the Commies ever won over here, why hell, those guys would be the first ones they’d take care of – after me.
I said there was a tall, lanky kid that led 150 airplanes across Berlin. He was an actor, but that day, I said, he was a colonel. Colonel Jimmy Stewart [ James Stewart ]. So I said, “What is all this crap about Reagan [ Ronald Reagan ] being an actor?”
In spite of the fact that Rooster Cogburn would shoot a fella between the eyes, he’d judge that fella before he did it. He was merely trying to make the area in which he was marshal livable for the most number of people.
I wrote to the head man at General Motors and said, “I’m gonna have to desert you if you don’t stop making cars for women.'”
Paul Newman would have been a much more important star if he hadn’t always tried to be an anti-hero, to show the human feet of clay.
Contrary to what people think, I’m no politician, and when I have something to say I say it through my movies.
[on Donovan’s Reef (1963)] The script really called for a younger guy. I felt awkward romancing a young girl at my age.
[on Jet Pilot (1957)] It is undoubtedly one of my worst movies ever.
[on Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973)] It just wasn’t a well done picture. It needed better writing, it needed a little better care in making.
I had the feeling my career was going to decline back in ’68. I’d just had a big hit with The Green Berets (1968), but I wasn’t getting any younger and I knew Hellfighters (1968) wasn’t going to set the box office on fire. Then I read a script for a film called True Grit (1969).
[on High Plains Drifter (1973)] That isn’t what the West was all about. That isn’t the American people who settled this country.
[on Raoul Walsh ] I’ve been very lucky in the men I’ve worked with. Raoul Walsh — the heartiness and lustiness he gave to pictures I thought was tremendous.
[on They Came to Cordura (1959)] How they got Gary Cooper to do that one! To me, at least, it simply degrades the Medal of Honor. The whole story makes a mockery of America’s highest award for valor. The whole premise of the story was wrong, illogical, because they don’t pick the type of men the movie picked to win the award, and that can be proved by the very history of the award.
[on Republic Pictures’ chief Herbert J. Yates ‘ failed attempts to make a star out of wife Vera Ralston ] Yates was one of the smartest businessmen I ever met. I respected him in many ways, and he liked me. But when it came to the woman he loved, his business brains just went flyin’ out the window.
I know what the critics think–that I can’t act. What is a great actor anyway? Of course, you could say a great actor is one who can play many different parts, like [ Laurence Olivier ] can. But all the parts I play are tailor-made for me.
[on reactions to The Green Berets (1968)] The left-wingers are shredding my flesh, but like Liberace , we’re bawling all the way to the bank.
But you know, I’m very conscious that people criticize Hollywood. Yet we’ve created a form, the Western, that can be understood in every country. The good guys against the bad guys. No nuances. And the horse is the best vehicle of action in our medium. You take action, a scene, and scenery, and cut them together, and you never miss. Action, scene, scenery. But when you think about the Western–ones I’ve made, for example. Stagecoach (1939), Red River (1948), The Searchers (1956), a picture named Hondo (1953) that had a little depth to it–it’s an American art form. It represents what this country is about. In True Grit (1969), for example, that scene where Rooster shoots the rat. That was a kind of reference to today’s problems. Oh, not that “True Grit” has a message or anything. But that scene was about less accommodation, and more justice. They keep bringing up the fact that America’s for the downtrodden. But this new thing of genuflecting to the downtrodden, I don’t go along with that. We ought to go back to praising the kids who get good grades, instead of making excuses for the ones who shoot the neighborhood grocery man. But, hell, I don’t want to get started on that!
But back to True Grit (1969). Henry Hathaway used the backgrounds in such a way that it became almost a fantasy. Remember that one scene, where old Rooster is facing those four men across the meadow, and he takes the reins in his teeth and charges? Fill your hands, you varmints! That’s Henry at work. It’s a real meadow, but it looks almost dreamlike. Henry made it a fantasy and yet he kept it an honest Western. You get something of that in the character of Rooster. Well, they say he’s not like what I’ve done before, and I even say that, but he does have facets of the John Wayne character, huh? I think he does. Of course, they give me that John Wayne stuff so much, claim I always play the same role. Seems like nobody remembers how different the fellas were in The Quiet Man (1952). Or Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Or She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), where I was 35 playing a man of 65. To stay a star, you have to bring along some of your own personality. Thousands of good actors can carry a scene, but a star has to carry the scene and still, without intruding, allow some of his character into it.
[on True Grit (1969)] And that ending. I liked that. You know, in the book Mattie loses her hand from the snakebite, and I die, and the last scene in the book has her looking at my grave. But the way Marguerite Roberts wrote the screenplay, she gave it an uplift. Mattie and Rooster both go to visit her family plot, after she gets cured of the snakebite. By now it’s winter. And she offers to let Rooster be buried there some day, seeing as how he has no family of his own. Rooster’s happy to accept, long as he doesn’t have to take her up on it too quick. So then he gets on his horse and says, “Come and see a fat old man sometime”. And then he spurs the horse and jumps a fence, just to show he still can.
[in 1973] Hell yes, I’m a liberal. I listen to both sides before I make up my mind. Doesn’t that make you a liberal? Not in today’s terms, it doesn’t. These days, you have to be a fucking left-wing radical to be a liberal. Politically, though . . . I’ve mellowed.
I’m glad I won’t be around much longer to see what they do with it. The men who control the big studios today are stock manipulators and bankers. They know nothing about our business. They’re in it for the buck. The only thing they can do is say, “Jeez, that picture with what’s-her-name running around the park naked made money, so let’s make another one. If that’s what they want, let’s give it to them.” Some of these guys remind me of high-class whores. Look at 20th Century-Fox, where they’re making movies like Myra Breckinridge (1970). Why doesn’t that son of a bitch Darryl F. Zanuck get himself a striped silk shirt and learn how to play the piano? Then he could work in any room in the house. As much as I couldn’t stand some of the old-time moguls – especially Harry Cohn – these men took an interest in the future of their business. They had integrity. There was a stretch when they realized that they’d made a hero out of the goddamn gangster heavy in crime movies, that they were doing a discredit to our country. So the moguls voluntarily took it upon themselves to stop making gangster pictures. No censorship from the outside. They were responsible to the public. But today’s executives don’t give a damn. In their efforts to grab the box office that these sex pictures are attracting, they’re producing garbage. They’re taking advantage of the fact that nobody wants to be called a bluenose. But they’re going to reach the point where the American people will say, “The hell with this!” And once they do, we’ll have censorship in every state, in every city, and there’ll be no way you can make even a worthwhile picture for adults and have it acceptable for national release.
Every time they rate a picture, they let a little more go. Ratings are ridiculous to begin with. There was no need for rated pictures when the major studios were in control. Movies were once made for the whole family. Now, with the kind of junk the studios are cranking out-and the jacked-up prices they’re charging for the privilege of seeing it – the average family is staying home and watching television. I’m quite sure that within two or three years, Americans will be completely fed up with these perverted films.
But don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex. It’s an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in pictures. Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.
When you get hairy, sweaty bodies in the foreground, it becomes distasteful, unless you use a pretty heavy gauze. I can remember seeing pictures that Ernst Lubitsch made in the ’30s that were beautifully risqué–and you’d certainly send your children to see them. They were done with intimation. They got over everything these other pictures do without showing the hair and the sweat. When you think of the wonderful picture fare we’ve had through the years and realize we’ve come to this shit, it’s disgusting. If they want to continue making those pictures, fine. But my career will have ended. I’ve already reached a pretty good height right now in a business that I feel is going to fade out from its own vulgarity.
Perhaps we have run out of imagination on how to effect illusion because of the satiating realism of a real war on television. But haven’t we got enough of that in real life? Why can’t the same point be made just as effectively in a drama without all the gore? The violence in my pictures, for example, is lusty and a little bit humorous, because I believe humor nullifies violence. Like in one picture, directed by Henry Hathaway The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)], this heavy was sticking a guy’s head in a barrel of water. I’m watching this and I don’t like it one bit, so I pick up this pick handle and I yell, “Hey!” and clock him across the head. Down he went–with no spurting blood. Well, that got a hell of a laugh because of the way I did it. That’s my kind of violence.
[on True Grit (1969)] In my other pictures, we’ve had an explosion or something go off when a bad word was said. This time we didn’t. It’s profanity, all right, but I doubt if there’s anybody in the United States who hasn’t heard the expression “son of a bitch” or “bastard”. We felt it was acceptable in this instance. At the emotional high point in that particular picture, I felt it was OK to use it. It would have been pretty hard to say “you illegitimate sons of so-and-so!”.
Rooster Cogburn’s attitude toward life was maybe a little different, but he was basically the same character I’ve always played.
They made me a singing cowboy. The fact that I couldn’t sing–or play the guitar–became terribly embarrassing to me, especially on personal appearances. Every time I made a public appearance, the kids insisted that I sing “The Desert Song” or something. But I couldn’t take along the fella who played the guitar out on one side of the camera and the fella who sang on the other side of the camera. So finally I went to the head of the studio and said. “Screw this, I can’t handle it.” And I quit doing those kind of pictures. They went out and brought the best hillbilly recording artist in the country to Hollywood to take my place. For the first couple of pictures, they had a hard time selling him, but he finally caught on. His name was Gene Autry . It was 1939 before I made Stagecoach (1939)–the picture that really made me a star.
Rio Lobo (1970) certainly wasn’t any different from most of my Westerns. Nor was Chisum (1970), the one before that. But there still seems to be a very hearty public appetite for this kind of film–what some writers call a typical John Wayne Western. That’s a label they use disparagingly . . . If I depended on the critics’ judgment and recognition, I’d never have gone into the motion-picture business.
Sure it did–even if it took the industry 40 years to get around to it [awarding him an Oscar]. But I think both of my two previous Oscar nominations–for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)–were worthy of the honor. I know the Marines and all the American armed forces were quite proud of my portrayal of Stryker, the Marine sergeant in “Iwo”. At an American Legion convention in Florida, General Douglas MacArthur told me, “You represent the American serviceman better than the American serviceman himself.” And, at 42, in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” I played the same character that I played in True Grit (1969) at 62. But I really didn’t need an Oscar. I’m a box-office champion with a record they’re going to have to run to catch. And they won’t.
Let’s say I hope that I appeal to the more carefree times in a person’s life rather than to his reasoning adulthood. I’d just like to be an image that reminds someone of joy rather than of the problems of the world.
Luckily so far, it seems they kind of consider me an older friend, somebody believable and down-to-earth. I’ve avoided being mean or petty, but I’ve never avoided being rough or tough. I’ve only played one cautious part in my life, in Allegheny Uprising (1939). My parts have ranged from that rather dull character to Ralls in Wake of the Red Witch (1948), who was a nice enough fella sober, but bestial when he was drunk, and certainly a rebel. I was also a rebel in Reap the Wild Wind (1942) with Cecil B. DeMille . I’ve played many parts in which I’ve rebelled against something in society. I was never much of a joiner. Kids do join things, but they also like to consider themselves individuals capable of thinking for themselves. So do I.
Entertainers like Steve Allen and his cronies who went up to Northern California and held placards to save the life of that guy Caryl Chessman . I just don’t understand these things. I can’t understand why our national leadership isn’t willing to take the responsibility of leadership instead of checking polls and listening to the few that scream. Why are we allowing ourselves to become a mobocracy instead of a democracy? When you allow unlawful acts to go unpunished, you’re moving toward a government of men rather than a government of law; you’re moving toward anarchy. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We allow dirty loudmouths to publicly call policemen pigs; we let a fella like William Kunstler make a speech to the Black Panthers saying that the ghetto is theirs, and that if police come into it, they have a right to shoot them. Why is that dirty, no-good son of a bitch allowed to practice law?
Quite obviously, the Black Panthers represent a danger to society. They’re a violent group of young men and women – adventurous, opinionated and dedicated – and they throw their disdain in our face. Now, I hear some of these liberals saying they’d like to be held as white hostages in the Black Panther offices and stay there so that they could see what happens on these early-morning police raids. It might be a better idea for these good citizens to go with the police on a raid. When they search a Panther hideout for firearms, let these do-gooders knock and say, “Open the door in the name of the law” and get shot at.
They’re standing up for what they feel is right, not for what they think is right–’cause they don’t think. As a kid, the Panther ideas probably would have intrigued me. When I was a little kid, you could be adventurous like that without hurting anybody. There were periods when you could blow the valve and let off some steam. Like Halloween. You’d talk about it for three months ahead of time, and then that night you’d go out and stick the hose in the lawn, turn it on and start singing “Old Black Joe” or something. And when people came out from their Halloween party, you’d lift the hose and wet them down. And while you were running, the other kids would be stealing the ice cream from the party. All kinds of rebellious actions like that were accepted for that one day. Then you could talk about it for three months afterward. That took care of about six months of the year. There was another day called the Fourth of July, when you could go out and shoot firecrackers and burn down two or three buildings. So there were two days a year. Now those days are gone. You can’t have firecrackers, you can’t have explosives, you can’t have this, don’t do this, don’t do that. Don’t . . . don’t . . . don’t. A continual “don’t” until the kids are ready to do almost anything rebellious. The government makes the rules, so now the running of our government is the thing they’re rebelling against. For a lot of those kids, that’s just being adventurous. They’re not deliberately setting out to undermine the foundations of our great country. They’re doing their level worst–without knowing it. How ’bout all the kids that were at the Chicago Democratic Convention? They were conned into doing hysterical things by a bunch of activists. A lot of Communist-activated people. I know Communism’s a horrible word to some people. They laugh and say, “He’ll be finding them under his bed tomorrow.” But perhaps that’s because their kid hasn’t been inculcated yet. Dr. Herbert Marcuse , the political philosopher at the University of California at San Diego, who is quite obviously a Marxist, put it very succinctly when he said, “We will use the anarchists.”
Herbert Marcuse ] has become a hero only for an articulate clique. The men that give me faith in my country are fellas like Spiro Agnew , not the Marcuses. They’ve attempted in every way to humiliate Agnew. They’ve tried the old Rooseveltian thing of trying to laugh him out of political value of his party. Every comedian’s taken a crack at him. But I bet if you took a poll today, he’d probably be one of the most popular men in the United States. Nobody likes Spiro Agnew but the people. Yet he and other responsible government leaders are booed and pelted when they speak on college campuses.
Well, when I went to USC, if anybody had gone into the president’s office and shit in his wastepaper basket and used the dirt to write vulgar words on the wall, not only the football team but the average kid on campus would have gone to work on the guy. There doesn’t seem to be respect for authority anymore; these student dissenters act like children who have to have their own way on everything. They’re immature and living in a little world all their own. Just like hippie dropouts, they’re afraid to face the real competitive world.
I figure if we’re going to send even one man to die, we ought to be in an all-out conflict. If you fight, you fight to win. And the domino theory is something to be reckoned with, too, both in Europe and in Asia. Look at what happened in Czechoslovakia and what’s happened all through the Balkans. At some point we have to stop communism. So we might as well stop it right now in Vietnam.
Many of us were being invited to supposed social functions or house parties–usually at well-known Hollywood writers’ homes–that turned out to be Communist recruitment meetings. Suddenly, everybody from makeup men to stagehands found themselves in seminars on Marxism. Take this colonel I knew, the last man to leave the Philippines on a submarine in 1942. He came back here and went to work sending food and gifts to U.S. prisoners on Bataan. He’d already gotten a Dutch ship that was going to take all this stuff over. The State Department pulled him off of it and sent the poor bastard out to be the technical director on my picture Back to Bataan (1945), which was being made by Edward Dmytryk . I knew that he and a whole group of actors in the picture were pro-Reds, and when I wasn’t there, these pro-Reds went to work on the colonel. He was a Catholic, so they kidded him about his religion: They even sang “The Internationale” at lunchtime. He finally came to me and said, “Mr. Wayne, I haven’t anybody to turn to. These people are doing everything in their power to belittle me.” So I went to Dmytryk and said, “Hey, are you a Commie?” He said, “No, I’m not a Commie. My father was a Russian. I was born in Canada. But if the masses of the American people want communism, I think it’d be good for our country.” When he used the word “masses,” he exposed himself. That word is not a part of Western terminology. So I knew he was a Commie. Well, it later came out that he was. I also knew two other fellas who really did things that were detrimental to our way of life. One of them was Carl Foreman , the guy who wrote the screenplay for High Noon (1952), and the other was Robert Rossen , the one who made the picture about Huey Long All the King’s Men (1949). In Rossen’s version of “All the King’s Men”, which he sent me to read for a part, every character who had any responsibility at all was guilty of some offense against society. To make Huey Long a wonderful, rough pirate was great; but, according to this picture, everybody was a shit except for this weakling intern doctor who was trying to find a place in the world. I sent the script back to Charles Feldman , my agent, and said, “If you ever send me a script like this again, I’ll fire you.” Ironically, it won the Academy Award. “High Noon” was even worse. Everybody says “High Noon” is a great picture because Dimitri Tiomkin wrote some great music for it and because Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly were in it. So it’s got everything going for it. In that picture, four guys come in to gun down the sheriff. He goes to the church and asks for help and the guys go, “Oh well, oh gee.” And the women stand up and say, “You’re rats. You’re rats. You’re rats.” So Cooper goes out alone. It’s the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. The last thing in the picture is ole Coop putting the United States marshal’s badge under his foot and stepping on it. I’ll never regret having helped run Foreman out of this country. Running him out of the country is just a figure of speech. But I did tell him that I thought he’d hurt Gary Cooper’s reputation a great deal. Foreman said, “Well, what if I went to England?” I said, “Well, that’s your business.” He said, “Well, that’s where I’m going.” And he did.
I’ve always followed my father’s advice: He told me, first, to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddamn sure I intend to. And, third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble. Well, I guess I have had some problems sticking to that third rule, but I’d say I’ve done pretty damn well with the first and second. I try to have good enough taste to insult only those I wish to insult. I’ve worked in a business where it’s almost a requirement to break your word if you want to survive, but whenever I signed a contract for five years or for a certain amount of money, I’ve always lived up to it. I figured that if I was silly enough to sign it, or if I thought it was worth while at the time, that’s the way she goes. I’m not saying that I won’t drive as hard a bargain as I can. In fact, I think more about that end of the business than I did before, ever since 1959, when I found that my business manager was playing more than he was working. I didn’t know how bad my financial condition was until my lawyer and everybody else said, “Let’s all have a meeting and figure out exactly where you stand.” At the conclusion of that meeting, it was quite obvious that I wasn’t in anywhere near the shape that I thought I was or ought to be after twenty-five years of hard work. If they’d given me the time to sell everything without taking a quick loss, I would have come out about even. Oil and everything else. Not enough constructive thinking had been done. Then there was the shrimp fiasco. One of my dearest friends was Robert Arias, who was married to the ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn . While his brother Tony was alive, we had control of about seventy per cent of the shrimp in Panama. We were also buying some island property near the Panama Canal. We were going to put in a ship-repair place. There were tugs standing down there at $150 a day to drag ships back up to the United States, because repair prices in the Canal Zone were so high. But our plans fell through when Tony was killed in an airplane accident. Around a half a million dollars was lost. If anything happened to me now, I have the right amount of insurance. I hope and pray, for my estate. I’m about as big a rancher as there is in Arizona, so I have outside interests other than my motion-picture work. The turning point was the moment I decided to watch what was being done with my money.
I had two operations six days apart – one for a cancer that was as big as a baby’s fist, and then one for edema. I wasn’t so uptight when I was told about the cancer. My biggest fear came when they twisted my windpipe and had to sew me back together a second time. When my family came in to see me and I saw the looks on their faces, I figured, “Well, Jeez, I must be just about all through. I kept my spirits up by thinking about God and my family and my friends and telling myself, “Everything will be all right.” And it was. I licked the Big C. I know the man upstairs will pull the plug when he wants to, but I don’t want to end up my life being sick. I want to go out on two feet – in action. The operation hasn’t impeded anything except that I get short of breath quickly. Particularly in the higher altitudes, that slows me down. I still do my own fights and all that stuff. I’d probably do a little bit more if I had more wind, but I still do more than my share. Nobody else does anything any more than I do, whether they’re young or old.
I don’t have to assert my virility. I think my career has shown that I’m not exactly a pantywaist. But I do take pride in my work, even to the point of being the first one on the set in the morning. I’m a professional.
What the hell, in my racket I’ve fallen off a lot of horses. I even fell off on purpose in True Grit (1969). But that fall in The Undefeated (1969) was irritating because I tore some ligaments in my shoulder. I don’t have good use of one arm anymore, and it makes me look like an idiot when I’m getting on a horse.
There’s been no top authority saying what marijuana does to you. I really don’t know that much about it. I tried it once, but it didn’t do anything to me. The kids say it makes them think they’re going thirty miles an hour when they’re going eighty. If that’s true, marijuana use should definitely be stopped. When I went to Hong Kong, I tried opium once, as a clinical thing. I heard it didn’t make you sick the first time, and Jesus, it just didn’t affect me one way or the other, either. So I’m not a very good judge of how debasing it is.
Well, at one time in my career, I guess sexuality was part of my appeal. But God, I’m 63 years old now. How the hell do I know whether I still convey that? Jeez. It’s pretty hard to answer a question like, “Are you attractive to broads?” All that crap comes from the way I walk, I guess. There’s evidently a virility in it. Otherwise, why do they keep mentioning it? But I’m certainly not conscious of any particular walk. I guess I must walk different than other people, but I haven’t gone to any school to learn how.
If a guy wants to wear his hair down to his ass, I’m not revolted by it. But I don’t look at him and say, “Now there’s a fella I’d like to spend next winter with.”
Winston Churchill ‘s the most terrific fella of our century. If I had to make a speech on the subject of Communism, I could think of nobody that had a better insight or that said things concerning the future that have proven out so well. Let me read to you from a book of his quotes. While [ Franklin D. Roosevelt ] was giving the world Communism, Churchill said, “I tell you–it’s no use arguing with a Communist. It’s no good trying to convert a Communist, or persuade him. You can only deal with them on the following basis . . . you can only do it by having superior force on your side on the matter in question–and they must also be convinced that you will use–you will not hesitate to use these forces if necessary, in the most ruthless manner. You have not only to convince the Soviet government that you have superior force–but that you are not restrained by any moral consideration if the case arose from using that force with complete material ruthlessness. And that is the greatest chance of peace, the surest road to peace. Churchill was unparalleled. Above all, he took a nearly beaten nation and kept their dignity for them.
If I had it to do over again, I’d probably do everything I did. But that’s not necessarily the right thing to do.
You’re going to think I’m being corny, but this is how I really feel: I hope my family and my friends will be able to say that I was an honest, kind and fairly decent man.
[About his close friend Maureen O’Hara ] There’s only one woman who has been my friend over the years and by that I mean a real friend, like a man would be. That woman is Maureen O’Hara. She’s big, lusty, and absolutely marvelous, definitely my kind of woman. She’s a great guy. I’ve had many friends and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O’Hara.
[on Maureen O’Hara ] She is a woman who speaks her mind and that impressed me, despite my old-fashioned chauvinistic ways! She is feminine and beautiful, but there is something about her that makes her more like a man. It’s her stubbornness and her willingness to stand up to anyone–even John Ford
[April 1944, on Victory Committee USO tour] What go me was the way those kids out there kept their sense of humor. Through hard work, battle, or deadly monotony, they could laugh. Healthy beefing, sure, but no squawks. Taking it, day after day, and no complaining. It got me.
[1/46, interview in “Screenland” magazine] The picture business has grown up since I got into it 15 years ago, has acquired a dignity that is beyond reproach. Hollywood is, today, a quiet town compared to other places I have been and can, moreover, be pretty proud of itself, having pushed more charities, given more time to selling war bonds and more talent to entertaining servicemen than any other town in any other part of the country.
In B-pictures all we ever did is tell a story. He’s gone to Red Gap! Where’s Red Gap? There’s Red Gap! Let’s git after him to Red Gap. Here’s Red Gap! But in A-pictures you reacted more to the situations.
You may think all my parts are the same. That’s just what I want you to think. You get lost on the screen if your personality doesn’t show through.
Couches are for one thing only.
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
[in 1971] I licked the Big C. I know the man upstairs will pull the plug when he wants to, but I don’t want to end my life being sick. I want to go out on two feet–in action.
[in 1971] Republic Pictures gave me a screen credit on one of the early pictures and called me Michael Burns. On another one they called me Duke Morrison. Then they decided Duke Morrison didn’t have enough prestige. My real name, Marion Michael Morrison, didn’t sound American enough for them. So they came up with John Wayne. I didn’t have any say in it, but I think it’s a great name. It’s short and strong and to the point. It took me a long time to get used to it, though. I still don’t recognize it when somebody calls me John . . .
[At his divorce trial in 1953] I deeply regret I’m going to have to sling mud.
(On Howard Hawks ) “Oh, yeah, Hawks and I had a few fights along the way,” Wayne said, “but he accepted me as an expert, which I was, and we did not have any more trouble, and I was always happy to work for Hawks.”
The guy you see on the screen really isn’t me. I’m Duke Morrison and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne. I know him well. I’m one of his closest students. I have to be. I make a living out of him.
Ladies and gentleman, a long time ago, Abraham Lincoln made a statement; ‘To sin by silence when you should speak out, makes cowards of men.’ It’s time we spoke out about Vietnam, and the most obvious, yet the most ignored threat ever faced by free people in the history of the world. The street demonstrators demand that we get out of Southeast Asia so that there will be peace. Where do they get the idea that there’ll be peace just because we quit? We can’t stop the war by givin’ up, and we sure can’t settle anything by tryin’ to bargain with a winning enemy at the peace table.This was a war that was going on a long time before Vietnam, and will go on whether we pull out or not. We can’t stop the war by giving up, and the way it is now, we’re not programmed to win, because of the politicians and civilians that we’ve let stick their nose in it.
[on the Vietnam War] What kind of a war is this that we’re not supposed to win?
I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. (speaking about Native American Indians in 1971)
[on turning down “Blazing Saddles”] I could never be in a movie that used the N-word.
Jesus Christ! Jesus, I wrecked that shoulder. Down in Baton Rouge, when I was making ‘The Undefeated,’ I twisted around in the saddle and the damn stirrup was completely loose. I fell right under that goddamned horse; I’m lucky I didn’t kill myself.
Jesus, that was a terrible thing about Gloria and James Stewart’s kid getting killed over there. It makes you want to cry. At least Jimmy was over there to see the kid a few months ago. That’s something. But it makes you want to cry. And Bob Taylor’s going was terrible. He was terminal since they opened him up. I know what he went through. They ripped a lung out of me. I thank God I’m still here.
But when you think about the Western … ones I’ve made, for example. ‘Stagecoach,’ ‘Red River,’ ‘The Searchers,’ a picture named ‘Hondo’ had a little depth to it … it’s an American art form. It represents what this country is about. In ‘True Grit,’ for example, that scene where Rooster shoots the rat. That was a kind of reference to today’s problems. Oh, not that ‘True Grit’ has a message or anything. But that scene was about less accommodation, and more justice.
And this, he said, is one of the guns the Russians are sending to kill our boys in Vietnam. People just won’t see we’re at war over there. Win or lose. Look at that – isn’t that a mean-looking rifle? And it’s a good one, too. But people just won’t realize. I heard a poem the other day … how did it go? ‘Every day I pray, I won’t go my complacent way …’. Well, I can’t remember it all. Something to the effect of, I won’t let those kids down over there.
Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance. I’d be pleased to win one, of course, although I imagine these things mean more to the public than to us. There are a lot of old standbys who don’t have one. That comedian … what the hell is his name? Cary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business.
It’s sure as hell my first decent role in 20 years, and my first chance to play a character role instead of John Wayne. Ordinarily they just stand me there and run everybody up against me.
They keep bringing up the fact that America’s for the downtrodden. But this new thing of genuflecting to the downtrodden, I don’t go along with that. We ought to go back to praising the kids who get good grades, instead of making excuses for the ones who shoot the neighborhood grocery man. But, hell, I don’t want to get started on that …
But you know, I’m very conscious that people criticize Hollywood. Yet we’ve created a form, the Western, that can be understood in every country. The good guys against the bad guys. No nuances. And the horse is the best vehicle of action in our medium. You take action, a scene, and scenery, and cut them together, and you never miss. Action, scene, scenery.
I was nominated for ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ but I didn’t win. Well, maybe this time they’ll review the picture instead of me and the war. That little clique back there in the East has taken great personal satisfaction in reviewing my politics instead of my pictures. And they’ve drawn up a caricature of me. Which doesn’t bother me; their opinions don’t matter to the people who go to movies.
And this is one of the guns the Russians are sending to kill our boys in Vietnam. People just won’t see we’re at war over there. Win or lose. Look at that – isn’t that a mean-looking rifle? And it’s a good one, too. But people just won’t realize. I heard a poem the other day … how did it go? ‘Every day I pray, I won’t go my complacent way …’. Well, I can’t remember it all. Something to the effect of, I won’t let those kids down over there.
Of course, they give me that John Wayne stuff so much, claim I always play the same role. Seems like nobody remembers how different the fellows were in ‘The Quiet Man.’ or ‘Iwo Jima,’ or ‘Yellow Ribbon,’ where I was 35 playing a man of 65. To stay a star, you have to bring along some of your own personality. Thousands of good actors can carry a scene, but a star has to carry the scene and still, without intruding, allow some of his character into it. What do you think?
You get something of that in the character of Rooster. Well, they say he’s not like what I’ve done before, and I even say that, but he does have facets of the John Wayne character, huh? I think he does.
[on the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals] We were just good Americans and we demanded the right to speak our minds. After all, the Communists in Hollywood were speaking theirs.
[on his non-service during World War II] I didn’t feel I could go in as a private. I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things. I was America to them. They took their sweethearts to Saturday matinees and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better than taking any position in the military.