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John Wayne

More Awesomeness, or John Wayne Part 2

I’ve been reminded that, in my earlier column on what to me were three glorious days spent in the company of John Wayne, I said that there is more to the story. Here’s what I meant:
I hurried through all my duties in shooting my special to hang with my new friend as much as possible. Just at this moment of typing I’ve identified the feeling I was having then. It was as if a 7th grader (me) had been befriended by the popular, big, tall, jock upperclassman. And wished everyone could see us together, maybe with his hand on my shoulder.
(Did anyone just reach for an airsick bag?)
The picture, “The Shootist,” was his last. There is debate still about whether Wayne knew at the time that he — like the legendary gunfighter he was playing — was dying of cancer. Most agree that he did.
Here was a greatly talented, highly intelligent, college-educated, well-read man of immense personal charm and humor. I think we can agree that he knew.
There’s a rough-going scene in which he asks Jimmy Stewart, playing his doctor, not to spare him the details of what will happen as the disease progresses. It’s fascinating, if true as some say that he had not been able to do this in life, but — by requesting that the script be sharpened in detail on this point — chose this route to the information.If I had to pick 10 highlights of my life, one would be my arrival on the set at almost the instant this scene was shot in the doctor’s office. The crew knew their long-time friend was not well. There seemed to be more people than usual standing around watching. When Stewart delivered the line with the dread word in it — the one even doctors will euphemise, as in “ca. of the breast” — a burly stage-hand-type near me had to quickly cover his mouth, apparently fearing that the sort of tearful, involuntary snort he emitted might have been picked up by a mike, spoiling the take. Similar moments on the part of crew members could be seen all around.

A second consequence of my time on the set with John Wayne: It’s early afternoon on the Western town square set. Costumed extras relaxing, smoking, gossiping, strolling, reading trade papers, Wayne off somewhere resting, napping or playing chess during a long break. (I can eye-witness report this: during breaks he shed his boots and slipped into a chartreuse pair of those fluffy marabou slippers more associated with women. Ludicrosity rampant. Probably a custom-made joke gift from a colleague. Or taken off a very large lady.)
A lone horse was at the hitching post. A huge horse. I had a sudden semi-rational urge. “Is that Dollar?” I asked. And I got onto John Wayne’s horse. To my surprise I find that I’ve recounted this sorry tale before, in this very paper in 1998. Reading it again scares the chaps off me, so suffice it to say that by the time Dollar’s spine-punishing trot had escalated into something more hazardous, then de-accelerated from there, and I was returned, trembling, to terra firma, there’d been a great deal of yelling from the crew and scattering of sun-bonneted extras (one clarion voice sounded above the rest: “Who the —— is that on Duke’s horse?”) and I was in a position to state for the record that an eternity lasts about 45 seconds.

I had one more glorious day with Wayne. He had agreed to appear on my special, and as I sat beside him — he in full costume — on a buckboard, with me holding the reins, in one hand, he said, “Are we rollin’?” At “Yes,” he took my hand mike and said into it, “Hi, this is John Wayne interviewing Dick Cavett.” (Don’t let me awaken, I thought.) We had a good time, and I might be able to retrieve this one for a future column.
The sun was up and the sky still bright but it had gotten to the time in the afternoon when the light changes undesirably for color film. I asked if they had finished shooting for the day.
“Yeah, it’s gettin’ a little yella.” (I won’t force the symbolic poignancy of those words.)
When we parted, I told him as best I could what a good time we had had together and what it meant to me. I said I felt kind of foolish, asking for an autographed photo.
“That shouldn’t be any trouble.”
He called for one, wrote on it, and without showing it to me, put it in an envelope.
We talked for a while more, mostly about the current prices of Indian artifacts, which I had seen swoop suddenly upwards. I asked him if he owned the beautiful beaded and long-fringed plains rifle case — probably Sioux or Cheyenne — he carried in John Ford’s “The Searchers.”
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” he said, grinning. “I bet I’ve thought about it a hundred times. I can’t watch the picture because of it. I tried later to find it, but somebody smarter than I am must’ve gotten it.”
“Didn’t it occur to you, maybe on the last day, to just slip it into your duffle bag?”
“It does now.” (Laughter.)

Having said goodbye and still aglow, while driving on the freeway, I remembered the picture. Pulling over like a responsible citizen, I slipped it out of the envelope, hoping there might be more than just the traditional “Best wishes” and a signature.
It read: “To Dick Cavett from John Wayne.”
This, of course, was enough. But below it there was another line.
“We should have started sooner.”
You bet I cried.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

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