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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Attempt To Break Out Of Westerns Nearly Killed His Career

John Wayne tried to break his Western typecasting early on in his career – which almost destroyed it. A look at Wayne’s filmography reveals he made a movie in just about every genre, from historical dramas to romantic comedies. He will forever be tied to Westerns, however, and felt uniquely suited to the genre. Wayne starred in over 80 Westerns across his 50-year career, with even his final starring role – 1976’s The Shootist – being an Oater also. Early on in his career, he made dozens of low-budget, “Poverty Row” Westerns, including his “horror” Western Haunted Gold in 1932.
During the 1930s he seemed poised for stardom, but his big break was slow arriving. He attempted to split from both Westerns and Poverty Row by moving from b-movie studio Republic to Universal in the late 1930s. According to Shooting Star: A Biography of John Wayne (via /Film), Wayne was promised by Universal producer Trem Carr that if he made the leap, Universal would pull him out of Westerns and into a variety of more contemporary projects. When Carr kept his Western promise, Wayne’s six-movie run with Universal very nearly ended his career, as they were all cheapies too.
John Wayne’s Non-Western Movies Were Terrible

john wayne in idol of the crowds

With Universal, Wayne – whose last “role” was Star Wars – starred in everything from ice hockey drama Idol Of The Crowds – where the actor had never played prior to filming – or action movies like California Straight Ahead! Carr was attempting to make low-budget films with up-and-coming stars that would rival bigger budget fare from other studios. His scheme didn’t pay off for Wayne, with all of the films being shot quickly and cheaply. None of them were hits and they did little to elevate Wayne’s career. The now-lost Adventure’s End was the final movie of his Universal deal
How Stagecoach Saved John Wayne’s Career

Stagecoach

Instead of helping his career, his move away from the genre left Wayne in a bad spot. He claimed to have “crawled” back to Republic after his Universal days, as he couldn’t find work elsewhere. He embarked on another series of b-Westerns like Red River Range, before his friend John Ford (played by David Lynch in Fablemans) cast him as the Ringo Kid in 1939’s Stagecoach. The film is now regarded as one of the most important Westerns ever, and made the careers of both Wayne and Ford; Stagecoach was one of Wayne’s favorite films of his own, too.

After toiling away in b-projects for over a decade, Stagecoach finally gave Wayne the star-making role he was seeking. He made plenty of projects outside Westerns, including Sands of Iwo Jima or The Quiet Man, but most of his biggest hits came within the genre. The Searchers – another Ford collaboration – Rio Bravo (part of an unofficial trilogy) and True Grit are just some of his biggest successes, with the latter winning Wayne his sole Academy Award. His latter career can be traced back to the success of Stagecoach, however, but who knows how his filmography may have evolved if his Universal gamble had paid off.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Explosive Encounter Standing Up for a Young Marine Against Heckling USC Students Inspired ‘The Green Berets’

The Green Berets actor John Wayne had an abundance of respect for those who put their lives on the line for the United States. This certainly became apparent in his movies, but it also bled into his personal life. Wayne once confronted some USC students heckling a young marine, which led to The Green Berets.

John Wayne plays Col. Mike Kirby in ‘The Green Berets’

John Wayne as Col. Mike Kirby in 'The Green Berets' in a military uniform holding a gun

John Wayne as Col. Mike Kirby | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

The Green Berets follows a cynical reporter named George Beckworth (David Janssen), who is against the Vietnam War. However, he is sent to cover the conflict and must tag along with a group of Green Berets. He meets a tough man named Col. Mike Kirby (Wayne), who leads the team through a top-secret mission. They intend to kidnap an important enemy commander, but nothing is as simple as it seems.

The Green Berets is a financially successful Wayne feature, but it didn’t settle as well with critics. The pro-war messaging offended a lot of reviewers. Nevertheless, his fan base continues to celebrate the passion that the actor had for veterans and the country overall.

John Wayne’s explosive encounter with USC students inspired ‘The Green Berets’

Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend takes a look at how The Green Berets came to exist. He explained that the “genesis” of the movie comes from an encounter that the actor had on the USC campus. The actor was on the college grounds to discuss a benefit for a children’s hospital and saw some students protesting the Vietnam War. However, an incident really got his blood boiling.

“What got my goat was that these students were heckling a young marine, a corporal, who was going by and heading for his car,” Wayne recalled. “He walked with his back straight as a rod, and he wore his uniform with pride. Then I noticed that where his right arm should have been there was only an empty sleeve which was neatly folded and pinned back.”

Wayne continued: “Turned out he was one of the Ninth Marine Brigade which were the first ground troops America sent to Vietnam. He had a chest full of medals and ribbons and said his drill instructor had taught him to ignore impolite civilians. He said, ‘You don’t give them the satisfaction of noticing them.’ I waved to him as he drove away.”

“And my blood was boiling,” Wayne said. “I ran over to the students and I was just so angry, I drummed my fists into their goddamn table and I said, “You stupid bastards! You stupid fing a**holes! Blame Johnson if you like, blame Kennedy. Blame Eisenhower or Truman or fing goddamn Roosevelt. But don’t you blame that kid. Don’t you dare blame any of those kids. They served! Jesus, the kid lost his arm. I mean what the hell is happening to this country?”

The actor wanted the movie to be ‘as American as apple pie’

John Wayne in The Green Berets. While visiting the troops in Vietnam, he was given a silver friendship bracelet presented by a Montagnard Strike Force unit. He wore the bracelet the rest of his life. More on his travels to Vietnam here: https://t.co/Kd7G2koaw7 pic.twitter.com/RNeiToDZEx— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) December 30, 2018

Eyman continued that the first “concrete sign” of Wayne’s The Green Berets was a letter written on December 29, 1965. The actor wrote to director George Stevens expressing his interest in making a feature film about the Vietnam War. He knew that Stevens’ son worked for the government and would need their help to make this picture possible.

“It will have the scope, integrity and dignity required by the subject matter,” Wayne wrote. “Our film about the exciting new unit fighting in Vietnam will be as American as ‘apple pie’ and as harshly against the ‘beard and sandal’ brigade as possible.”

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John Wayne

John Wayne Shouted a Gay Slur to Describe Kirk Douglas’ Costume Choice

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas didn’t see eye-to-eye throughout their time in the entertainment industry. They disagreed on politics, but it went farther than that point. Nevertheless, Wayne and Douglas ultimately were able to put their differences aside to work on a project, even though it originally got off to a rocky start.

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas co-starred in ‘The War Wagon’

John Wayne as Taw Jackson and Kirk Douglas as Lomax in 'The War Wagon' sitting on horseback in cowboy uniforms

L-R: John Wayne as Taw Jackson and Kirk Douglas as Lomax | Bettmann via Getty Images

Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend tells the stories of the legendary actor and those around him, including his co-stars. Wayne starred in a Universal movie called The War Wagon with Douglas. Wayne wanted Rod Taylor, but the studio overrode his decision and cast Douglas instead “for $300,000 plus 15 percent of the gross after break-even until he got a total of $675,000. After, he got 10 percent of the worldwide gross.

The War Wagon director Burt Kennedy explained how he was having a difficult time with Wayne hand-picking him. It didn’t help that the actor massively intimidated the director.

“The only reason The War Wagon was a hard time was that Duk started me,” Kennedy said. “[He] picked me up off the street. Kirk Douglas said in his book that I was afraid of Duke. Hell, everybody was afraid of him.”

John Wayne shouted a gay slur to describe Kirk Douglas’ costume choice

John Wayne: The Life and Legend explained how The War Wagon production didn’t start off on a great note. Actors Wayne and Douglas certainly didn’t get along when Douglas showed up on the set with a costume that included a “flamboyant ring worn over a black leather glove.” Eyman stated that this was his attempt at stealing the scene and acted as a test for the director.

However, Wayne wasn’t willing to play around with Douglas. He suddenly shouted a gay slur about him to Kennedy, telling him that if they didn’t get him off the set, he would quit the picture immediately. The director wanted to make peace, so he obediently spoke with Douglas. He said, “Don’t you think the ring is a little much, Kirk?” The actor responded, “No, I think it’s just fine. What do you think?”

Wayne responded to Douglas, “It’s great, just great.” He had no issue with shouting at Kennedy but had some reservations about shouting at actors on the same level as him. Wayne ultimately sidled up to Douglas and asked, “You’re going to play it in that effete fashion?”

“John, I’m trying not to let my effeminacy show,” Douglas responded.

The actors later shared a volatile relationship

Eyman touched on the fact that Wayne and Douglas had a complicated relationship. However, they were ultimately able to work together, despite their differences. Nevertheless, there was always a tension between the two.

One of the primary signs of this is how Douglas always refused to call Wayne “Duke,” which his friends and colleagues always called him.

Their performances ultimately did well for The War Wagon. The movie opened to favorable reviews, especially praising Wayne and Douglas for their performances.

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John Wayne

John Wayne and Steve McQueen Peed on a ‘Wall or Curtain’ Together Backstage at the Golden Globes

Actors like John Wayne and Steve McQueen are icons that continue to represent the movie industry to this day. Their cultural mark on entertainment will never disappear from the history books or the minds of their fans. Additionally, Wayne and McQueen certainly won’t be forgotten by the individual who had to clean their pee off the wall or curtain at the Golden Globes.

Steve McQueen and other movie stars respected John Wayne

Writer Jeremy Roberts interviewed McQueen’s biographer, Marshall Terrill. He wrote several books about the actor, including both his career and his personal life. Terrill wrote about his opinions of several movie stars, including Wayne. He had a great amount of respect for him. Not all actors felt the same way, but Hollywood as a whole respected the impact that he had on their field.

McQueen and Wayne had a friendship that also carried away from the glamor of Hollywood. This is true with several folks in Hollywood, including his frequent collaborator, John Ford. In particular, he loved playing Bridge with anybody willing to join him.

John Wayne and Steve McQueen peed on a ‘wall or curtain’ together backstage at the Golden Globes

John Wayne & Steve McQueen sharing a laugh at a party in 1969. Did you see our Instagram Stories from yesterday? Find out how Duke reacted when a young fan wrote in and confused him with Steve McQueen 😂 pic.twitter.com/HfxHutOdPQ— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) September 6, 2019

Roberts asked Terrill to expand on how Wayne and McQueen got along. He explained that McQueen had a great amount of respect for the Duke. He recalled a hilarious story between the two actors when they both were set to present at the Golden Globes.

“I remember hearing a story most recently from Barbara Minty McQueen,” Terrill said. “She was looking over pictures in Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool and spotted the two pictures of McQueen and Wayne. She chuckled and then told me this great story.”

Terrill continued: “She said the two legends were at an awards ceremony in the 1960s and were either presenters or co-presenters. They were hanging out backstage, waiting to go on, when Wayne didn’t feel like going to the restroom or there wasn’t enough time to find a restroom, and so Wayne took a leak against a wall or curtain.”

However, McQueen didn’t object to Wayne relieving himself there. Rather, he decided to join in.

“She said that Steve started laughing and joined in, also relieving himself. Barbara said Steve remembered the encounter with a huge smile,” Terrill said.” After we both finished laughing, I said, ‘Oh, why did you have to tell me that story after the book was published?’”

The Duke regularly attended award shows

Wayne and McQueen are both widely celebrated actors who attended many award ceremonies, including the Golden Globes and Oscars. Wayne regularly presented awards and honorary awards, which were met with thunderous applause.

However, he also nearly stormed the Oscars stage to pull off actor Sacheen Littlefeather for making a speech in place of Marlon Brando. It took six security men to hold him back and he ultimately made statements after the ceremony to express his frustration at the situation.

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