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John Wayne

John Wayne lost his fortune twice, both times in a way you could lose, too

If all-powerful movie star John Wayne can lose his life savings not once but twice to people he trusted, what chance do you have?
In a Watchdog tradition, every December I profile a prominent American who got snookered, looking for clues to how to make sure the same financial tragedy doesn’t happen to us.
I started in 2019 with my personal hero, Benjamin Franklin, who as a 19-year-old printer believed a British governor’s promises to set him up in a London print shop. Franklin never got a penny.

In 2020, I wanted to know if circus master P.T. Barnum actually said a sucker is born every minute. Turns out a competitor said that about him. Barnum said a customer is born every minute. Barnum lost half a million dollars in a failed clock factory scam. He filed for bankruptcy.

Last year, I studied the life of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan, Dallas’ first known white resident who also served as the town’s chief promoter. He didn’t get scammed. No, he did the scamming. He promoted Dallas as a great city to come and stay, but when travelers arrived they were stunned to see two small log cabins and a population of about 12. To lessen the sting, he offered every visitor free whiskey, bear meat and honey.
Manager for the stars
John Wayne’s final financial unraveling began with a 1965 shopping trip to the Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas. But I’ll get to that.

Let’s start during World War II when Wayne hired Bo Roos to be his business manager.
“With his hair slicked straight back, his mouth full of straight white teeth and his perfect tan, Roos was pure Hollywood,” write Randy Roberts and James S. Olson in their book John Wayne: American, which served as the basis for this story.

The husky blue-eyed man whose name was pronounced Boo was quick to smile and make a new friend. He gave off the aura of a European aristocrat. His car contained one of the very first mobile phones.
His clients included stars Joan Crawford, the Andrews Sisters and Marlene Dietrich, who recommended him. They were friends who drank together, went fishing and hunting and swapped stories. Wayne assumed Bo would protect his millions, maybe even make it grow.

Bo once said, “I’ve been called a gambler. … I’m only good for the client who wants action for his money.”
John Wayne may have been great as a Hollywood cowboy, but when it came to his money, he...

John Wayne may have been great as a Hollywood cowboy, but when it came to his money, he couldn’t shoot straight. Here he is in True Grit, for which he won an Academy Award.(Archives / AP)

Wayne first figured something was wrong when one of the investments Bo made for him attracted a slew of bounced checks and foreclosure notices. Wayne chewed him out, and Bo promised to improve Wayne’s cash flow.
The losses didn’t stop. Bo invested $700,000 in Panama. Wayne lost it plus a million more in that scheme.
As a major film star in the 1950s, he was broke. He found out when he and his wife ran up a $3,500 bill at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. He told the clerk to charge it to Bo.
Three months later Wayne got an overdue notice.
“Bo!” he shouted, but it sounded like Boo. “Could you please pay the bill? I look like a [blankety] deadbeat.”
He sent his trusted secretary, Mary St. John, to Bo’s office, to check on his portfolio.
“Roos tried to stall her,” the authors write, insisting she come back at a more convenient time. But Mary was tenacious, demanding access to the file. When she saw it she was shocked. It was almost empty.
A few days later Wayne met with him and asked, “Bo, exactly how much money do I have?”
“Well Duke,” he said, using Wayne’s nickname, “not a great deal of cash.”
“Just tell me how much money I could raise if I had to.”
“That’ll take a couple of weeks,” Bo said.
When they met again, Bo still couldn’t answer.
Wayne slammed his fist on Bo’s desk and shouted, “I’ve given you a [blankety blank] fortune over the years. It’s a simple question.”
Without looking him in the eye, Bo confessed. “It’s all gone.”
Accountants who later checked the books declared that Bo didn’t steal it. He lost it through “gross mismanagement.”
Wayne wasn’t the only one. Like Wayne, Red Skelton didn’t check his financial statements, schedule in-person meetings and personally inspect investments. That was their undoing.
An arbitrator advised Wayne not to go to court because the publicity about his don’t-ask-questions style would make him look like a “complete ignoramus.” Plus, Bo was bankrupt, too.
“Just forget about it and start all over,” he advised.
A second time
Wayne wanted a manager whom he could trust. He decided to go with his son-in-law Don LaCava. His job: Invest conservatively and don’t lose money.
On that fateful 1965 trip to Dallas, Wayne, who treasured his annual Neiman-Marcus catalog, spent $30,000 at that store and others.
When the bill came, his son-in-law chewed him out: “How could you spend so much money? You don’t have this kind of money in the bank. How am I supposed to pay these bills?”
Wayne reminded he had given him millions. “There better well be money in the bank to pay these bills.”
LaCava had invested in bad real estate, dry oil wells and more.
Wayne fired him.
It was getting to be a thing.
Bo’s 1973 obituary in The New York Times mentioned “his cold blue eyes and pencil mustache,” but not that he lost his clients millions. Although there was a brief mention of ventures “not all of which were successful.”
With both men, the No. 1 movie star didn’t check his financial statements, schedule in person meetings and personally inspect investments. Do you?
John Wayne made about 200 movies, and he was usually paid handsomely. But he didn't watch...John Wayne made about 200 movies, and he was usually paid handsomely. But he didn’t watch his money managers like a hawk, and they left him with birdseed.(Archives / AP)

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John Wayne

John Wayne Pushed Through a Severe Injury to Ensure ‘The Train Robbers’ Premiered on Schedule

John Wayne is known around the world as one of the most iconic cowboys of all time. Decades after his death, John Wayne continues to be praised for his nearly 200 unforgettable appearances in film and television. And though his larger-than-life presence, good looks, and husky voice took him far in Hollywood, it was his commitment to his films that led to John Wayne playing such a large role in cinema history.

The Duke began his career in 1926. As time went on, the stoic superstar developed a reputation as a stunt man. Many of his Westerns involved action-heavy scenes, and the technology to make stunt work easier to fake didn’t yet exist. As such, many legendary John Wayne films were extremely physically demanding.

Hiring a stunt man was an option used by many in Hollywood. But The Duke refused. Instead, he insisted on doing his stunts himself. Though this was an admirable step to take, it led to many injuries for Wayne throughout his career.

The audience knew that the hero would win in the end, but reaching victory often involved getting punched, kicked, shot, and stabbed along the way. He was even blown up and crushed by a bulldozer (on separate occasions, of course).

John Wayne Filmed ‘The Train Robbers’ With Broken Ribs

Perhaps the most horrifying injury of John Wayne’s career occurred on the set of the 1973 Western The Train Robbers. In the film, Wayne plays the starring role of Lane, the leader of a group of cowboys hunting down a dastardly train robber.

According to the John Wayne biography entitled Duke by Ronald L. Davis, The Duke broke two ribs mere days before filming began on The Train Robbers. As Wayne was an irreplaceable star, the injury led to a rearranging of the film. Rather than focusing on high-speed chases and deadly battles between cowboys and outlaws, The Train Robbers honed in on dialogue and character building.

That said, it was still a Western, and every Western needs a certain amount of action. For The Duke, it was essential that “the action scenes looked believable”. Wayne was so committed to his scenes that he flat-out refused to work around his injury. “He wasn’t a crybaby,” his wife Pilar Wayne told The LA Times. “He could tolerate pain.”

And tolerate pain, he did. John Wayne pushed through the broken ribs, determined to keep the film as close to the original script as possible. While filming, he was clearly limited with his movements and he appeared somewhat ill on set.

On-screen, however, no one could tell the difference. The Duke still gave a fantastic performance. Three years later, his Hollywood career came to an end, but John Wayne will always be remembered as the tough-as-nails actor he truly was.

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John Wayne

Original Cast of John Wayne’s ‘The Cowboys’ to Celebrate Film’s 50th Anniversary With The Duke’s Family

The career of John Wayne is one of the most revered in all of American filmmaking regardless of genre. Even long after his death, his unmatched contributions to the Western film genre are still a thing of legend.

John Wayne: An American Experience, The Cowboy Channel, Stockyards Heritage, and Hotel Drover have partnered up with the members of the cast of The Cowboys and Wayne’s family. Together, they will host a celebratory festival in honor of the 50th anniversary of the fan-favorite film. The official John Wayne Instagram page announced the event by paying tribute to one of Wayne’s many iconic moments.

“In honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Cowboys, celebrate with members of the original cast & the Wayne family June 24, 25, & 26 in the Fort Worth Stockyards! For a list of events and tickets, head to”

The 1972 film is based on the book of the same name by William Dale Jennings. Wayne stars alongside Roscoe Lee Browne, Slim Pickens, Colleen Dewhurst, and Bruce Dern. The Cowboys tells the story of a down on his luck rancher being forced to hire a group of inexperienced cowboys to get his herd to market on time. It’s one of Wayne’s most enduring films with his performance often regarded as one of his best.

The Cowboys Still Holds A Special Place in Hearts of Film Fans

Fans of the film will no doubt be thrilled by the opportunity to hear directly from the people who worked and lived alongside Wayne during the making of the classic film. One member of the cast, A Martinez who played Cimarron, took to his own Instagram account to post a message about his experience shooting The Cowboys for its 50th anniversary.

“It was a thrill and an honor to be a part of this project,” said Martinez in his post. “A haunting, timeless theme, adapted from the novel by William Dale Jennings, brilliantly directed by Rydell. With gorgeous cinematography by Bob Surtees, an indelible score by John Williams –– and a great performance by John Wayne –– the power of #TheCowboys abides.”

The 3-day celebration includes outdoor screenings after sunset on the Livestock Exchange lawn all three nights. Fans will have meet and greet opportunities with 9 members of the cast. Then, A live televised film panel with a studio audience will film at The Cowboy Channel Studio Sunday night. In addition, there will be special installations and reception at John Wayne: An American Experience, a sprawling 10,000 square foot exhibit providing an intimate look at the life of The Duke.

Any fan of John Wayne who can make it to Fort Worth, Texas for this celebration of a beloved piece of Wayne’s filmography should purchase tickets as soon as possible. Relive the memories of this classic film alongside cast members and Wayne’s family with the special event.

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John Wayne

This John Wayne Western Almost Starred Elvis Presley

When you hear the names Elvis Presley and John Wayne, the word icon undoubtedly comes to mind. Although they were famous figures in their own right, they had more in common than you might think. For instance, they nearly starred alongside one another in one of Wayne’s many westerns.

As the undisputed King of rock ‘n’ roll, Presley became a worldwide viral sensation for his gyrating hips and rock-n-roll music. Yet, he also dipped his toes into the world of movies.

He had performed in various movies like King Creole and Blue Hawaii in the past. In addition, he had some Western movie experience when he starred in Love Me Tender. According to IMDb, the movie is a Western set during the end of the American Civil War.

Elvis plays the role of Clint Reno, the brother of a Confederate soldier who becomes involved in a train robbery. The movie was released in 1956, just as Elvis became a rising star. As a result, he grabbed the attention of another acting veteran.

Love Me Tender was the hitmaker’s first movie role. Little did he know, John Wayne was watching at home. As a result, Wayne decided he wanted to collaborate with the rising star.

Elvis Presley’s manager decides on True Grit role

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

As Smith described, anytime anyone wanted to collab with The King, it was “always carried through Colonel.” Presley was at the height of his fame around this time. According to Smith, “Colonel didn’t want him to play … second star with anybody else.” 

Sadly, Presley would miss out on the role of LeBoeuf. In addition, he wouldn’t get to join forces with one of the genre’s most beloved figures. Glen Campbell would instead take on the part. 

However, maybe the decision happened for a better reason. When the film was released in 1969, it was a critical moment for Presley’s career. In December of 1968, just before True Grit premiered, Presley embarked on his now-legendary “comeback special.” In 1969, he delivered almost 60 performances at the magnificent International Hotel in Las Vegas. 

During this whirlwind of a year, Presley proved the point of his manager: Elvis Presley would play second fiddle to nobody, even John Wayne. 

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