By 1930 John Wayne emerged from the low-budget movie making shadows to splash across the screen as the promising newcomer in the spankingly snazzy (filmed in a 70 mm widescreen process called “grandeur”) western epic, The Big Trail. Nine year later, he emerged as a genuine star in John Ford’s classic, Stagecoach.
Wayne remained Hollywood’s most prolific leading man over the ensuing 40 years. His relationship with Ford was both worshiping and fearful. Wayne called him “coach” or “pappy” as his needs required. Ford served as both.
The director often did not return the favor. He would verbally abuse his star as he would with no one else. No matter. Wayne and Ford loved and needed each other, remaining the closest of friends until the director’s death at 79 in 1973.
Wayne made somewhere between 20 and 25 movies under Ford’s incomparable supervision. And as Ford’s reputation — as one of the few artists to emerge under the far-flung studio system — has grown exponentially in recent years, so has Wayne’s as an actor capable of a lot more than playing the lovable western lunk or tough military man.
As mentioned, there is no better way to fully appreciate this great actor than to pick up author Scott Eyman’s new biography, JOHN WAYNE The Life and the Legend (Simon & Schuster, 2014). It’s hugely informative, a great read and is the inspiration for our Monday quiz. To review the questions, just scroll down to our Monday blog. Now, here are the answers.
1) Answer: In Wayne’s opinion, it was (c) Roy Rogers who flunked the cowboy test. “He wasn’t a cowboy. He was a goddamn country singer from Ohio,” said Duke. He and Rogers appeared in he 1940 Republic Pictures western Dark Command. And for good measure, Wayne added: “Rogers wasn’t any actor, Rogers was barely a singer.”
2) Answer: It was (d) Fox Film boss Winfield Sheehan who changed the actor’s name from “Duke” Morrison to John Wayne. Sheehan was a fan of Revolutionary war general “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The “John” was substituted as an an afterthought; it had a nice ring to it.
3) Answer: (c) Tom Mix reneged on a promise of studio jobs on the Fox lot delivered to the young Wayne and his collegian pals. From then on — and for the next half century — Wayne would regard Mix, a popular silent movie western star, as a blowhard who broke a promise.
4) Answer: Wayne was sweet on all the female costars listed, particularly Gail Russell and Maureen O’Hara. But for sheer down and dirty passion, no one could supercede (c) Marlene Dietrich. The story goes that when she first spotted the young Wayne, her costar in 1940’s Seven Sinners, she leaned over to director Tay Garnett and said, “Daddy, buy me that.”
5) Answer: Wayne was not drafted because of (c) an ear infection and (d) because he had a family. The actor spent the rest of his life regretting his lack of World War II military service.
6) Answer: The answer is (c). Wayne disliked Gene Hackman as an actor but much admired James Garner. “They rave about Brando and (George C.) Scott, but they couldn’t hold a candle to him.”
7) Answer: a) True. Although he grudgingly admitted that costar Montgomery Clift was effective in the 1948 Howard Hawks western Red River, Wayne always referred to Clift as a “pain in the ass.”
8) Answer: b) False. Although Wayne began sporting a toupee onscreen in the early Fifties, he rarely wore a hairpiece in private. He was just the way he was.
9) Answer: Because of (a), Wayne never particularly admired Spencer Tracy. In the early Thirties Wayne tried to get a thoroughly sloshed Tracy back to his Hollywood hotel room. Tracy, who was most often belligerent when loaded, sucker-punched Wayne and “split my lip…it hurt.” In return, Wayne “really busted him one,” knocking Tracy out cold.
10) Answer: b) False. His will, a 30-page document dated Oct. 5, 1978, valued Wayne’s estate at $6.8 million. A lot of money to be sure but not a lot for a star of Wayne’s magnitude. Now Bob Hope, Wayne observed, he was really rich.