Actor John Wayne was very particular regarding the movies he starred in and the ones he admired. He came from a generation when films targeted the whole family with certain political morals rather than having separate entertainment intended for different age groups. There were two classic 1959 movies that Wayne called “too disgusting even for discussion,” largely because of their sense of morals and values.
Wayne primarily starred in Western and war movies throughout his career. Audiences knew exactly the type of film they were paying for when it came to his projects before ever sitting in a theater chair. Wayne advanced what it meant to “fight dirty” in Hollywood, allowing his characters to actually fight back against the antagonists. However, these scenes still avoided violent realism, allowing them to remain accessible to both younger and older audiences.
The ratings board tapped Wayne to help with monitoring movies with a system for parents to follow. However, he disagreed with this notion. Rather, the movie star believed that audiences of all ages should be able to enjoy every film together. As a result, he certainly had some strong opinions when it came to movies that pushed the boundaries for their time.
In a 1960 radio interview, Wayne talked about the state of movies at the time in 1959. There were two films, in particular, that stuck with him in the most negative way possible. Suddenly, Last Summer and They Came to Cordura both stirred a huge reaction that wouldn’t necessarily be seen quite the same way from a present-day perspective.
Suddenly, Last Summer is an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play, which follows Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor) after she witnesses her cousin’s death while on a trip to Europe. Meanwhile, her aunt, Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), doesn’t want the news about her son’s death to get out, so she bribes a surgeon named John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) to give Catherine a lobotomy. The story had its own depiction of a gay character.
They Came to Cordura stars Gary Cooper as U.S. Maj. Tom Thorn, who sets out on a mission to Mexico. He’s tasked with helping transport a group of heroes for an honoring ceremony after he’s considered a coward. Meanwhile, Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth) is charged as a traitor against the United States, but she reveals herself to be the most heroic of the bunch. The film implies a gay relationship between Cooper and Tab Hunter’s characters.
Wayne called both movies “too disgusting even for discussion” and “too distasteful.” Further, he claimed, “to be put on a screen designed to entertain a family, or any member of a decent family.” Wayne used them as examples of what was “poison polluting Hollywood’s moral bloodstream.” He detested the use of LGBTQ+ themes and violence in these films, slamming them in response.
Wayne wasn’t afraid to come forward about other movies that he deemed “morally corrupt.” Among those films included the 3-time Oscar-winning movie Midnight Cowboy, which hit theaters in 1969. It took home the statues for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Nevertheless, the movie star used a slur against the LGBTQ+ community to describe the film in his 1971 interview with Playboy, which he further referred to as qualifying as “perverted.” He thought the male physique was “distasteful” when showing “hairy, sweaty bodies in the foreground.”
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