Movie stars John Wayne and Ronald Reagan both come from the world of acting. While one went into politics, the other certainly wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when it came to political commentary. Wayne represented conservative American ideals and values, slammed communism, and he gained the respect of international leaders, who viewed him as a national icon.
Wayne and Reagan crossed paths in Hollywood in more ways than one. Before he served as the president, he served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. There, he led an actors’ strike in 1960 against the major Hollywood studio executives over the residual payment system, which ultimately went through.
The trades frequently dragged Reagan’s name through the mud, which started to weigh on him. Wayne went out of his way to call his wife, Nancy, to voice his support and provide a friendly voice. They came to respect one another, becoming good friends.
However, the respect between Wayne and Reagan didn’t necessarily mean that they always got along. According to The New York Times, the True Grit star sent an angry letter to Reagan, but he praised Jimmy Carter over their thoughts regarding the Panama Canal. In fact, Wayne was one of the biggest supporters of Carter’s stand on this particular issue.
The Panama Canal Treaty “turned over to Panama the canal built by the United States near the turn of the century,” The New York Times wrote.
Wayne’s perspective wasn’t entirely surprising, given the fact that his first wife, Josephine, was a Panama native. Also, he was friends with the Panamanian leader, Brig. Gen. Omar Torrijos Herrera.
In a stern letter, Wayne alleged that Reagan was spreading lies to his supporters.
“Now I have taken your letter, and I’ll show you point by goddamn point in the treaty where you are misinforming people,” Wayne wrote. “If you continue these erroneous remarks, someone will publicize your letter to prove that you are not as thorough in your reviewing of this treaty as you say or are damned obtuse when it comes to reading the English language.”
In addition, he wrote a rebuttal to Reagan and another letter to Carter that wrote, “Your letter is great – tough and factual.”
Much like his letter to Regan, Wayne injected his politics into his projects that screened on silver screens across the country. From Sands of Iwo Jima to The Green Berets, he demonstrated a specific American figure that acted as a piece of commentary on what he considered to be an American hero. Critics didn’t always like his messaging, but moviegoers enjoyed that they knew what they were paying for when seeing a motion picture starring Wayne.
Wayne refused to star in movies that he thought went against his American morals, which resulted in him passing up on awards season roles that potentially would have earned him additional Oscar attention. However, he always valued the art of film as something to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages.
PROC. BY MOVIES