John Wayne was famously opinionated about politics, Westerns and communists.
The Duke’s devotion to the purity of Westerns was an extension of his own personal, deeply-rooted conservative views.
He refused to work with Clint Eastwood on numerous occasions, rejecting studio advances to cast them together in films like Joe Kidd, based on the other star’s prominence in the changing tone of Westerns.
But he was remarkably able to separate his issues with fellow actors’ political views from their professional abilities, happily working with Hollywood liberals, though rarely socialising with them on set.
He almost never spoke disparagingly of other actors’ actual talents (or lack thereof), although his daughter revealed two very famous exceptions.
Laurence Harvey, Richard Widmark with actor and director John Wayne on the set of The Alamo
Wayne has been constantly on TV over the Bank Holiday in a series of Westerns from The War Wagon, Chisum and Red River to, finally, The Alamo this evening.
The Duke also directed that film and had a famous clash with actor Richard Widmark, based on the other’s insubordination.
Pilar Wayne’s 1987 book John Wayne: My Life With the Duke, spilled on numerous clashed her father had, as well as those two infamous character assassinations.
Of the situation with Widmark, she wrote: “He kept on arguing with Duke in front of the rest of the cast and crew. Predictably, the day came when Duke’s patience ran out… Widmark and Duke had a violent confrontation and Duke threw the smaller man against a wall.”
John Wayne and George Takei in The Green Berets
George Takei, who starred with Wayne in The Green Berets, made it clear that these clashes were always based in on-set behaviour.
He told The Express they had no problems despite holding wildly different views: “There was a core of decency in him. He was a very pro-war guy and when I went in for the interview I said, ‘I have to be honest with you, I don’t agree with you about the Vietnam War. I have been campaigning against the war. I wanted you to know.’
“He surprised me. He said, ‘I am hiring the best actor I can for the role, that’s all that I am concerned about.”
Bite The Bullet stars Gene Hackman and Jan-Michael Vincent
Pilar Wayne noted one actor who seemed to rile her father more than any other: “When it came to his contemporaries in film, I only heard him speak once with any real venom.
“Gene Hackman could never appear on-screen without my father skewering his performance… Back then, however, my father called Hackman ‘the worst actor in town. He’s awful.’”
The Duke was also uncharacteristically unking about another legendary Hollywood legend.
Pilar Wayne wrote that her father said of Clark Gable: “[He’s] extremely handsome in person,” Wayne said. “That’s one guy that doesn’t need Hollywood to make him look good. But Gable’s an idiot. You know why Gable’s an actor? It’s the only thing he’s smart enough to do.”
This was connected to Wayne’s dismissal of those, like Gable, who viewed acting as an art. He said: “I don’t act at all, I react.”
He added: “All I do is sell sincerity, and I’ve been selling the hell out of that since I started… That arty crowd has only surface brilliance anyway. Real art is basic emotion. If a scene is handled with simplicity—and I don’t mean simple—it’ll be good and the public will know it.”