In his day, John Wayne provided a template for some men to follow in their lives, and woe to those who did not. Wayne was not a man who hid his pleasure or disdain for other actors. He had his code of morals and behaviors which he lived by. Also, Wayne had his own ideas about the business of acting.
It didn’t matter if a person excelled in movies themselves. Wayne viewed some actors as legitimate competition. Others, though, never could match up to what Wayne observed in the acting business.
Actors have different ranges when it comes to their business. John Wayne sometimes could not see a range for an actor. They either stuck to their guns, so to speak, and performed their roles admirably. Or they would fall flat on the big screen, leaving themselves open to criticism. “The Duke” was never scared to offer criticism to other actors.
There were a select few who fell out of Wayne’s good graces. A few of these names might surprise some people. Yet in Wayne’s view, they didn’t meet his standards.
Let’s start with Gene Hackman, who won an Oscar for his role in The French Connection. While they never worked together on a movie, Wayne simply didn’t like Hackman’s work. His daughter Aissa wrote in her book John Wayne: My Father that Hackman “could never appear on-screen without my father skewering his performance.”
There was not one specific action or moment where Hackman did something against Wayne. It was just that Wayne didn’t like Hackman’s work. This got so bad that Aissa said her father’s words toward Hackman were vicious. Hackman was the only actor Wayne talked about “with any real venom,” she said.
Clark Gable found himself in the Wayne crosshairs, but it wasn’t due to a Gable-Wayne mishap. No, Gable got cross with director John Ford while working on the 1953 film Mogambo. Wayne was quite loyal to his close friends and Ford, one of Wayne’s favorite directors, fell into that group. In her book, Aissa wrote, “In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, support in any fashion for their enemies, was expressly forbidden.
If Clark Gable took on John Ford, my father’s code demanded that John Wayne stand by his old pal.” Wayne added that Gable was “an idiot” and criticized his acting skills, according to Far Out Magazine. Well, so much for any collaboration with “The Duke” and Rhett Butler happening.
Frank Sinatra and Wayne almost came to blows. Wayne was a big supporter of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was ticked off when Communist writer Alfred Maltz got the nod to write a script for Sinatra’s The Execution of Private Slovik. “The Duke” was asked what he thought about this move. Wayne couched his comments with a dig at John F. Kennedy. “I don’t think my opinion is too important,” Wayne said.
“Why don’t you ask Sinatra’s crony – who’s going to run our country for the next few years – what he thinks of it?” This pitted both men against one another. But there appears to have been a type of reconciliation between both men. Sinatra offered a few words of praise in the wake of Wayne’s death in 1979.
Clint Eastwood started presenting a different way of seeing a Western in his movies. Um, this didn’t impress Wayne one bit. Eastwood heard from “The Duke” directly. One time, Eastwood said, “John Wayne once wrote me a letter saying he didn’t like High Plains Drifter.” Wayne said he didn’t think the movie was “really about the people who pioneered the West.” There was a different direction in which the Western genre was heading.
Wayne didn’t like it one bit. His view, in his estimation, was the right one to have all the time. Eastwood found success as “The Man with No Name.” It didn’t impress Wayne and he just did not take the time to understand this new world of the Western.
Marlon Brando wasn’t on the Wayne Christmas list at all. Maybe “The Duke” didn’t like Brando’s method acting style. Maybe he just had it out for Brando from the get-go. What irked Wayne, though, was when Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather out to accept his Oscar. It upset Wayne so much that Littlefeather said he had to be forcibly restrained from going on the stage.
Later on, and with a little cooler head, Wayne said that “if Brando had something to say, he should have appeared that night and stated his views.” “The Duke” gave it to Brando, saying he was wrong for “taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit.”
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