JOHN WAYNE (Nov, 1954)
When did people stop using the term “houseboy” in a non-sexual manner?
Discovered by Director John Ford in the late twenties, Wayne progressed from stagehand to star. His simple formula, “Everybody loves a hero,” has kept him gainfully employed in nearly two hundred movies, with no end in sight.
BY MARTIN SCOTT
John Wayne, a balding and rather homely forty-seven-year-old former football player, is one of Hollywood’s three biggest box-office attractions, and has been for the past four years. Yet according to all the accepted rules for success, John Wayne has no business being a movie star. Most stars are possessed of good looks, ingratiating personalities, and a certain amount of acting ability. Wayne has none of these. His furrowed countenance might be worn more gracefully by one of the horses he rides on tlie screen. His personality would be the despair of Dale Carnegie; he is foot-scuffingly reticent except when he is with old drinking companions, at which time he becomes boisterous and, not infrequently, pugnacious. Finally, by no stretch of the imagination could he be called a polished actor. To call him an actor at all is to raise him to an eminence he does not claim. “I don’t act,” Wayne says. “I react.” He adds, “I like basic-emotion stuff; nuance is out of my line.”
Wayne, whose friends call him “Duke,” reacts off the screen much as he does on it. One day on the Republic Pictures lot, a friend sneaked up behind him and suddenly dug him in the ribs. Wayne whirled around, his six-foot-four frame tense, his hound-dog face set grimly, his long right arm pulled back for a haymaker. The friend backed off in hasty confusion. Hearing of this, the veteran director John Ford, who gave Wayne his start in movies, nodded amusedly. “That’s Duke, all right,” he said. “He’s no actor, he’s a natural.” Wayne agrees. “I got nothin’ to sell but sincerity.”‘ he says, “and 1 been sellin’ it like the blazes ever since I started.”
In the interests of naturalism and sincerity. Wayne goes to startling lengths. Virtually all stars use stunt men for dangerous scenes, but John affects enormous contempt for players who don’t take their own risks. Once, after running and leaping astride a fast-galloping horse that was careening precariously close to the edge of a cliff, he exclaimed, loudly enough to be picked up by the sound recorders. “Let’s see your Roy Rogers do that!”
Although he cheerfully admits his profound unsuitability for his chosen profession, Wayne has never felt a strong urge to consult an employment counselor. Since the late twenties, when he rapidly went from stagehand to prop man to stunt man to star, he has made nearly two hundred movies. He can’t remember the exact number, principally because some of the pictures were made in three or four days. What he can remember is that practically every last one made money. At least one. the now-famous “Stagecoach.” which raised horse operas to the level of adult entertainment, drew raves from the critics.
What Does He Want with an Oscar?
Wayne himself seldom draws raves; the reviewers customarily state that John Wayne turned in his usual competent performance. Only once has Wayne been nominated for an Academy Award. This was for “Sands of Iwo Jima.” Wayne did not get the award. He worries about this the way the Aga Khan worries over where his next meal is coming from. “Sands” grossed approximately four million dollars. “What’d I want with an Oscar. any-how?” Wayne once drawled to a friend. “It’d just clutter up the mantel.”
Wayne has taken around $10,000,000 from the movies. He commands $250,000 a film and up. In 1950. RKO’s Howard Hughes paid him $301,000 for “Flying Leathernecks,” an all-time high for an actor’s salary for a single job. “He was worth it,” Hughes commented. “Duke’s one of the few sure-fire box-office things left in Hollywood.” The truth of Hughes’s words is borne out by what has happened to Hollywood and to Wayne during the past three dreadful years.
The onslaught of TV dealt the movie industry a blow like a John Wayne punch. Less than three years ago, major studios began cutting budgets in half and easing big-name stars out of long-term contracts. All over the country, movie houses were closing down. Through all this Wayne rode proudly, as tall in the saddle as any of the innumerable cowboys he’s portrayed. At one time, nine Los Angeles theaters were showing John Wayne pictures simultaneously. “There’s nothing wrong with the movie industry.” a producer remarked at the height of the TV crisis, “that a dozen John Waynes couldn’t cure. Maybe he can’t act—but he’s got something.”
A favorite game among old-hand producers is trying to guess what Wayne’s “something” is. It cannot be sex appeal, they say, for his roles require him to be about as romantic as Pa Kettle. It cannot be that he brings out the mother instinct in his followers, for even his own mother, Mrs. Sidney B. Preen, of Long Beach, California, admitted she was startled at her first glimpse of him on the screen. “I pretty near died,” she said.
“A Special Touch of Nastiness”
“Wayne has an endless face and can go on forever,” Louis B. Mayer explains. Director William Wellman calls Wayne “a nice guy with a special touch of nastiness.” The star describes himself differently: “Everyone thinks I’m a neighbor,” and adds, “Thank God for that.”
Charles Skouras, the theater magnate, attributes Wayne’s success to the fact he is one of those rare performers who please men, women, and children in equal measure. Small fry love Wayne; wherever he goes, kids follow him. Sometimes they engage him in mortal combat. One day in Mexico City, as he was lunching, Wayne happened to glance at a near-by table. A boy of about seven sat there, his eyes growing larger as he recognized his idol. While his parents chatted, the child drew an imaginary gun, leveled it at Wayne, pulled the trigger and uttered the coughing sound that today’s children use to approximate gunfire noise. Wayne did not flinch. He dropped to his knee, barricaded himself behind his table, pulled his own invisible six gun, and fired back a salvo of appropriate noises.
No one is more puzzled by Wayne’s mysterious hold on his fans than John Wayne. He puts forward only two plausible reasons: He explains that everybody loves a hero; therefore, lie lias never played a villain. He also says lie plays exclusively to men and boys, because be believes they pull the women into the theaters. He plays to his own sex by being simple, uncomplicated. and completely unaffected. Most of Wayne’s personal mannerisms thus show up on the screen unchanged as mannerisms of the cowhands, fliers, soldiers, sailors, and Marines he plays. A John Wayne hero lights a cigarette by reaching into a shirt pocket, taking out a kitchen match, and flicking it into flame with a fingernail; so does John Wayne. John Wayne speaks with a slow, husky drawl and walks with a rolling, shambling gait: so does a John Wayne hero.
The real-life Wayne enjoys the same masculine hobbies and pursuits as the film one. He loves to cruise off Acapulco. Mexico, and he goes hunting and fishing whenever he can. In most John Wayne pictures, the hero sooner or later gets in a fight. In his twenty-five years in films, Wayne has fought Indians. Nazis. Fascists, Orientals, smugglers, pirates, gangsters, rustlers, and other assorted villains, sometimes with pistol and cutlass but more often than not with his fists.
He’s Tough Off Screen, Too Wayne has also done considerable offscreen fighting. In common with such stars as Humphrey Bogart. Alan Ladd. and others in the hard-as-nails school. Wayne frequently encounters people desirous of proving movie tough guys are not so tough. “Some joker I never saw before in my life is always choosing me up for a fight,” he says ruefully.
One night in a small night club, a man lurched over to the table where Wayne was sitting and asked if he was John Wayne, the movie star. Wayne allowed he was.
“Come and meet my girl,” the man said. Wayne explained, politely, that he was busy.
“So the great John Wayne, the movie star, is too good to have a drink with common people, is he?” the man said.
Wayne, still polite, said it wasn’t that at all. The man became more insulting. Wayne tried to calm him. The man became obscene. Wayne and his companion finally left. A man who has known Wayne for a long time says this shows Wayne has mellowed. “In the old days. Duke would’ve flattened the guy.” this man says.
Not all Wayne’s off-screen fighting has been with strangers. His closest friend is Ward Bond, an actor who has appeared in almost as many John Wayne pictures as Wayne himself. In many of these pictures. Wayne and Bond were required to fight each other—and sometimes they would fight when the cameras were not turning. “Somehow an argument would start.” a cameraman recalls, “and before long. Ward and Duke would be trading punches. They used to go at each other for a half hour at a time, swinging from the ground. They never stopped with a bloody nose or a black eye; they kept at it until they were both worn out.”
Sometimes, weary of fighting. Bond and Wayne would go over to the Hollywood Athletic Club and indulge in feats of strength, such as seeing who could run his fist through a wooden door. Now and again these contests would wind up in fights. The two buddies once wrecked the club’s locker room. “Duke knocked Ward into a row of lockers, then Ward got up and knocked Duke down.” says a man who was present, “and after that everybody else let them have the place to themselves until they were finished.” Bond and Wayne paid a bill of several hundred dollars.
Besides working on pictures and fighting together, Wayne and Bond have hunted and fished together for many years. On a quail hunt one time, Wayne accidentally fired a charge of bird shot into Bond’s broad back. Wayne dragged him nearly two miles to a car. When reporters turned up at the hospital to find out about this incident between two close friends. Wayne put on a dead-pan expression and told them. “I’d never had a chance to check the pattern my gun makes before. I was happy to see the shot in Ward’s back hadn’t scattered at all.”
He Won’t Be Pushed Around Ordinarily Wayne is a relaxed, affable fellow, as easygoing a man as one would want to find. But he does not like to be pushed around.
He says all he expects from his friends is that they be simpatico. But many a pal has heard him roar, “Why can’t you behave? How many times do I have to tell you to grow up?”
Unlike his movie characters, levelheaded men who are cool under fire and never, never lose their tempers. Wayne is human enough to lose his when pressed too far. Thanks to his press agents, his tantrums seldom are paraded in print. There is also another reason. Some columnists are afraid to print gossip about him.
Once, shortly after Wayne and his second wife, Esperanza, separated, a male columnist printed an item hinting at the breach. The next day, Wayne stormed into the office, dashed by the secretaries, and confronted the columnist.
“Where’d you get that story?” he said.
The columnist began an ineffectual attempt to stall.
“Listen,” Wayne said, “are you going to tell me where you heard that boloney or am I—”
The columnist quickly gave in, and Wayne left the office as fast as he had come in, presumably to go out and destroy the source of the gossip. A bit later he quieted, called the columnist, and apologized. “Seems like I’m always apologizin’ to somebody” Wayne says.
Most of Wayne’s apologizing is done to people on his personal staff, which numbers seven. The staff includes Webb Over-lander, Wayne’s make-up man. who is in charge of Wayne’s toupee and who also is a gun expert; Al Murphy, his wardrobe man, and general handyman; Beverly Barnett, his personal press agent; Ernest Safting. who is military adviser on many pictures; Mary St. John, his secretary; J. Hampton Scott, his houseboy; Bob Morrison, his brother, production assistant on all John Wayne epics. They have all been around Wayne more than five years: Barnett, Murphy, and brother Bob have worked with him for more than fifteen years.
Wayne is intensely loyal, but that does not prevent him from expecting the best of his staff and raising cain when he feels he is not getting it.
A Turbulent Life with Chata Soon after Wayne separated from Esperanza, she went to the hospital with a minor respiratory ailment. Wayne thought this might be a good time to talk things over. He and press agent Barnett were driven out to the hospital by Al Murphy. Barnett, who wears a hearing aid. had it turned off in the car and didn’t hear everything Wayne said. At the hospital, Wayne went immediately into his wife’s room and Barnett remained outside the door. Wayne was inside a long time. Presently Barnett opened the door to remind his boss of another appointment.
“Wayne went crazy,” a witness later reported. “It seems he’d almost talked his wife into a reconciliation, which he badly wanted, but when she saw Barnett she concluded Wayne had been so sure of success that he’d stationed his press agent outside so as to lose no time in announcing the reconciliation to the columnists.” Mrs. Wayne declared there was no chance of getting back together. “Outside the room,” the witness continued, “Wayne behaved like a wild man. He flailed his arms around and shouted for Barnett to keep his distance. Barnett, who by this time had his hearing aid turned on again, decided he’d better not ride back to town with Wayne. He went to a telephone booth to call a cab. Wayne went on raving to Al Murphy for a time, then calmed down, went to the telephone booth, and told Barnett it was all right to go back with them.” Barnett rarely extinguishes his hearing aid these days when he is in Wayne’s presence.
According to Mrs. Esperanza Wayne, known in Hollywood as Chata (“Pug Nose,” in Mexican slang), Wayne’s scene in the hospital corridor was, for him, played with rare restraint. The Waynes faced each other in a Los Angeles court last year, Mrs. Wayne demanding a large allowance for separate maintenance and Wayne filing suit for divorce. In court, Mrs. Wayne’s attorney produced a list of twenty-two specific instances of behavior unbecoming a John Wayne hero or, for that matter, John Wayne. Mrs. W. stated that in their seven years of marriage Wayne had exhibited numerous fits of anger and irrationality. In Mexico City’s Hotel Del Prado, she claimed, Wayne had grabbed her, thrown her against a wall, pulled her hair, kicked her, and dragged her the full length of the corridor. In 1950, in Hollywood, she said. “He stopped the car. called me terrible things, and punched me in the eye.” Mrs. Wayne said her husband had taught her to drink, that he threw towels, pillows, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol at her, and that once—apparently when he was relatively subdued—he took he shawl and threw it in the mud.
“Women Scare Hell out of Me”
Through all this, Wayne sat as though wishing he were in some easier situation, such as holding a fort alone against two thousand Indians. But he was not unequal to his wife’s complaints. He said, “Why, women scare hell out of me. I’ve always been afraid of women.” He declared Mrs. Wayne was a toper of Hogarthian proportions and that on many occasions she had fallen down drunk in public. He said she had kept Nicky Hilton, whose father runs some hotels, at her home for a week and that once he had found a slip of paper on which she had doodled “Esperanza Hilton” and “Mrs. Nicky Hilton.” among other speculative signatures. Wayne’s lawyer asked him what his reaction to that paper was. “I went into the bathroom and threw up,” Wayne replied.
Soon after this incident, the judge ended the hearings, and the tabloids were deprived of their fun. The principals’ lawyers were told by the judge to come to an agreement, and they reached one with commendable rapidity. It gave Mrs. Wayne a settlement that would eventually amount to around $500,000. It gave them a divorce. It gave Wayne ample assurance that his popularity would not suffer. Crowds clustered outside the courtroom every day. One girl carried a sign that said you can clobber me any time you want to, John. Another went up behind Wayne, threw her arms around him, and kissed him on the cheek. The crowd cheered. Wayne quelled his lifelong fear of women long enough to allow her to do it again for photographers.
Wayne’s temper outbursts and occasional excessive drinking are not hard to understand, considering his personality and his background. Before going into the movies, he was an apricot picker, truck driver, iceman, and telephone lineman. Almost any of these occupations would probably have made him happier. Wayne at heart is a shy, simple fellow, equipped with keen intelligence in business affairs but a sometimes lamentable lack of skill in avoiding trouble.
As his stature in pictures has grown, so have his problems. Some time ago he came down with stomach ulcers. Wayne once said rather wistfully, “I wish I could make as much money as a prop man as I do now—I’d sure rather do that than act.” He hates the rigorous schedules that movie making requires. “Seems all I ever do is work,” he says.
Wayne’s legal name is Marion Michael Morrison. He has never changed it, as though subconsciously attempting to cling to at least that vestige of his life before he became a star. He was born in Winter-set, Iowa, on May 26, 1907. the son of a druggist. When Marion was five, the family—father, mother, Marion, and younger brother. Robert—settled in Glen-dale. a Los Angeles suburb.
There Marion grew into a husky, healthy, supremely awkward boy. He got the nickname Duke early in life. Press agents have said he was called Duke because he played a British peer in a high-school play. Wayne has another explanation. “When I was a boy,” he says, “1 had a dog named Duke. Every fireman in Glendale knew that dog. They didn’t know my name, but they knew the dog’s. Next thing, they were calling me Duke, too. I wasn’t named for royalty. I was named for a dog.”
Wayne’s family was never too well off; the drugstore was not a resounding success. In addition, his mother and father did not get on too happily. As a boy, Wayne spent as much time out of the house as he could. Sometimes he would go into Hollywood and work at odd jobs during summer vacations. There, seeing the big-time stars, he resolved to work hard and someday make a fortune. Oddly, it never occurred to him he might become a movie star. He thought he would become a businessman or a lawyer.
“I was like a lot of kids,” Wayne has said. “I knew I wanted to make good and I wanted to get along with people, but I didn’t know what I’d do to get the first and I was too shy to be much good at the second.”
A High-School Football Star In school. Wayne was an athletic star. His size helped, of course, and for a time he thought of becoming a professional. At Glendale High School, he played tackle on the football team, and he was named to the All-Southern California High School eleven.
When he graduated, he applied for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, but didn’t make it. In disappointment, he stowed away on a ship bound for Honolulu, but was discovered the second day out. The officers made him work all the way over and in port did not allow him to go ashore. Back home. Wayne decided to enroll at the University of Southern California. His parents by then were divorced, and he knew he would have to work his way through. He won a football scholarship and supplemented it with money he earned from odd jobs.
His First Movie Job: Stagehand Wayne’s college-football career came to an abrupt end in his sophomore year, when he broke a leg. Soon after recovering from this mishap, he joined a number of other U.S.G. gridders who were working as part-time stagehands in the old Fox Film studios. There he met John Ford, the director who has seven times won an Academy Award. “Duke fell to my lot,” Ford says, “and I made him fourth-assistant property man.” Wayne was paid $35 a week. Ford remembers him fondly as one of the most awkward stagehands he’s ever employed. Wayne recalls he was constantly dropping things. “When I dropped a chair, it had a long way to fall,” he says regretfully, “so it usually broke. They always took the price off my pay check.”
It was some time before Wayne thought of working in front of the scenery he was hired to shift. One stormy day in 1927, Ford was shooting a sea picture in the turbulent channel between the California mainland and Catalina Island. Stunt men had been diving into the waters and reappearing to simulate men escaping from a submarine. As the day wore on, the waters became rougher and the stunt men began refusing to dive in. Ford, spotting the hulking Wayne off to one side, called to him. “Let’s see you show those chicken-livered slobs how to do it.”
Without hesitation, Wayne dived in. The reluctant stunt men followed suit, and Ford got the shots he wanted. After the day’s work was over, Ford called Wayne aside and asked him some questions. “I could see,” Ford says, “that here was a boy a little different from the rest. He wasn’t just hanging around to pick up a fast buck—he was really ambitious and willing to work. I took a liking to him and began throwing him bit parts.”
This incident generated a Damon-and-Pythias relationship between Ford and Wayne that has become almost legendary in Hollywood. Ford is possibly the only man who can tell Wayne where to get off —and keep his eyes unblackened and his nose intact. Years ago, Ford swore off drinking; Wayne has almost never been known to call for ginger ale. Once when Wayne was playing in a Ford picture, the director thought his star was hitting the grog too hard. He went up to him, kicked him in the pants, and said, “Act your age, Duke. You’re not a prop boy any more.” Wayne went meekly to bed.
Wayne has never stopped showing his gratitude for Ford’s help. He is bound by contract to make one Warner Bros, picture a year for the next five years (he has just finished “The Sea Chase”) and he must make one more film for RKO. In 1952, with Robert Fellows, he formed his own company, committing himself to make two pictures annually for himself. Yet John Ford gets his services whenever he asks for them. The only contract the two men have ever had is a handshake twenty-five years ago.
Although Wayne has appeared in many Ford pictures, his first starring part came in a film shot by another director, Raoul Walsh. Ford had sent him to see Walsh, who was casting “The Big Trail.” “I took one look at him,” Walsh has said, “and thought, Here’s my lead.” Walsh decided Wayne’s name had to be changed. “I can’t have a leading man named Marion —that’s a girl’s name,” he said. He chose “John Wayne,” although later he could not explain why. Wayne thus was launched as a full-fledged star, but at something less than star salary. Walsh paid him $75 a week.
He’s Had Just One Flop “The Big Trail” was a flop, perhaps the only flop Wayne has ever appeared in. His own performance, however, came to the attention of other directors, and for ten straight years he swaggered and wrangled his way through one Western after another. In many he did a little of everything—hustled props, handled stock, played one part with his face to the camera and another with his back turned. Perhaps no other actor has ever said. “Saddle up, men. We’ll head ‘em off at the pass,” as often as Wayne. Last fall, after his television debut with Jimmy Durante, Wayne laughed when he recalled the old days. “I appeared on TV for just a few minutes,” he said. “For that, I had to rehearse four days. Hell. I remember when I used to make a full-length Western in less time than that!”
Wayne’s first marriage took place before he was an established star. The year was 1933; the bride was Josephine Saenz, daughter of a Latin-American consul in Los Angeles. Loretta Young was a bridesmaid, and the ceremony was performed in the bride’s mother’s garden. The marriage lasted thirteen years. Four children were born of it: Michael, now twenty; Antonia, eighteen; Patrick, sixteen; Melinda, fourteen The marriage broke up because of a distinct difference in personalities. Miss Saenz was prominent in society and a devout Catholic. Wayne preferred his rough-and-tumble drinking companions and was not particularly religious. “Duke was never sure when he came home to dinner if there’d be one or three priests at the table,” a friend has said, “but he was always sure there’d be at least one.” The clergy made him self-conscious; he spent more and more time away from home.
In 1946, the first Mrs. Wayne, after obtaining special permission from the Church, divorced him on the grounds of mental cruelty. She was awarded their house, one fifth of his first $100,000 gross income each year, plus ten per cent of all above that, and complete custody of the children. Her bite on Wayne last year amounted to around $60,000. Wayne sees his children every Saturday when he is in Hollywood. The boys do odd jobs on his pictures; both worked in “Hondo” with Wayne on location in Mexico.
Not long after his divorce, Wayne married Esperanza Baur, a Mexican movie actress. He was ten years older than she. Since his first wife was a Latin beauty, it came as no surprise to Wayne’s friends when he chose another; he had visited Mexico so often he had developed a strong affinity for the countryside, the towns, the food, and the girls. In addition, Esperanza seemed almost a female counterpart of Wayne’s drinking companions: she loved to ride, shoot, play pitch, and as Wayne said in court, drink. They bought a $140,000 estate in the San Fernando Valley, complete with swimming pool, stables, and riding ring, and settled down.
The marriage was never a placid one. One night Wayne came home, found the front door locked, broke it down, and went into his living room to lie on a couch. His wife came out brandishing a gun; she’d thought he was an intruder, she said.
After their separation, Wayne rented a house in Encino, a small community in the San Fernando Valley. He lives there today with his houseboy.
Wayne’s Newest Latin Beauty Currently, Wayne is courting a third Latin beauty. She is Pilar Pallette, a Peruvian actress whom he met on a trip to Lima two years ago. Soon after his difficulties with Esperanza came to an end last year, he brought Miss Pallette to Hollywood and put her under contract to Wayne-Fellows productions at a reported $400 a week. She has yet to make a picture.
The two of them are seen together frequently; Wayne goes out with her more than he ever did with his two wives. They are sometimes seen in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel and sometimes in night spots like Ciro’s or the Mocambo, though Wayne hates to dance.
There are those who believe Wayne will never marry Miss Pallette or anyone else. One girl who has known him well says, “Duke’s too much of a man’s man. He’s too fond of his freedom. He likes to carouse too much.” But to a friend who asked him about future romantic affiliations, he growled, “That’s out,” then grinned and added, “Aw, you know me. I’ll probably do the same damn thing all over again.”
Wayne has trouble following the routine wives expect of husbands. When he takes off his clothes, he drops them on the floor. He is constitutionally opposed to ashtrays. He hates schedules: lie likes to eat when he feels like it, drink when he wants to, and stay up until he can’t keep his eyes open any longer.
When He Works, He Works Hard But when he’s working, there is no harder worker in Hollywood. A typical Wayne working day finds him up at six a.m. He breakfasts lightly (two eggs, two pieces of toast, black coffee), reads the papers, then goes over the lines he has studied in bed the night before. (Wayne is a quick study and has an excellent memory.) He reports to work around eight a.m., goes to make-up, and shoots straight through to twelve thirty. Then he lunches with the writers and the director. They go back at two and shoot straight through to six thirty. Wayne then goes home and eats a Wayne-sized dinner, usually steak and potatoes with a side dish of Mexican food.
“Look, Boys, I’m an Investment”
During production, he will not go out an evening. The writers usually turn up at his place to discuss the job at hand. “Duke can spot holes in a script faster than most writers and directors.'” says writer James Edward Grant. Frequently Wayne warns his scripters to keep the dialogue simple. Often he throws out stilted speeches and substitutes pet phrases, such as “Saddle up. men. We’ll . . .” etc. If the writers complain. Wayne silences them. “Look, boys,” he says, “I’m an investment. I got to protect that investment.”
When not actually involved in a scene on the set. Wayne still keeps busy talking to his business manager or press agent or businessmen who have various propositions to offer him. Thanks to Bo Roos, his personal manager, Wayne has made a number of shrewd investments. He owns part of a tennis club, a hotel in Culver City and one in Acapulco. a frozen food locker, and a fleet of shrimp boats out of Panama.
Wayne lends his name to comic books, dolls, cowboy suits, and other items for children. He is particular about his endorsements. Unlike some stars, who will sign their names on any product for a fee, Wayne feels he must believe in the product. He has smoked one brand of cigarettes for twenty years. Recently another company offered him double the fee to praise its brand. Wayne said, “I couldn’t do that—I don’t smoke your cigarettes.”
Outside of playing pitch or gin rummy with Ford. Ward Bond, or other friends and taking out Miss Pallette, Wayne has few interests.
Despite his self-confessed incompetence as an actor. Wayne is as theatrically minded as the late John Barrymore. He exercises a strict control over his scripts. Conscious of his rights as a star, he stands up for them at all times. Not long ago, a director gave a larger share of a scene to a younger player. Wayne insisted the take be done over so it favored him. “Protecting that investment again,” a friend commented.
Thanks to the excellent care Wayne has always taken of his investment, his career has had only one low period. This was shortly after “Stagecoach.” Studios all over town were crying for his services, but his home lot, then Republic, regarded his popularity as a passing fad and again cast him in low-budget Westerns. It was only when these cactus epics began cleaning up that the studio recognized Wayne’s real potential. Two of the Republics he made, “The Quiet Man” and “Sands of Iwo Jima,” are the biggest box-office hits in the studio’s history.
One might suppose that after three decades Wayne’s interest in films would be flagging. If anything, it is stronger. He once told a friend in confidence that security was the most important thing in the world to him—financial security, that is. He always carries large sums of money about with him. and he has a horror of being broke.
No Retirement for Him Recently, at dinner with some friends, the talk drifted to the future. A star’s popularity can’t last forever, Wayne opined, and he added that now that he had his own company, he might like to try directing a film.
“I’ve always wanted to try that,” he said, “and I’d like to get out of the saddle and out of uniform.”
“Duke.” one of his friends said, “why don’t you just retire?”
Wayne’s brow wrinkled in the best John Wayne manner. His answer removed any rumor that John Wayne, king of the box office, is thinking of abdicating or even slowing down. “Retire,” he snorted. “Why, seems like I just got started.”