Friday, February 22, 2019

John Wayne on Losing Money, and Losing a Lung ( Part X of the Famous, 1971 Playboy Interview)

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

PLAYBOY: You seem to have a very blunt way of dealing with people. Why?

WAYNE: I've always followed my father's advice: He told me, first, to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddamn sure I intend to. And, third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble.

PLAYBOY: Don't you sometimes stray from these three tenets—particularly from the third one?

WAYNE: Well, I guess I have had some problems sticking to that third rule,
but I'd say I've done pretty damn well with the first and second. I try to have good enough taste to insult only those I wish to insult. I've worked in a business where it's almost a requirement to break your word if you want to survive, but whenever I signed a contract for five years or for a certain amount of money, I've always lived up to it. I figured that if I was silly enough to sign it, or if I thought it was worthwhile at the time, that's the way
she goes. I'm not saying that I won't drive as hard a bargain as I can. In fact, I think more about that end of the business than I did before, ever since 1959, when I found that my business manager was playing more than he was working. I didn't know how bad my financial condition was until my lawyer and everybody else said, "Let's all have a meeting and figure out exactly where you stand." At the conclusion of that meeting, it was quite obvious that I wasn't in anywhere near the shape that I thought I was or ought to be after 25 years of hard work. If they'd given me the time to sell everything without
taking a quick loss, I would have come out about even.

PLAYBOY: Were you involved in money-losing deals?

WAYNE: Yeah. Oil and everything else. Not enough constructive thinking had been done. Then there was the shrimp fiasco. One of my dearest friends was Robert Arias, who was married to the ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. While his brother Tony was alive, we had control of about 70 percent of the shrimp in Panama. We were also buying some island property near the Panama Canal. We were going to put in a ship-repair place. There were tugs standing down there at $150 a day to drag ships back up to the United States, because repair prices in the Canal Zone were so high. But our plans fell through when Tony was killed in an airplane accident. Around a half a million dollars was lost.

PLAYBOY: Has your financial condition improved since then?

WAYNE: If anything happened to me now, I have the right amount of insurance, I hope and pray, for my estate. I'm about as big a rancher as there is in Arizona, so I have outside interests other than my motion-picture work. The turning point was the moment I decided to watch what was being done with my money.

PLAYBOY: Another—and certainly more dramatic—turning point for you was your cancer operation in 1964. At the time, were you optimistic about the outcome of the surgery?

WAYNE: Well, I had two operations six days apart—one for a cancer that was as big as a baby's fist, and then one for edema. I wasn't so uptight when I was told about the cancer. My biggest fear came when they twisted my windpipe and had to sew me back together a second time. When my family came in to see me and I saw the looks on their faces, I figured, "Well, Jeez, I must be just about all through."

PLAYBOY: How did you keep your spirits up?

WAYNE: By thinking about God and my family and my friends and telling myself, "Everything will be all right." And it was. I licked the big C. I know the man upstairs will pull the plug when he wants to, but I don't want to end up my life being sick. I want to go out on two feet—in action.

PLAYBOY: Does the loss of one lung restrict you from doing those roughhouse movie stunts?

WAYNE: The operation hasn't impeded anything except that I get short of
breath quickly. Particularly in the higher altitudes, that slows me down. I still do my own fights and all that stuff. I'd probably do a little bit more if I had more wind, but I still do more than my share. Nobody else does anything anymore than I do, whether they're young or old.

PLAYBOY: Is it a matter of machismo for you to continue fighting your own fights?

WAYNE: I don't have to assert my virility. I think my career has shown that I'm not exactly a pantywaist. But I do take pride in my work, even to the point of being the first one on the set in the morning. I'm a professional.

PLAYBOY: In recent years, you've fallen off horses rather unprofessionally on a couple of occasions—once dislocating a shoulder during the production of The Undefeated. Wasn't that embarrassing?

WAYNE: What the hell, in my racket I've fallen off a lot of horses. I even fell off on purpose in True Grit. But that fall in The Undefeated was irritating because I tore some ligaments in my shoulder. I don't have good use of one arm anymore, and it makes me look like an idiot when I'm getting on a horse.

PLAYBOY: Is that an unfamiliar experience?

WAYNE: Getting on a horse?

PLAYBOY: Looking like an idiot.

WAYNE: Not hardly. One of the times I really felt like a fool was when I was working on my first important film, The Big Trail, in Yuma, Arizona. I was three weeks flat on my back with turistas—or Montezuma's revenge, or the Aztec two-step, whatever you want to call it. You know, you get a little grease and soap on the inside of a fork and you've got it. Anyway, that was the worst case I ever had in my life. I'd been sick for so long that they finally said. "Jeez, Duke, if you can't get up now, we've got to get somebody else to take your place." So, with a loss of 18 pounds, I returned to work. My first scene was carrying in an actor named Tully Marshall, who was known to booze it up quite a bit. He had a big jug in his hand in this scene, and I set him down and we have a drink with another guy. They passed the jug to me first, and I dug back into it; it was straight rotgut bootleg whiskey. I'd been puking and crapping blood for a week and now I just poured that raw stuff right down my throat. After the scene, you can bet I called him every kind of an old bastard.


Anonymous said...

The financial aspect of the Hollywood business. So many big names find themselves in serious big time debt. Do not keep a good eye on their own money. Wayne included.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know J.W.had cancer in 64.Thought the one that got him was the first illness--but actually that never happens.They can get rid of it once--but when it comes back,it's all over.