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Friday, February 22, 2019

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: John Wayne on His Movies (Part IV of John Wayne’s Famous, Amazing, 1971 Playboy Interview, Uncut)

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

PLAYBOY: In the past, you’ve often said that if the critics liked one of
your films, you must be doing something wrong. But True Grit was almost unanimously praised by the critics. Were you doing something wrong? Or were they right for a change?

WAYNE: Well, I knew that True Grit was going to go—even with the critics. Once in a while, you come onto a story that has such great humor. The author caught the flavor of Mark Twain, to my way of thinking.

PLAYBOY: The reviewers thought you set out to poke fun at your own image in True Grit.

WAYNE: It wasn’t really a parody. Rooster Cogburn’s attitude toward life was maybe a little different, but he was basically the same character I’ve always played.

PLAYBOY: Do you think True Grit is the best film you’ve ever made?

WAYNE: No, I don’t. Two classic Westerns were better—Stagecoach and Red River—and a third, The Searchers, which I thought deserved more praise than it got, and The Quiet Man was certainly one of the best. Also, the one that all the college cinematography students run all the time—The Long Voyage Home.

PLAYBOY: Which was the worst?

WAYNE: Well, there’s about 50 of them that are tied. I can't even remember the names of some of the leading ladies in those first ones, let alone the names of the pictures.

PLAYBOY: At what point in your career were you nicknamed Duke?

WAYNE: That goes back to my childhood. I was called Duke after a dog—a very good Airedale out of the Baldwin Kennels. Republic Pictures gave me a screen credit on one of the early pictures and called me Michael Burn. On another one, they called me Duke Morrison. Then they decided Duke Morrison didn’t have enough prestige. My real name, Marion Michael Morrison, didn’t sound American enough for them. So they came up
with John Wayne. I didn’t have any say in it, but I think it’s a great name. It’s
short and strong and to the point. It took me a long time to get used to it, though. I still don’t recognize it, when somebody calls me “John.”

PLAYBOY: Like Stagecoach, most of the 204 pictures you've made—including your latest, Rio Lobo—have been Westerns. Don’t the plots all start to seem the same?

WAYNE: Rio Lobo certainly wasn't any different from most of my Westerns. Nor was Chisum, the one before that. But there still seems to be a very hearty public appetite for this kind of film—what some writers call a typical John Wayne Western. That’s a label they use disparagingly.

PLAYBOY: Does that bother you?

WAYNE: Nope. If I depended on the critics’ judgment and recognition, I’d never have gone into the motion-picture business.

PLAYBOY: Did last year’s Academy Award for True Grit mean a lot to you?

WAYNE: Sure, it did—even if it took the industry 40 years to get around to it. But I think both of my two previous Oscar nominations—for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Sands of Iwo Jima—were worthy of the honor. I know the Marines and all the American Armed Forces were quite proud of my portrayal of Stryker, the Marine sergeant in Iwo. At an American Legion convention in Florida, General MacArthur told me, “You represent the American serviceman better than the American serviceman himself.” And, at 42, in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, I played the same character that I played in True Grit at 62. [Not hardly!] But I really didn't need an Oscar. I’m a box-office champion with a record they're going to have to run to catch. And they won't.


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