Sunday, February 14, 2016

John Wayne: “I believe in white supremacy…” Wayne’s Famous, Amazing, 1971 Playboy Interview, Uncut


In his Oscar-winning role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969)

The young Duke Morrison, on the cover of Scott Eyman's towering biography, John Wayne: the Life and Legend

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Part I

“… until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

“There's a lot of things great about life. But I think tomorrow is the most important thing. Comes in to us at midnight very clean, ya know. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.”

I read somewhere that the foregoing statement, about tomorrow, is on Wayne’s gravestone, even though he had said that he wanted a simple Mexican saying that went, I believe, “He was strong, he was ugly, he had dignity.”

John Wayne: Playboy Interview / May 1971

Accessed from a forum post at

For more than 41 years, the barrel-chested physique and laconic derring-do of John Wayne have been prototypical of gung-ho virility, Hollywood style. In more than 200 films—from The Big Trail in 1930 to the soon-to-be-released Million Dollar Kidnapping [? Possibly, Big Jake]—Wayne has charged the beaches at Iwo Jima, beaten back the Indians at Fort Apache and bloodied his fists in the name of frontier justice so often—and with nary a defeat—that he has come to occupy a unique niche in American folklore. The older generation still remembers him as Singing Sandy, one of the screen's first crooning cowpokes; the McLuhan generation has grown up with him on The Late Show. With Cooper and Gable and Tracy gone, the last of the legendary stars survives and flourishes as never before. His milieu is still the action Western, in which Wayne's simplistic plotlines and easily discernible good and bad guys attest to a romantic way of life long gone from the American scene—if indeed it ever really existed. Even his screen name—changed from Marion Michael Morrison—conveys the man's plain, rugged cinematic personality. Fittingly, he was the first of the Western movie heroes to poke a villain in the jaw.

Wearing the symbolic white Stetson—which never seemed to fall off, even in the wildest combat—he made scores of three-and-a-half-day formula oaters such as Pals of the Saddle in the Thirties before being tapped by director John Ford to star in Stagecoach—the 1939 classic that paved the way for his subsequent success in such milestone Westerns as Red River, the ultimate epic of the cattle drive, and The Alamo, a patriotic paean financed by Wayne with $1.5 million of his own money.

By 1969, having made the list of Top Ten box-office attractions for 19 consecutive years, Wayne had grossed more than $400 million for his studios—more than any other star in motion-picture history. But because of his uncompromising squareness—and his archconservative politics—he was still largely a profit without honor in Hollywood. That oversight was belatedly rectified when his peers voted the tearful star a 1970 Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, the tobacco-chewing, hard-drinking, straight-shooting, patch-eyed marshal in True Grit—a possibly unwitting exercise in self-parody that good-naturedly spoofed dozens of his past characterizations.

President Nixon remarked several months later at a press conference that he and his family had recently enjoyed a screening of Chisum, adding: "I think that John Wayne is a very fine actor." Long active in Republican politics, Wayne has vigorously campaigned and helped raise funds for Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Murphy, Barry Goldwater and Los Angeles' maverick Democratic mayor Sam Yorty. Before the 1968 campaign, a right-wing Texas billionaire had urged Wayne to serve as vice presidential running mate to George Wallace, an overture he rejected. Not least among the Texan's reasons for wanting to draft Wayne was the actor's obdurately hawkish support of the Indochina war—as glorified in his production of The Green Berets, which had the dubious distinction of being probably the only pro-war movie made in Hollywood during the Sixties.

Last fall, Wayne's first television special—a 90-minute quasi-historical pageant dripping with God-home-and-country hyperbole—racked up such a hefty Nielsen rating that it was rebroadcast in April. At year's end, Wayne was named one of the nation's most admired entertainers in a Gallup Poll. Assigned by Playboy shortly afterward to interview the superstar, Contributing Editor Richard Warren Lewis journeyed to Wayne's sprawling (11-room, seven-bath) $175,000 bayfront residence on the Gold Coast of Newport Beach, California, where he lives with his third Latin wife—Peruvian-born Pilar Pallete—and three of his seven children. Of his subject, Lewis writes: "Wayne greeted me on a manicured lawn against a backdrop of sailboats, motor cruisers and yachts plying Newport harbor. Wearing a realistic toupee, Wayne at first appeared considerably younger than he is; only the liver spots on both hands and the lines in his jut-jawed face told of his 63 years. But at 6'4" and 244 pounds, it still almost seems as if he could have single-handedly mopped up all those bad guys from the Panhandle to Guadalcanal. His sky-blue eyes, though somewhat rheumy from the previous night's late hours, reinforced the image.

"Adjourning to the breakfast room, we spoke for several hours while Wayne enjoyed the first Dungeness crabs of the season, drank black coffee and fielded phone calls. One of the calls settled details of an imminent visit from the Congolese ambassador. (Wayne and several associates own lucrative mineral rights in the Congo.) Another call confirmed a $100 bet on the Santa Anita Handicap, to be contested later that day. (Wayne lost.) "'Christ, we better get going,' he said shortly before one o'clock. 'They're holding lunch for us.' He led the way past a den and trophy room stacked with such memorabilia as photos of his 18 grandchildren and the largest collection of Hopi Indian katcina dolls west of Barry Goldwater. Outside the house, past jacaranda and palm trees and a kidney-shaped swimming pool, we reached a seven-foot-high concrete wall at the entryway and boarded Wayne's dark-green Bonneville station wagon, a production model with only two modifications—a sun roof raised six inches to accommodate the driver's 10-gallon hat, and two telephone channels at the console beside him.

"At Newport harbor, we boarded Wayne's awesome Wild Goose II, a converted U.S. Navy mine sweeper that saw service during the last six months of World War II and has been refitted as a pleasure cruiser. After a quick tour of the 136-foot vessel—which included a look at the twin 500-horsepower engines, clattering teletype machines (A.P., U.P.I., Reuter's, Tass) on the bridge disgorging wire dispatches, and the lavishly appointed bedroom and dressing suites—we were seated at a polished-walnut table in the main saloon.

"Over a high-protein diet lunch of char-broiled steak, lettuce and cottage cheese, Wayne reminisced about the early days of Hollywood, when he was making two-reelers for $500 each. Later that afternoon, he produced a bottle of his favorite tequila. One of the eight crew members anointed our glasses with a dash of fresh lemon juice, coarse salt and heaping ice shards that, Wayne said, had been chopped from a 1000-year-old glacier on a recent Wild Goose visit to Alaska. Sustained by these potent drinks, our conversation—ranging from Wayne's early days in filmmaking to the current state of the industry—continued until dusk, and resumed a week later in the offices of Wayne's Batjac Productions, on the grounds of Paramount Pictures—one of the last of Hollywood's rapidly dwindling contingent of major studios."

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about the state of the motion-picture business today?
WAYNE: I'm glad I won't be around much longer to see what they do with it. The men who control the big studios today are stock manipulators and bankers. They know nothing about our business. They're in it for the buck. The only thing they can do is say, "Jeez, that picture with what's-her-name running around the park naked made money, so let's make another one. If that's what they want, let's give it to them." Some of these guys remind me of high-class whores. Look at 20th Century-Fox, where they're making movies like Myra Breckinridge. Why doesn't that son of a bitch Darryl Zanuck get himself a striped silk shirt and learn how to play the piano? Then he could work in any room in the house. As much as I couldn't stand some of the old-time moguls—especially Harry Cohn—these men took an interest in the future of their business. They had integrity. There was a stretch when they realized that they'd made a hero out of the goddamn gangster heavy in crime movies, that they were doing a discredit to our country. So the moguls voluntarily took it upon themselves to stop making gangster pictures. No censorship from the outside. They were responsible to the public. But today's executives don't give a damn. In their efforts to grab the box office that these sex pictures are attracting, they're producing garbage. They're taking advantage of the fact that nobody wants to be called a bluenose. But they're going to reach the point where the American people will say, "The hell with this!" And once they do, we'll have censorship in every state, in every city, and there'll be no way you can make even a worthwhile picture for adults and have it acceptable for national release.

PLAYBOY: Won't the present rating system prevent that from happening?
WAYNE: No. Every time they rate a picture, they let a little more go. Ratings are ridiculous to begin with. There was no need for rated pictures when the major studios were in control. Movies were once made for the whole family. Now, with the kind of junk the studios are cranking out—and the jacked-up prices they're charging for the privilege of seeing it—the average family is staying home and watching television. I'm quite sure that within two or three years, Americans will be completely fed up with these perverted films.

PLAYBOY: What kind of films do you consider perverted?
WAYNE: Oh, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy—that kind of thing. Wouldn't you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies? But don't get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I'm awfully happy there's a thing called sex. It's an extra something God gave us. I see no reason why it shouldn't be in pictures. Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.

PLAYBOY: How graphically do you think it should be depicted on the screen?
WAYNE: When you get hairy, sweaty bodies in the foreground, it becomes distasteful, unless you use a pretty heavy gauze. I can remember seeing pictures that Ernst Lubitsch made in the Thirties that were beautifully risqué—and you'd certainly send your children to see them. They were done with intimation. They got over everything these other pictures do without showing the hair and the sweat. When you think of the wonderful picture fare we've had through the years and realize we've come to this shit, it's disgusting. If they want to continue making those pictures, fine. But my career will have ended. I've already reached a pretty good height right now in a business that I feel is going to fade out from its own vulgarity.

PLAYBOY: Don't gory films like The Wild Bunch also contribute to that vulgarity?
WAYNE: Certainly. To me, The Wild Bunch was distasteful. It would have been a good picture without the gore. Pictures go too far when they use that kind of realism, when they have shots of blood spurting out and teeth flying, and when they throw liver out to make it look like people's insides. The Wild Bunch was one of the first to go that far in realism, and the curious went to see it. That may make the bankers and the stock promoters think this is a necessary ingredient for successful motion pictures. They seem to forget the one basic principle of our business—illusion. We're in the business of magic. I don't think it hurts a child to see anything that has the illusion of violence in it. All our fairy tales have some kind of violence—the good knight riding to kill the dragon, etc. Why do we have to show the knight spreading the serpent's guts all over the candy mountain?

PLAYBOY: Proponents of screen realism say that a public inured to bloody war-news footage on television isn't going to accept the mere illusion of violence in movies.
WAYNE: Perhaps we have run out of imagination on how to effect illusion because of the satiating realism of a real war on television. But haven't we got enough of that in real life? Why can't the same point be made just as effectively in a drama without all the gore? The violence in my pictures, for example, is lusty and a little bit humorous, because I believe humor nullifies violence. Like in one picture, directed by Henry Hathaway, this heavy was sticking a guy's head in a barrel of water. I'm watching this and I don't like it one bit, so I pick up this pick handle and I yell, "Hey!" and cock him across the head. Down he went—with no spurting blood. Well, that got a hell of a laugh because of the way I did it. That's my kind of violence.

PLAYBOY: Audiences may like your kind of violence on the screen, but they'd never heard profanity in a John Wayne movie until True Grit. Why did you finally decide to use such earthy language in a film?
WAYNE: In my other pictures, we've had an explosion or something go off when a bad word was said. This time we didn't. It's profanity, all right, but I doubt if there's anybody in the United States who hasn't heard the expression son of a bitch or bastard. We felt it was acceptable in this instance. At the emotional high point in that particular picture, I felt it was OK to use it. It would have been pretty hard to say "you illegitimate sons of so-and-so!"

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.


Although Wayne could not choose a single "worst" picture, it is widely believed that The Conqueror (1956), in which he portrayed Genghis Khan, was his worst.

Susan Hayward desired Wayne's company off-camera, and left no doubt about her designs on her co-star. When Wayne had to kiss her, as a prelude to raping ("marrying") her character, he said that she slid her tongue down his throat, which he found disgusting. Wayne had nothing against sleeping with his co-stars, but was turned off by women (e.g., Joan Crawford) who came on so strong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That interview is one of the most cogent views of blacks I have read.Honest and true and to the point.Any objections blacks have today about being oppressed are addressed by the Duke:"Go to school--no one is stopping them".Lol.Just the opposite of Clooney and Colbert.If an actor came out now with an interview like that he or she would be assailed until forced to apologize--see Charlotte Rampling.The "Duke" would have told them to "go to hell"of course.Great piece of history.Thanks Nicholas.