Western and war movie actor John Wayne held some controversial beliefs, although their true breadth wouldn’t come out until a 1971 Playboy interview. As a result, the media regularly called him out for racist and homophobic language and beliefs. Wayne thought movie critics spent more time writing about his politics than they did review the work itself.
John Wayne’s politics overshadowed his career for some crowds
Wayne was very specific with the movie roles he would accept. They often demonstrated patriotic values and upheld traditional ideals of masculinity that would emphasize his idea of strength. As a result, Wayne brought many crowds to movie theater auditoriums over the course of his career.
The infamous 1971 Playboy interview found Wayne stating that Black people shouldn’t be in positions of leadership until they are “educated to a point of responsibility.” The actor still believed himself to be a liberal, but he had a different understanding of the word. Wayne considered himself open to other beliefs, but the interview still included dangerous language toward Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, and Black people.
John Wayne thought movie critics were actually just reviewing his politics
In an interview with movie critic Roger Ebert, Wayne talked about his career headed into True Grit. Ebert brought up the Oscar buzz he got for his performance, which would ultimately win him the golden statue. However, Wayne had thoughts on the importance of the movie award season.
“Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance,” Wayne said. “I’d be pleased to win one, of course, although I imagine these things mean more to the public than to us. There are a lot of old standbys who don’t have one. That comedian … what the hell is his name? Gary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business.”
Wayne recognized that other movie showings earned him critical praise, but it was never enough to push him over the edge into securing an Oscar win. He firmly believed that critics were so focused on his politics that they couldn’t pivot their focus to the film at hand.
“I was nominated for Sands of Iwo Jima, but I didn’t win,” Wayne said. “Well, maybe this time they’ll review the picture instead of me and the war. That little clique back there in the East has taken great personal satisfaction in reviewing my politics instead of my pictures. And they’ve drawn up a caricature of me. Which doesn’t bother me; their opinions don’t matter to the people who go to movies.”
The actor infused his beliefs into war and Western movies
Wayne starred in a wide variety of war and Western movie projects that upheld his political and personal beliefs. As a result, many film critics pointed out that titles, such as The Green Berets, simply served as war propaganda.
The actor never served in the armed forces, which would haunt him over the course of his career. However, Wayne felt his duty was to serve the American public in movie theaters on the silver screen. His films continue to entertain audiences around the world between his wild Westerns and his patriotic war flicks.
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