High Noon: Sylvia Syms reveals John Wayne turned down role
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Across more than 170 films and TV productions, actor John Wayne proved himself to be one of cinema’s greatest ever stars. His reputation was so good with viewers across the globe that he was recognised by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema. Wayne, nicknamed The Duke, saw his career hit its best year yet in 1970 when he secured an Academy Award win for Best Actor in True Grit.
The star’s life is still discussed and devoured years after his death in 1979, with loyal fans continuing to enjoy his performances.
Outside of the silver screen though, much about his personal life remains shrouded in mystery, including his supposedly notorious drinking habits.
In the 2001 book, Cut to the Chase, author Sam O’Steen claimed that studio directors knew Wayne had to shoot scenes before noon because after that point he would have a drink.
From his research, O’Steen alleged that an afternoon tipple often resulted in Wayne becoming a “mean drunk”.
The actor’s drinking was discussed by his younger son, Ethan, who recalled Waynes habit, including when the pair went on his 136-foot yacht.
Ethan claimed that the vessel would pull up to an iceberg if close enough to allow Wayne to chip some off to place in his drink.
In 2018, the Daily Beast reported Ethan as saying: “He always went for bourbon over generic whiskey. If he wanted a drink it was bourbon or tequila.”
An editorial from TV Over Mind appeared to confirm O’Steen’s research, as “by the afternoon [Wayne] was well on his way to being three sheets to the wind and meaner than a rattlesnake after it’s been stepped on”.
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It added: “Many people went on record as saying that John Wayne was a particularly mean drunk and didn’t sugarcoat the fact for anyone.
“What people need to remember is that these were different times in which The Duke existed however, and despite not being seen as right now, back then it was pretty standard to start the day out at around noon and keep going until the night was over.
“Did he have a drinking problem? He might not have called it a problem, but he did enjoy his booze.”
Outside of this, Wayne was also known for his being outspoken on a number of topics about both Hollywood and the wider world.
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John Wayne won an Oscar for True Grit
It included his opinions on fellow actors such as Oscar winner Gene Hackman, whose work he severely criticised.
Hackman earned critical acclaim throughout his long career in Hollywood, including claiming two Academy Award wins, for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, in The French Connection and Unforgiven respectively.
Another was Clark Gable, famous for his starring role in the iconic hit Gone with the Wind.
Wayne’s daughter Aissa recalled their relationship in her 1991 book John Wayne: My Father, in which she noted how Gable upset him after a falling out with his friend, and longtime collaborator, John Ford.
She wrote: “My dad called Gable handsome but dumb at least four or five times, and now I wonder if it had something to do with my father’s friend, John Ford.
“During the filming of Mogambo, Ford and Gable had clashed again and again and the subsequent feud had simmered for years. In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, support in any fashion for their enemies, was expressly forbidden.
“If Clark Gable took on John Ford, my father’s code demanded that John Wayne stand by his old pal.”
He even described Gable as “extremely handsome in person” but one who was ultimately an “idiot”.
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