Historical Thinking 6 – Film and Americanism John Wayne: Playboy Interview /

Historical Thinking 6 – Film and Americanism
John Wayne: Playboy Interview / MAY 1971
PLAYBOY: The Alamo was another of your patriotic films. What statement did this picture make?
WAYNE: I thought it would be a tremendous epic picture that would say “America.”
PLAYBOY: Borden Chase, the screenwriter, has been quoted as saying: “When The Alamo was coming out, the word of mouth on it was that it was a dog. This was created by the Communists to get at Wayne. Then there were some bad reviews inspired by the Communists…. It’s a typical Communist technique and they were using it against Duke for what he did in the early Fifties at the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.” Is that true?
WAYNE: Well, there’s always a little truth in everything you hear. The Alliance thing was used pretty strongly against me in those days.
PLAYBOY: Was the Motion Picture Alliance formed to blacklist Communists and Communist sympathizers?
WAYNE: Our organization was just a group of motion-picture people on the right side, not leftists and not Commies. I was the president for a couple of years. There was no blacklist at that time, as some people said. That was a lot of horseshit. Later on, when Congress passed some laws making it possible to take a stand against these people, we were asked about Communists in the industry. So we gave them the facts as we knew them. That’s all. The only thing our side did that was anywhere near blacklisting was just running a lot of people out of the business.
PLAYBOY: That sounds a good deal worse than blacklisting. Why couldn’t you permit all points of view to be expressed freely on the screen?
WAYNE: Because it’s been proven that communism is foreign to the American way of life. If you’d read the official Communist doctrine and then listened to the arguments of these people we were opposing, you’d find they were reciting propaganda by rote. Besides, these Communist sympathizers ran a lot of our people out of the business. One of them was a Pulitzer Prize winner who’s now a columnist—Morrie Ryskind. They just never used him again at MGM after Dore Schary took charge of the studio, even though he was under contract.
PLAYBOY: What was the mood in Hollywood that made it so fashionable to take such a vigorous stand against communism?
WAYNE: Many of us were being invited to supposed social functions or house parties— usually at well-known Hollywood writers’ homes—that turned out to be Communist recruitment meetings. Suddenly, everybody from makeup men to stagehands found themselves in seminars on Marxism… I also knew two other fellas who really did things that were detrimental to our way of life. One of them was Carl Foreman, the guy who wrote the screenplay for High Noon, and the other was Robert Rossen, the one who made the picture about Huey Long, All the King’s Men. In Rossen’s version of All the King’s Men, which he sent me to read for a part, every character who had any responsibility at all was guilty of some offense against society. To make Huey Long a wonderful, rough pirate was great; but, according to this picture, everybody was a shit except for this weakling intern doctor who was trying to find a place in the world. I sent the script back to Charlie Feldman, my agent, and said, “If you ever send me a script like this again, I’ll fire you.” Ironically, it won the Academy Award. High Noon was even worse. Everybody says High Noon is a great picture because Tiomkin wrote some great music for it and because Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly were in it. So it’s got everything going for it. In that picture, four guys come in to gun down the sheriff. He goes to the church and asks for help and the guys go, “Oh well, oh gee.” And the women stand up and say, “You’re rats. You’re rats. You’re rats.” So Cooper goes out alone. It’s the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. The last thing in the picture is ole Coop putting the United States marshal’s badge under his foot and stepping on it. I’ll never regret having helped run Foreman out of this country.
PLAYBOY: What gave you the right?
WAYNE: Running him out of the country is just a figure of speech. But I did tell him that I thought he’d hurt Gary Cooper’s reputation a great deal. Foreman said, “Well, what if I went to England?” I said, “Well, that’s your business.” He said, “Well, that’s where I’m going.” And he did.
Alamo Trailer
High Noon Trailer
Rio Bravo Trailer