John Wayne – Bigger Than Life
Back in the Day as a teenager out in the backwoods of rural Kansas in the 1960s I wasn’t really that interested in John Wayne as a movie star. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was and why he was so popular in Hollywood movies, especially Westerns, in fact mostly Westerns. As an adult, I’ve grown in appreciation of his skills as an actor and especially enjoyed his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.
I recently spoke to someone who grew up in metropolitan Los Angeles, just outside of the early Hollywood film lots who personally knew John Wayne. They said the first thing you noticed about him was how tall and muscular he was, second only to his mile-wide smile. They recalled that it was especially entertaining to see him pull up in his tiny sports car and then try and get out of the car gracefully. In fact, he said there were friendly bets taken on whether or not Mr. Wayne would get stuck in his car seat and have to call for help just to get out.
The other thing my friend remembered was how Mr. Wayne opened his house to the general public on holidays, but especially on Halloween and Thanksgiving. On Halloween he would dress up in the most outrageous costumes imaginable (sometimes as a woman) and would give the children generous portions of candy and hot apple cider.
And on Thanksgiving he would hand out silver dollars and treats to anyone who dropped by the house, and as you can imagine, people were lined up to get their silver dollar and to shake the hand of the world famous actor. It was also rumored that whenever he could Mr. Wayne privately provided financial aid to families that were especially struggling or had experienced a personal tragedy.
My friend also recalled dozens of times that his dad (and sometimes even his mom) went out drinking at a local bar with both John Wayne and William Holden and they treated them as if they were just regular guys. That’s honestly hard for me to imagine, but is actually refreshing in this time of history where we idolize or idealize everyone who walks down the red carpet at awards time.
Well, I guess those truly were the “good old days” at a time when life was a lot simpler in many ways. It must also have been simply amazing to witness the growth of the film and TV industry firsthand and mingle with the stars.
I once got to watch Michael Douglas film the TV show Streets of San Francisco and
personally approach James Garner when he was finished filming an outdoor scene where he was in a phone booth. He appeared to be incredibly friendly and down to earth and very much at ease with people.
Well that’s about it for my Hollywood historical report and I hope you check out our John Wayne shirt in the products section of our website that’s our personal tribute to one of the truly great legends of the silver screen.
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