Maureen O'Hara Answers -
What Makes John Wayne Hollywood's Favorite Lover?
by Dorothy Trolear
(segments from a 1973 article of a fan magazine-
I am using the time frame guidelines of some content reference to the
movie "Cahill-US Marshall which was released in 1973)
John Wayne has weathered the decades to emerge as he started: the heroic All American figure. Unlike Marlon Brando, who also acts independently, the Duke is still on a periphery of Americana as its red-blooded chief. Known as having a temper that would match George C. Scott's Patton, a cusser, a show-off (as stuntmen hired to do the job stand by, Duke will do his own dangerous stunts), difficult on the set (says Kim Darby, among others) - he's a tough guy in more ways than are imaginable. And his appeal? It's a popular and as durable as ever. Why? What chemistry produces box-office gold with his pictures even though one caustic friend wrote, "You see one John Wayne movie, you've seen 'em all"?
Then who better to ask about Wayne adulation than Maureen O'Hara, one of Wayne's favorite people, called "Aunt Maureen by the Wayne children and the "Duchess" by the Duke himself. "Next to my husband [Maureen is married to Gen. Charles Blair, flyer, author, airplane and transportation executive in the Virgin Islands], Duke Wayne is my favorite subject-my favorite friend, and yes, indeed, my favorite actor. I can honestly say Duke and I have a rapport that no other two 'teams,' if you want to call it that, have. I love him. I love his family, and, further, I have the greatest respect for him."
I had thought that Maureen and John had done many films together. "Actually, it's only five," she said, and named them off. ("Rio Grande," "Quiet Man," "Wings of Eagles," "Big Jake," "McLintock," plus the stage play **"What Price Glory." "But even I feel like it's more. Whenever I recall a favorite movie, it's always one I have done with Duke. You ask what makes him so popular-so much a hero....
"First of all, I would say it's because he is so consistent in his beliefs. He'll always stand up and be counted. There's no bull about Duke. This goes for his career, his family, his friends, his loyalty to people. He never changes. He's earned his degree by hard work, discipline, and doing whatever he does-excellently and professionally. There's no kowtowing and there never has been. He is also very loyal. He has security in himself and in whatever he does, and he passes that feeling to everyone around him. There's never any 'change of wind,' and he always plays everything as it lays. I can see why everyone is so in awe of him on the set.
(I am not including several paragraphs speaking of his professionalism and tough discipline on the set...we continue...)
Certainly, then, (with his strict on-set discipline) then it seemed there was nothing very sentimental about John Wayne, as has been hinted, except for one personal exception: At the wedding of his daughter, Toni, when it was very hot in the church, she had almost passed out before the final vows. She slumped, and her father was the first at her side, taking her outside the church to get her air, hugging and kissing her, giving her words of consolation and walking her back to the altar.
"Duke is one of the most sentimental people I know. Especially where his wife, his children, his friends and the awards he has won are concerned. Also, his pictures; old friendships; some particular clothes he has worn in a picture; some silly but sentimental thing that might have happened on a picture.
"For instance, we had to take a break when one of our stuntmen's wife gave a hard birth to a son in a neighboring tent where we were on location. We were all so upset. duke called off shooting for the rest of the day. That boy is now working for Duke and his son, Michael."
"I remember another time when Duke insisted that his wife, Pilar, and daughter Aissa, who was then about six months old, come on location with us. The 'Sons of the Pioneer,' also on the picture sang a song to Aissa every night after we finished shooting and every night Duke had tears in his eyes. I found myself with tears in my eyes."
....."We reminisced further, talking about pictures both had been in, and about times when even Ms. O'Hara had had her Irish temper sessions with her favorite actor.
"You bet," she says, "he struck me so hard on my back-side once during a scene I came out with my fists, and really wanted to belt him. He kept laughing and I kept getting madder. Later that day, we had a tough scene together, and baby, I really let him have it-on his behind. I think it was one of the best scenes we ever played tougher. We played poker later that night, and he again chuckled about my whooping him in his derrière, and he said he had to leave to put a Band-Aid on his behind. He also told me about an actress who was signed for a very minor role, who decided to tell HIM how to play her part. She matriculated for several minutes, and then Duke said to her, "Who in the hell do you think you are? O'Hara?"
I reminded her of a picture in which she appeared with Jackie Gleason and Gleason had her chair labeled "Mrs. John Wayne." Jackie, in one of his 'Poor Soul" characters, would welcome her on the set with: "And now - the one, the only, the 'other' Mrs. John Wayne!" Except for show biz had she ever been mistaken for Mrs. John Wayne elsewhere?
".....at customs, immigration and passport divisions all over the world, they all ask me if John Wayne is coming, too. I usually hold up the lines at all these places, too. Except for Russia, I have covered every country in the world. They all stop me-either at legal places or on the street-and ask me if I am Mrs. John Wayne. Do you know the languages I have to cope with? Even if my darling husband is with me, they keep asking in any language whether I can understand it or not. "What is John Wayne really like? Is he really tough? Is he really nice? How many children? How many grandchildren? Does he have freckles? What is his real age? Will you make more pictures together? Is he sick? Is he thing? Is he fat? I cannot tell you all the questions they ask! The one that really makes me laugh is: "Does he really wear a hair-piece?' I have to answer that eh does, which brings me to another point when he was really upset with his 'dresser' on the set.
"The makeup man insisted on 'cementing' his hair-piece, because he had to dive into a river to save me on a picture. Duke bitched about getting it on, the time it took (you know he really hates the thing) and the fact that it took so long to put a firm hold on his scalp. We rested about 15 minutes, and then I got into the water and Duke made his big scene, diving into the river to save me. Well, he 'surfaced' and I was wallowing on the surface, and there, between us, was the hair-piece, floating around. Well, we both howled so loud it took us another 15 minutes to get out of the water! I thought Duke would explode. Instead, we had a break, and for the next take he really had his hair-piece cemented on."
Dusk had settled on blear, where Maureen had come from the Virgin Islands to remove furnishings from her father's home. She was to leave on the the next day for the Virgin Islands, with her husband, 'General Charles,' as she calls him. She planned another visit in the fall, when she was due for a film.
She also wished it could have been John. "But he's not really that much for comedy," said the AKA "Mrs. John Wayne." "One of the nicest things was standing in line for 'Cahill,' the new Wayne movie, when a sweet little old lady came up to me and said, "Oh Mrs. Wayne, your son just went in." It was Michael Wayne!
"We (Michael) had talked for a few minutes and I guess the lady saw us but just wanted to talk to me. I was flustered for a moment, and then just said, "Oh thank you." Charlie and I smiled and as we got to our seats, he whispered, 'Honey, you can do a movie with that Wayne fella any time you want to,' and I thought to myself, 'I must call olde Duke tomorrow and tell him to send me a script! Any kind of a script.!"
- Dorothy Trolear
**What Price Glory (a John Ford presentation 1950) (Stage) This was a special performance on stage, Grauman's Chinese Theater, of John Ford's old stock company.
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©June Parker Beck