John Wayne was well known for his tough and meaty persona on and off screen, making no secret of what he truly thought of the peers he clashed with. He lashed out at Red River co-star Montgomery Clift as “an arrogant little bastard” and criticized Gene Hackman as “one of the worst actors in Hollywood.” Duke was part of a conservative inner circle that included his longtime collaborator John Ford, and it turns out that Wayne’s exceptionally rude firing of a Gone with the Wind star stemmed from a dispute with the director.
In 1953, Clark Gable, star of Gone with the Wind, which opened 83 years ago today, starred opposite Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly in Ford’s romantic adventure, Mogambo. The director was a notoriously short-tempered character who often humiliated and harassed his cast in order to get better performances from them. During the African production, he would comment on Gable’s age and weathered appearance. The actor even left the set in protest of the filmmaker’s treatment of Gardner.
In her book John Wayne: My Father, Aissa wrote: “During the filming of Mogambo, Ford and Gable had clashed again and again, and the ensuing feud had raged for years. In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, supporting his enemies in any way, was expressly prohibited. If Clark Gable stood up to John Ford, my father’s code called for John Wayne to support his old friend.
As a result of his loyalty to Ford, Duke made some extremely rude comments about Gable: “[He’s] extremely handsome in person. That’s a guy who doesn’t need Hollywood to look good. But Gable is an idiot. Do you know why Gable is an actor? He’s the only thing he’s smart enough to do.”
His daughter also shared why her father thought the Gone with the Wind star couldn’t have another career outside of acting.
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Wayne saw himself more as a star than an actor, which was in contrast to Gable’s view of being an actor.
Duke said: “I don’t act at all, I react. In a bad image, you see them acting all over the place. In a good picture, they react logically to a situation they find themselves in so that the audience can relate to them. All I do is sell sincerity, and I’ve been selling a lot since I started. I was never one of the little kids of the theater. That artsy crowd only has superficial gloss on it anyway. True art is basic emotion. If a scene is handled simply, and I don’t mean simple, it will be good and the audience will know it.”
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