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John Wayne Final Interview ‘You’ll Be In Trouble If This Airs Duke’

During his last 15 years, John Wayne suffered from serious health problems. The heavy smoker was diagnosed with lung cancer in the mid-1960s, which resulted in the removal of one of his lungs and a pair of ribs. Determined to maintain his macho image, Duke often insisted on doing his own stunts in his movies and continued to smoke cigars despite giving them up. The star, who continued to play roles he was too old for, wore a toupee and secretly relied on an oxygen tank, which he tried to keep secret; he once blew up on a reporter who took a picture of him wearing a mask to catch his breath. in the set

After making 1973’s Cahill US Marshall, Wayne responded to the death of his contributing director John Ford: “I’m on borrowed time.” In 1976, he starred in his last film, a western called The Shootist, which also starred Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and James Stewart. His lead role as JB Books was a man dying of cancer, a disease that would kill Duke in real life just three years later. Having been diagnosed with stomach cancer, Wayne enrolled in a vaccine study in an attempt to beat it. However, the 71-year-old man was too weak to start chemotherapy and the experimental treatment. In January 1979, six months before he died, Wayne gave his last interview to Barbara Walters, who died just before New Year’s Eve. Reflecting on her conversation years later, he said her days were numbered: “I think he knew,” as she was admitted to hospital a day later and never recovered.

Wayne’s last interview took place at his Newport Beach home, which Walters said was formal and elegant with a surprisingly humble bedroom. During the filmed conversation, Duke was noticeably thinner with a husky voice as he recounted memories of his youth, including how he almost became a lawyer. The Hollywood star was a lifelong conservative with highly controversial views, including once calling himself a “white supremacist” and using a homophobic slur in a 1971 Playboy interview. So, naturally, when the subject came up of politics and women, Walters was surprised by some of her views. When asked if women scared the hell out of him, Wayne replied: “True. Yeah. Scared!”

Asked if he always voted Republican, Duke said: “Well, I voted for Roosevelt once. Once. Think about the cars we had. Do you think that had anything to do with socialism? It was men who wanted to become millionaires. That is capitalism. If this country had stayed the way it was and every man had worked two jobs instead of looking for one. If we hadn’t made it so difficult for a family to maintain their lifestyle, their wives had to go to work… I think it would be more pleasant for the lady, also for the man to go to work and for the lady to have her other interests…political, bridge.” At this point, Walters became terrified that she might broadcast the interview after he expressed her views on women’s roles.

READ MORE: John Wayne angered John Ford on a Western set plagued by tragedy

Walters said, “Oh, you’re going to be in trouble! I can hear it if we broadcast this… political bridge! I mean, what if I said [that] to you, duke. Wayne replied, “Well, I’ll go play bridge and you’ll do the work. That’s fine by me. I love the bridge!” She retorted: “Sometimes I listen to you and think, why don’t you just shut the fuck up? It would be easier for you. A lot of people think that actors should, you know, go up and act.”

When asked why she should keep her mouth shut as an actor, she replied, “Because maybe they’ve heard it. He has more power than anyone because he is an actor.” But the star had another answer. Wayne said, “I don’t have anywhere near the power that the press has and they certainly say a lot of things they shouldn’t.” Walters asked him, “Do you never worry that he might interfere with your career or that people might not like you?” But he simply replied: “I am me, I am me.”

Duke’s last public appearance would be at the 51st Academy Awards on April 9, 1979, where he presented Best Picture. The 71-year-old was greeted on stage after being introduced by Johnny Carson, who received a standing ovation. The western star was noticeably much skinnier and he secretly wore a wetsuit under his tuxedo for reinforcement. Thanking the audience for their applause, he spoke briefly before announcing The Deer Hunter as the winner.

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Wayne died just two months later, on June 11, 1979, with his family around him. Her daughter Aissa took his hand and asked if he knew who she was and he replied with her last words.

Duke said sweetly, “Of course, I know who you are. You are my girl. I love you.” Shortly before he died, the 72-year-old converted to Roman Catholicism and asked that his tombstone read “Feo, Fuerte y Formal,” a Spanish epitaph meaning “ugly, strong, and dignified.”



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