Was Movie Star John Wayne a Racist, Homophobe, and White Supremacist?
In 1971 iconic American movie star John Wayne gave a notorious interview to Playboy magazine that was so controversial that it still resonates to this day.
Image by 272447 from Pixabay
In the Playboy interview Richard Warren Lewis conducted in 1971, John Wayne said some things that many people felt were racist and homophobic, which revealed that he was a white supremacist. However, his son Ethan Wayne defends his father’s comments and says they were taken out of context.
“Obviously, we don’t want our father attacked … by someone who’s taking words from an interview that’s eight hours long and using them out of context,” Ethan Wayne said in an interview with CNN host Michael Smerconish.
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, but grew up in Southern California. He died of cancer on June 11, 1979. He became known professionally as John Wayne and was nicknamed Duke. He ranked among the top box office draws for three decades and was especially famous for his roles in Western films. He gained legions of fans worldwide, and his films are still popular. He was also a director and producer.
Wikipedia’s entry about John Wayne says this:
“He lost a football scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of a bodysurfing accident, and began working for the Fox Film Corporation. He appeared mostly in small parts, but his first leading role came in Raoul Walsh’s Western The Big Trail (1930), an early widescreen film epic which was a box-office failure. Leading roles followed in numerous B movies during the 1930s, most of them also Westerns, without becoming a major name. It was John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) that made Wayne a mainstream star, and he starred in 142 motion pictures altogether. According to one biographer, “John Wayne personified for millions the nation’s frontier heritage.”
John Wayne was in the twilight of his career when he gave the interview to Playboy magazine in 1971. However, in 1970 he accepted his first and only Academy Award for his Best Actor performance as a character named Rooster Cogburn in the Western True Grit. His final screen performance was in The Shootist in 1976, in which he played an aging gunfighter battling cancer — a case of his art imitating his own life.
So, what exactly did John Wayne say in that Playboy interview that was so controversial and got him painted as a racist, homophobe, and white supremacist? You can read the full transcript of the very lengthy interview here. But to get to the heart of the matter about some of his most controversial statements made in the interview, the following are some excerpts, as provided by Heavy.com:
While responding to a question about professor and civil rights activist Angela Davis, Wayne said: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
Asked what sorts of films he considers “perverted” (a term he used himself in a previous answer), Wayne mentioned Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 buddy drama film starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman.
“Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two f***, qualifies?” Wayne said as he elaborated on “perverted” movies.
“But don’t get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman is concerned, I’m awfully happy there’s a thing called sex.”
The Western star, who appeared in movies such as Rio Grande, was asked about the portrayal of Native American people in his films, and whether he feels any empathy for them.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said, adding: ”There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”
John Wayne made the above comments nearly 50 years ago. It’s only relatively recently that they’ve been reported widely in the media. The uproar in some quarters has been so great that there were calls to rename John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, in the Greater Los Angeles area. So far, that airport still bears John Wayne’s name.
So, there you have it. You’ll have to judge whether John Wayne is guilty of being a racist, homophobe, and white supremacist. But his own words have presented a pretty damning case against himself, and we may never be able to watch one of John Wayne’s movies again without thinking about his controversial personal beliefs.
Wikipedia, Heavy.com, OriginalPeople.org, SCMP, LA Times, The Independent, Sacramento Bee, Chron, Times-Herald, The Guardian, Mercury News, Native News Online
Image by 272447 from Pixabay
Thanks for reading. (Copyright Terry Mansfield. All rights reserved.)
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