Director John Ford’s Savage Treatment of John Wayne
John Wayne worshipped John Ford, but Ford savagely mistreated and bullied Wayne. That helped create an iconic aspect of Wayne’s image: his cowboy strut. On the set of Stagecoach, Ford seemingly disliked everything about Wayne. At one point, the director grabbed his lead actor by the chin and shouted: “Why are you moving your mouth so much? Don’t you know that you don’t act with your mouth in pictures?” He even hated how Wayne moved, which Ford thought was effeminate: “Can’t you walk, instead of skipping like a goddam fairy?” That one hurt so bad, that Wayne changed the way he walked for the rest of his life. Stagecoach’s success secured Wayne a place in Hollywood. By 1941, while not yet among Hollywood’s top drawer elites, Wayne had established himself as a reliable star.
Later that year, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and America joined WWII. Wayne’s conduct throughout that conflict forever after formed his self-perception of his manhood. His regrets about what he did – or more accurately did not do – during the war, shaped the public image he strove to project for the rest of his life. America’s entry into WWII, triggered the greatest collective outpouring of patriotism in the country’s history. It seemed that just about everybody and their grandmother wanted to chip in, do their part, and sacrifice what they could for the common cause of victory. As the country armed and geared up to beat plowshares into swords, women rushed to the factories, and men of fighting age rushed into the service. John Wayne, by contrast, rushed to do all he could to avoid military service.