1976 (Exact Date Unknown)
I stumbled over this 1976 episode of the talk show Donahue on YouTube not too long ago. It is a bunch of softball questions as was the norm on Donahue with John Wayne as the featured guest and appears to be largely part of a press tour to promote what would turn out to be his last film The Shootist.
This interview was a good showcase for the charm and charisma that made John Wayne a star. It is also a good example of how different being a star was then as it is now. This was something extremely special to those there in the audience. John Wayne was not just famous. He was FAMOUS! Here was a Hollywood icon that was mixing with his fans and they were thrilled.
One of the things that comes across quickly here is just how normal John Wayne was. He was not a pretentious Hollywood celebrity. He was just a guy. John Wayne was more small-town than glitzy Hollywood. Something that does not get discussed here but I have seen elsewhere is that Wayne answered his own phone as well as his own door. He was an average guy with an extraordinary level of fame.
It is striking about this is just how much times have changed. Donahue goes on about how big of a deal it was for John Wayne to be in Chicago. His visit apparently got four days of news coverage in the area and was quite significant. I do not see any celebrity doing being able to have that effect when they show up somewhere these days.
Wayne is charming and humorous and easy-going in this interview. Given Donahue’s reputation as very liberal individual and John Wayne’s reputation for being conservative this was a very friendly interview. Even the host appeared as dazzled by the man as the largely female audience was.
One of the funnier moments is when they are discussing the state of the films then. The subject drifts towards adult films and John Wayne says he had seen a few stag films but the whole thing is ridiculous. When asked why he says sex is not a spectator sport. I laughed. The man had a genuine way with words.
We get a little about his life and his real name as well as the origin of his nickname. They delve into his filmography. He states he has been in over 200 films counting the movie serials that he did. They mention his time with Katherine Hepburn and how he finally broke the ice.
John Wayne discusses how his films told the mythology of the West which is this nation’s mythology. They were stories of good vs evil and of men and women trying to do the right thing. That is something missing in films in general and Westerns in particular. We have nothing that tells our nation’s mythology or our ideals and how we wish to be. Films like that are necessary and in tough times important to the mental well being of the people of any country.
Admittedly this is a bit of a fluff piece, but it is an entertaining look at a Hollywood icon in the waning years of his life. You will be impressed at how big of a deal John Wayne was even at that point and just charmed by the legend himself. Take some time out and watch it!