John Wayne Almost Lost His Movie Career For Being Nice To Vengeful Studio Executive’s ‘Daughter’


Actor John Wayne was lucky enough to meet his film industry mentor, John Ford, at such a young age. However, that wouldn’t help him weather some of the biggest disasters of his early career. Wayne once reminded his wife, Pilar, how he almost lost his film career forever. “Idle flirtations” with an actress and the wrath of a vengeful studio director first shattered her dreams.

John Wayne launched his film career at an unlucky time

John Wayne | Getty Images

Pilar and Alex Thorleifson’s book, John Wayne: My Life with the Duke, plunged into his rise to fame in the film industry. He had a lucky break in Hollywood just as the studio was booming, and audiences were thrilled to see the latest “talkie” in theaters.

However, Wayne’s dreams of a movie career “shattered” before his eyes when Fox The big path failed at the box office. As a result, the studio declared bankruptcy and Wayne was out of a job. Columbia quickly got Wayne back, but that would ultimately lead to a lot more problems for the actor.

John Wayne Almost Lost His Movie Career To A Vengeful Studio Executive

Pilar and Thorleifson wrote that Columbia studio head Harry Cohn ran his company like a “private game reserve.” If he was interested in a young actress, all the men in the studio had an unspoken understanding that they should keep their distance from her. However, Wayne was unaware of the Hollywood movie executive rule, and the unnamed female actor found it “irresistible.”

After shooting Arizona, Wayne was turned away at the door of the Columbia studio. “I thought it was all kind of a mistake,” Wayne told Pilar. “All I knew was that I had to talk to Cohn and clear things up or my career was over.”

Wayne and Cohn had a “hostile” meeting, where the exec told the actor, “Keep your fucking button fly on my studio.”

As a result, Cohn wanted to make Wayne an example. He cast him in minor B-movie roles, eventually having him play a character without dialogue – a corpse in a coffin – before canceling his contract.

The actor almost left Hollywood for good

The film industry saw Wayne as a walking disaster after the Fox bankruptcy and Columbia incident. “A drunkard, a skirt chaser, a troublemaker and a box office poison” were all terms used to describe the actor. No movie studio would hire Wayne, even at a lower price.

Mascot Pictures eventually offered Wayne to do soap operas. However, he seriously considered leaving the industry for good.

“Duke told me that if he had known how to do anything other than make movies, he would have left the company on the spot,” Pilar wrote. “He hated feeling like a failure, knowing that Cohn had made fun of him so easily. Duke felt he had failed the two people he loved the most: Josephine Saenz, the girl he loved, and John Ford, the man he admired above all else, and all because of unnecessary flirting.

Wayne continued to work at Mascot Pictures, but would later go on to become one of the biggest movie stars of all time after a lot of hard work.

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