Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are giants of the western genre. In western movies they were both typecast – Eastwood as the brooding loner with little to say and Wayne as the morally upright man seeking to right wrongs, keep the peace, and settle disputes.
The films they made were quite different, although still within the broad western category. Each man was critical of the other’s work with John Wayne especially finding Eastwood’s films not at all to his liking. In their personal lives they were also opposites. John Wayne held conservative right wing views whereas Clint Eastwood held more liberal views and in 1986 won election to be Mayor of Carmel, California.
In this video we are going to outline the careers of both these great actors and establish why they were so reluctant to work on films together.
John Wayne – real name Marion Robert Morrison – was born in Iowa but moved to California where the warmer climate would better for his father’s health. John was a promising football player and secured a place at the University of Southern California to read law, and also play football. Unfortunately for the team, John broke his collarbone bodysurfing and had to give up his football career.
The silent film star Tom Mix regularly attended USC football games, and as a favor to the coach, hired John Wayne as an extra and prop boy. Director John Ford used John for bit parts in a range of early movies. John was 18 at the time and his career was to span more than 50 years of film-making.
John was tall with an athletic physique and it was this that caught director Raoul Walsh’s eye. He cast John in his first leading role in The Big Trail which was released in 1930. Walsh and Fox Studios’ head honcho Winfield Sheehan met and decided on a new name for John. They felt he needed a professional name that was snappy and uncomplicated and chose �John Wayne’. The man himself was not even there when his name was decided!
The Big Trail was the first film of its kind in the sound era and cost more than $2 million. Commercially it was a flop but it had set the standard and today is considered a classic. It also introduced John Wayne as a western actor. He followed this with nearly ten years of appearing in low-budget westerns that generally are referred to as �horse operas’ or �Poverty Row’ westerns. John himself reckoned that he had appeared in over 80 of this type of film.
John became a household name after co-starring in Stagecoach with Claire Trevor. This film was released in 1939 and was an enormous success. The critics loved it because of its high production standards and the accountants loved it because it made a large profit.
One of John Wayne’s biggest regrets was that he was unable to enlist in the US Army during World War II. His draft was deferred several times due to Republic Pictures opposing it. He was under contract to Republic and was the only �A’ list actor on their books. He was able to tour US bases in the South Pacific and did some undercover work for the Office of Strategic Services (later known as the CIA). He did credit his patriotism in later life to the guilt he felt for not being able to play a bigger part in the war effort.
In the post-war years John began to choose the roles he wished to play often making his choice on patriotic or moral grounds. He refused the lead in All the King’s Men because he though it promoted un-American sympathies. He also refused a role in The Gunfighter because he felt he had been treated badly in the past by Harry Cohn, Columbia’s boss. Gregory Peck was handed the role.
Over the next twenty years John Wayne appeared in more than twenty John Ford directed films. One of these was The Searchers which many believe to be John’s best film and the role that showed his scope as an actor. Over his career Best Actor Oscar success eluded John. He had a nomination in 1949 for The Sands of Iwo Jima and then won the Oscar in 1969 for The Alamo.
In 1976 John Wayne appeared in what was to be his last film role, the western The Shootist. He developed stomach cancer and died from it in 1979. While he divided critics during his long career, John was considered by many to be a master of his craft.
Born in 1930 in California, Clint Eastwood had a privileged childhood as he came from a fairly well-to-do family. He was no academic, partly because he was having too good a time away from school in his teens. He was sometimes in trouble for pranks and left school possibly without graduating.
He held a variety of jobs as a teen, including paperboy, golf caddy and lifeguard. At 21 he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War but served out his time in Fort Ord, California. At one point he begged a lift on a Douglas AD bomber that was returning to base from Seattle. The plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean and Clint and the pilot had a 2 mile swim back to shore.
While at Ford Ord, Clint was put in touch with the director Arthur Lubin who auditioned him on behalf of the Universal-International film company. There followed a number of years where he only managed to get minor roles on TV and in low-budget films. His big break came in 1958 when he was cast in the TV series Rawhide as Rowdy Yates.
Rawhide ran from 1959 to 1965 and established Clint as a household name. He found the role of Rowdy, who was a real goody-goody character, rather limiting. He jumped at the chance to act in A Fistful of Dollars when it was offered. This was the first of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, in which Clint created the character of �the Man with No Name’. He played the same character in For a Few Dollars More” and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Initially released in Italy and then Europe, the films were not released in the US until 1967. The critics were disparaging in their reviews of the films. Today they are considered classics, but for many critics they were too far removed from the run-of-the-mill westerns they were used to reviewing.
In 1968 Clint starred in Hang �Em High a revenge western which did gain the approval of the critics. Clint followed this success with a number of non-western films like Coogan’s Bluff and Where Eagles Dare before taking the lead in Dirty Harry which is probably his most iconic role.
Clint’s career continued with a mix of westerns and non-westerns including Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and four more Dirty Harry films. Clint starred in a raft of films over the next several years, and directed another handful before returning to westerns in 1992. In that year Unforgiven was released. It garnered nine Oscar nominations and won four. Clint took Best Director and film took Best Picture. Unforgiven was a major success both critically and financially.
Another critical success was The Bridges of Madison County in 1995, alongside Meryl Streep. The year 2000 brought more critical success with Space Cowboys . In 2003 Mystic River that Clint directed earned two Oscars and a nomination for Clint as Best Director. 2004 brought more success with Million Dollar Baby which he also directed. It won four Oscars – including Best Director and Best Picture. Clint at 74 became the oldest director with two Oscars for Best Director.
In 2008 Clint returned to acting to appear in Gran Torino. This was destined to be the highest grossing film directed by Clint thus far. More directorial successes came with Hereafter, Invictus, and J Edgar. Altogether Clint has directed over 30 films and is one of the very few top actors to have had great success as a director.
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Why John Wayne and Clint Eastwood never acted together
Both John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are classed as Hollywood megastars. Both are closely linked with western films, although they both acted in thrillers, action movies and romantic films. So, why did the two greats not see eye-to-eye.
It has been suggested that John Wayne felt threatened by Clint Eastwood. Clint represented a changing landscape in western movies. John felt secure in the types of roles he was playing and when the spaghetti westerns came along, it marked a major departure from that style. Other films were coming along that did not meet John Wayne’s high standards. He actually turned down the opportunity to play Dirty Harry.
At one point it seemed that John Wayne was just �behind the curve’ and struggling to catch the new mood in Hollywood. In response to Dirty Harry he made McQ and in response to Coogan’s Bluff he made Brannigan. Neither was particularly successful. Maybe this attempt at copying Clint’s successful films was a sign that he was jealous of the younger actor.
In 1973 Clint Eastwood wrote to John Wayne and offered him a role in High Plains Drifter. Wayne rejected the offer as he felt the film did not represent the American West as it had really been. Later Clint suggested the rejection came because John Wayne was making a different western with Don Siegel at the time.
John Wayne certainly was no great fan of the spaghetti westerns that Clint Eastwood had starred in and popularized. To him, they were too far removed from how he perceived the American West and the kind of stories he felt comfortable telling. To John there was nobility to be found in the heroes of the West and he felt he represented that in the roles he played.
In High Plains Drifter Wayne saw an attempt to degrade both the American west and the western movie. He just could not accept that the kind of behavior represented in the film would have occurred in the real Old West.
In 1973 when Clint was preparing to film The Hostiles with Larry Cohn, he felt it would be a good idea to ask John Wayne to play one of the lead roles. John said �no’ quite emphatically, although he did not give a reason. Clint even went to the length of changing studios in an attempt to get John to change his mind. No Luck. John just replied with a critique of Clint’s earlier films. This was the nearest the pair ever got to starring in the same movie. The snub rankled and the rivalry between them simply deepened.
John Wayne knew that Clint Eastwood would likely become the greater star. He was not one to wish the upstart well, but rather resented his success. Clint Eastwood certainly eclipsed Wayne as a director, although much of his success came after Wayne’s death in 1979.
John Wayne held right wing political views. He also expressed racist views and tried to justify the grabbing of Indian land in the nineteenth century. He was a staunch Republican. Clint, on the other hand, held more mainstream views. He supported both Republican and Democrat candidates based on their personal qualities. He held public office from 1986 to 1988 as Mayor of Carmel in California, so did have actual experience of local politics.
John Wayne and Clint Eastwood did develop a rivalry mostly caused it would seem, by Wayne disliking Eastwood’s approach to the Old West in his movies. Wayne clearly resented the rise of Eastwood as a star and was, perhaps, jealous of his success. Eastwood was from a different generation and Wayne was troubled by the messages he was putting into his films.
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