Barbara Walters' Interview With John Wayne Was One Of Her Most Memorable

Barbara Walters was a renowned American broadcast journalist. She broke new ground (as well as old glass ceilings) by becoming the very first woman to co-host "Today" in 1974 and the very first woman to co-anchor "ABC Evening News" in 1976. Although by no means the full extent of her resume, Walters also produced and co-hosted "20/20," a news magazine, for ABC and created, produced, and hosted "The View," an ABC daytime talk show which kept her busy until her retirement in 2014. On December 30th, in the last few hours of 2022, Walters passed away at the age 93.

To her adoring viewership, Walters was perhaps best remembered for her many long form interviews with celebrities, politicians, and any persons of public interest. From presidents to performers, Walters sat down with them all for a few questions and some trademark gab. In 2014, the year of her retirement, ABC turned the interview spotlight upon Walters herself and asked her which of these one-on-ones would she consider her most memorable work. Without any hesitation, Walters dove in with three offerings, the first of which was her interview with the late John Wayne in 1979.

John Wayne amazed Barbara Walters

Marion Robert Morrison, better known during his life as John Wayne (or The Duke — the man enjoyed a masculine moniker), was an American actor in Hollywood's Golden Age who's numerous credits included "The Alamo" and True Grit." In 1979, a mere five months before his death, he sat down for an interview with Barbara Walters, who later praised him for his masculinity, his directness, and his kindness. In the aforementioned ABC retrospective, Walters added that, "When I was having such trouble on television, he sent me a telegram that said, 'Don't let the bastards get you down' ..."

In the interview proper, Walters and Wayne spoke of gender roles (Wayne wished for a return to what he considered a simpler time) and the effect of Wayne's life-threatening illness on his personality (Wayne believed himself wholly unchanged on that front) and whether or not Wayne watched his own cinematic catalogue (he did, sometimes, but watching his old movies too often only caused him to miss his younger days).

Walters and Wayne bantered with a friendly, conversational tone. Even when they seemed to be at odds on a given subject — Walters, as you probably guessed, did not appear to appreciate Wayne's regressive stance on gender roles — the discussion remained level headed. Perhaps this was simply professionalism or, perhaps, it was because Walters valued Wayne's straight-forward language, which remained even keel throughout. Or perhaps it was, in part, because she actually had a small crush on Wayne. She did take a few passing flirts at the guy.