American actor John Wayne (1907 - 1979), circa 1970. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
John Wayne's Stagecoach Performance Was Pulled Out Of Him By Force
Director John Ford entered the prime of his career in 1939 when he created "Stagecoach," which many believe to be the most artistically significant Western in cinema history. The film is a thrilling adventure whose great cast was anchored by John Wayne; at the time, Wayne was considered a limited actor who was mostly relegated to B-movies.
Ford decided that the way to get a rugged performance out of Wayne was to treat him harshly, calling Wayne a "a big oaf" and "dumb bastard" while criticizing his acting. "He would turn me inside out," Wayne confessed. "I would want to murder him. But Ford knew what he was doing. He knew I was ashamed of being a B Western cowboy in the company of these big stars."
Though Wayne didn't appreciate Ford's directing at the time, he came to appreciate how his longtime collaborator beat a great performance out of him. Once Ford returned from World War II in the mid-1940s, he transformed Wayne from a mere movie star into a cultural icon; Wayne later said of Ford, "He was probably the finest artist I've ever known."