Journal – John Wayne

Journal

When Duke Met the Grunts

By Michael Goldman

When John Wayne arrived in Vietnam in the summer of 1966 to visit American troops at the height of the Vietnam War as part of a tour co-sponsored by the USO’s Hollywood Overseas Committee and the U.S. Department of Defense, he was still in the early phases of developing the 1968 feature film he would eventually direct and star in, The Green Berets. Although one of his goals was ostensibly to do research for a film project that would eventually go on to become controversial for breaking with the era’s cinematic habit of disapproving the Vietnam War, it quickly became clear that the tour held more meaning for Duke beyond his movie project.

Despite the fact that he had visited troops before, during USO and base visits, it offered him an opportunity to interact extensively with regular soldiers in the field during an active conflict in an informal way he had never been able to do previously. Indeed, a large percentage of his tour was spent in close quarters with so-called “grunts” (a slang term for military infantrymen), regular GI’s laboring in the trenches without much glamour or attention coming their way until the legendary John Wayne suddenly showed up. As Duke told the press when asked why he went to Vietnam, he said he wanted to bring the grunts a bit of relief. “If nothing else, [his visit] gave the kids something else to write home about,” he told Stars and Stripes. “Life is so monotonous over there that they have nothing to put in their letters.” In another article in the Valley News newspaper, he explained, “I cannot sing or dance, but I certainly can talk to the kids.”

But what Duke didn’t anticipate was how profoundly his time with the troops would impact him, as documents in the John Wayne Archives illustrate. If you read his correspondence from that era, it’s clear that the 1966 Vietnam trip was a life-changing experience for him.

Indeed, two years later, on January 10, 1968, Duke received a letter from Sargent Gilbert Mumfort of the Fourth Infantry Division, whom he had met during his Vietnam tour. It wasn’t all that unusual—dozens of GI’s corresponded with John Wayne following his trip. Sometimes, they just wanted to be in touch; sometimes, they had a favor to ask or wanted an autographed picture, and so on. In Mumford’s case, he simply wanted to report about the most recent combat experiences of his unit, the Fighting Apache Raiders. Mumford wrote that he hoped Duke might find time to write back, because it would “raise our spirits.”

John Wayne did, in fact, write back, just nine days later, on January 19. “I don’t think the Apache Raiders need any words from me to lift their spirits and moral,” he wrote. “But tell them that the letter from you fellows raised mine.”

The John Wayne Archives are filled with such handwritten letters and photos from GI’s in the field from that period, and copies of notes back from John Wayne. Sometimes, soldiers would just send Duke letters of appreciation for his visit, such as the undated letter from nine members of a rifle platoon calling themselves “Men of the 1st Squad.” That group sent him a simple note, thanking him “for what you have done for the men in Vietnam,” and calling him “one of us in the fight for freedom.”

Meanwhile, Duke always tried to honor reasonable requests, sign autographs, share anecdotes, and on at least one occasion, he sent cases of strawberry preserves from Knott’s Berry Farm to an entire unit. The gift giving went both ways, of course. On June 23, 1966, several field commanders signed a note to Duke in-country to commemorate a gift they had presented him, taken in furious combat a few days earlier—a Chinese Chicom Carbine Rifle, pulled out of a large cache of weapons from a North Vietnamese ship on June 20.

“Please accept the weapon as a token of our appreciation for your visit today and the many hours of enjoyment you have given us all at the cinema,” the commanders wrote.

Of course, the most famous gift Duke was given in Vietnam was the silver friendship bracelet presented by a Montagnard Strike Force unit, made up of indigenous Vietnamese soldiers. The bracelet was bent to fit his wrist, and he wore it for the rest of his life.

Naturally, Duke couldn’t accommodate every GI request. During the trip, he told some soldiers about plans to make the Green Berets, and a few of them thought that perhaps they could help. Captain John Welker of the 5th Special Forces Group was one of them, writing Duke on July 28, 1966, to reminisce about his time with Welker’s unit a month earlier. Captain Welker then took the liberty of “nominating myself for the position” of technical adviser on Green Berets. Duke wrote him back on August 10, pointing out that he had to get Pentagon approval for any Armed Forces advisor, and couldn’t even make a request until his script was finished. But, in typical John Wayne fashion, not wanting to lead the soldier along, Duke added a postscript in which he stated bluntly, “you’ll have to stand in line for that job. Everybody has asked for it.”

However, John Wayne was ever mindful that the grunts weren’t participating in a movie, and that their effort and sacrifice went far beyond what most people could possibly comprehend. Such understanding was never far from his thoughts, but if he needed a reminder, he got one when he received a letter in February of 1968 from a Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Carpenter of Youngstown, Ohio, informing him that their son, a Special Forces member whom Duke had met in Vietnam two years earlier, had been killed in action.

John Wayne wrote them an aching letter of condolence in reply.

“It’s most difficult to find the right words (if there are any) of sympathy and comfort,” he wrote. “But, as one parent to another, I am sure the fact that your son, in these days of irresponsibility on the part of so many young people, voluntarily joined the Special Forces, volunteered to do what he did, and did it very well apparently, must give you great pride. The weeks and months I spent in Vietnam and at Fort Benning filming the picture, The Green Berets, and working with many Green Beret trainees and veterans, brought me very close to them. They, like your son, are men whom all of us should be very proud.”


Michael Goldman wrote the 2013 award-winning book that examined letters and documents from John Wayne’s personal archive—John Wayne: The Genuine Article. Goldman has authored six books about major media-related topics, legends, and institutions, including co-authoring a textbook on filmmaking, an acclaimed coffee-table book on director Clint Eastwood’s filmmaking techniques called Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker at Work, an authoritative history of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and more. He has also written for acclaimed film journals like American Cinematographer, CineMontage, Millimeter, Post magazine, Variety, and consumer publications like the LA Times, Orange County Register, Philadelphia Inquirer and others. Goldman podcasts interviews with filmmakers monthly at the Studio Daily site in a series called Podcasts from the Front Lines. You can learn more about his work at his Website—www.hollywood-scribe.com

Duke Salutes the Presidents–All of Them

By Michael Goldman

As we celebrate President’s Day, it’s reasonable to assume that John Wayne would appreciate the fact that the holiday commemorates the office of the president, not a single president’s life. Duke always expressed profound respect for the office, and enjoyed interactions and relationships with six Presidents—Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, with whom he was dear friends, though he died just before Reagan finally won the office.

Although Duke was a Conservative Republican, it would be a mistake to assume it was only Republican presidents whom he interacted with. Ironically, despite his ideological leanings, John Wayne was bipartisan when it came to the presidency itself—he respected and supported whomever held the job.

Duke was first lured into politics when he campaigned for Eisenhower. In a draft for a speech he gave on the eve of Eisenhower’s 1956 inauguration, Duke argued in plain-spoken fashion for the former war hero’s bona-fides as the next president based, simply, on his management skills as “a value that can’t be fooled around with.”

JFK was the first Democratic president to receive Duke’s famous congratulatory telegram sent to a president he didn’t vote for—“congratulations from the loyal opposition.” Lyndon B. Johnson and Carter would receive similar telegrams in the future. He often criticized Kennedy as too liberal, and yet, when Kennedy was tragically killed, Duke was as devastated as any average American.

In a letter Duke wrote to journalist Wayne Warga that exists in the John Wayne Archives, shortly after JFK’s death, Duke wrote of the pain that millions were feeling. “You didn’t have to be a Kennedy fan to be decimated by his assassination,” he said. “John Kennedy could have been so very good—he was just beginning to realize his responsibilities.”

Duke certainly didn’t vote for Lyndon Johnson. He supported his friend, Barry Goldwater, whom Johnson beat in a landslide in 1964. Still, despite Johnson’s victory, John Wayne was an unabashed supporter of the president’s Vietnam War policies, and worked closely with Johnson’s team to research and plan the 1968 Vietnam film he directed, Green Berets—a project Duke hoped would help lift flagging public support for the war fighters.

But Nixon was his closest personal friend to take the presidency during his lifetime. Their relationship began when Nixon was Eisenhower’s Vice President before seeking the presidency in 1960. A letter from Nixon to Duke after Nixon failed to beat Kennedy that year notes that it was “courageous” of John Wayne “to take sides” in political campaigns as a public figure, since doing so could potentially cost him fans.

After Nixon later became president, the two frequently corresponded, with Duke offering support and advice on many subjects. As Watergate dawned, Duke at first wrote Nixon encouraging notes, including a telegram in December 1973 telling him “don’t give up the ship.” Nixon replied that Duke shouldn’t “believe the rumors” that he would resign. But when Nixon did quit, Duke was clearly disappointed over Watergate. In a 1974 speech, he waxed philosophical that while Watergate itself was “a mess” and “positively, absolutely, dead wrong,” and “some men abused power,” he was pleased to see that “the system works.”

Earlier that year, Duke sent President Gerald Ford a letter thanking him for showing the courage to pardon Nixon, stating, “many thanks for your respect and feelings for the human dignity of Mr. Nixon. It is a lonely road. Here’s one you can count on—John Wayne.” That began a warm relationship with Ford, often writing him about topics as mundane as his concerns about a beef shortage in 1975, and headlining a tribute dinner to Ford shortly after he left office. He campaigned for Ford to win a full term, but when that didn’t happen, perhaps Duke’s most unlikely Presidential relationship commenced—his friendship with Democrat Jimmy Carter.

When Carter defeated Ford and received his “loyal opposition” telegram from Duke, he wrote back, pointing out he was a lifelong John Wayne fan and asking Duke to perform at his pre-inaugural ball. To the surprise of many, he agreed and gave a moving speech in which he declared, “I’m pleased to be present and accounted for in this capital of freedom to witness history as it happens—to watch a common man accept the uncommon responsibility he won fair and square by stating his case to the American people, not by bloodshed, beheadings and riots at the palace gates.”

Duke went on to regularly correspond with Carter, usually to critique his policies. Duke played a central role in lobbying Republican Senators to help ratify the Panama Canal Treaties favored by Carter, a topic Duke felt strongly about, having done business in Panama over the years.

When that decision upset his friend, Ronald Reagan, who was preparing to run against Carter and opposed the treaty, a series of letters in the John Wayne Archives illustrate the depth of the passion of both men on the issue, but also regarding their friendship. When Reagan finally wrote that he was concerned the dispute might harm their relationship, Duke wrote back and told him “you know damned well I have great affection for you and Nancy.”

John Wayne didn’t live to see Reagan beat Carter. It might have been awkward anyway, since he was fond of both of them. Just before taking on Reagan, Carter periodically visited John Wayne in the hospital during his dying days as he fought cancer, and would eventually eulogize him emotionally to the nation. Duke’s love for Reagan, meanwhile, was well documented—their relationship dated back to their Screen Actor’s Guild days. Perhaps Carter and Reagan would have found common ground with millions of others, or never pursued the office themselves, if Duke had run for president himself. Students at the University of Dallas pushed the idea to “Draft John Wayne” in 1964 under the reasoning that “we need a president who can act.”

But John Wayne, characteristically, had no interest when those students wrote him with the suggestion that year. He wrote them back and told them simply, “I’d rather be right than President.”


Michael Goldman wrote the 2013 award-winning book that examined letters and documents from John Wayne’s personal archive—John Wayne: The Genuine Article. Goldman has authored six books about major media-related topics, legends, and institutions, including co-authoring a textbook on filmmaking, an acclaimed coffee-table book on director Clint Eastwood’s filmmaking techniques called Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker at Work, an authoritative history of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and more. He has also written for acclaimed film journals like American Cinematographer, CineMontage, Millimeter, Post magazine, Variety, and consumer publications like the LA Times, Orange County Register, Philadelphia Inquirer and others. Goldman podcasts interviews with filmmakers monthly at the Studio Daily site in a series called Podcasts from the Front Lines. You can learn more about his work at his Website—www.hollywood-scribe.com

Interview with Curator – Laurie Kratochvil for “Hollywood and the American West”

John Wayne Enterprises and the John R. Hamilton Archives were proud to collaborate with photography veteran Laurie Kratochvil to bring the new photography Exhibition “Hollywood and the American West” to the public, currently on exhibition at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum from February 3 – May 14, 2017. This week John Wayne Enterprises sat down with curator Laurie Kratochvil to learn all her secrets in curating an exhibition.

JWE: What is your background in photography?

L. Kratochvil: My first experience with photography was in the 9th grade. I worked at Newport Beach, CA based “Road and Track” magazine as my after school job. I had the chance to observe how photographers worked with editors and how editors assigned stories. I fell in love with the personality of photography.

JWE: How has the appreciation of photography evolved since you started?

L. Kratochvil: It has evolved incredibly just in the last 40 years. When I first started photography, it was not really accepted as a fine art. Now, photography has become something you collect. There are art galleries and shows devoted to photography as well as million dollar sales for single prints. Recently, as in the last 5 years, people have become very interested in not only vintage prints but also the provenance of the print, whether it comes from a famous person, directly from the artist, or if it was in the archive of a well known magazine like Life or Look. Photography has become mainstream in some ways and high end in other ways. Everyone is able to access it now. The digital revolution has a lot to do with that.

JWE: How did you become involved in this exhibition?

L. Kratochvil: John Wayne Enterprises contacted me several years ago. They had recently acquired the analog archive of photographer John R. Hamilton and were interested in having somebody help pull it all together. I live in New York and they are located in California so I started traveling back and forth every couple of months, spending a week or two at a time going through the collection. My strategy was to pull the top 100 pictures I thought the public would want to see and get them in good condition. This photography had been sitting in John Hamilton’s files for years and many of the negatives had become scratched or had dirt on them. We did quite a bit of work to bring these 100 pictures back to their original condition. After cleaning and scanning them, we were interested in getting the work in the public eye. We participated in important shows such as Art Basel in Miami and a big show in Hollywood during Oscar week.

JWE: What was the inspiration for putting this exhibition together?

L. Kratochvil: When we first started working with the archive we were amazed at the breadth of John Hamilton’s work. He would go on movie sets and shoot the action scenes, or if he couldn’t shoot an action scene, he would capture scenery. The next day he might be shooting the stuntmen, or a stagecoach chase. As John worked on the movie sets he also became friends with some of the stars. John would get permission from his friends to photograph them at home. This variety of shots meant that John’s archives represent an incredible record of the American West through a Hollywood viewpoint. In going through the archives, Amy Shepherd at John Wayne Enterprises and the John Hamilton Collection and I realized the negatives showed “movie moments” vs. real situations and unique behind the scenes perspectives of the actors. These moments, combined with beautiful landscapes and portraits all came together to create a great show that we felt captured the making of an American Western.

 

JWE: Can you describe your process for curating an exhibition?

L. Kratochvil: When I first start looking at photographs I always feel a little overwhelmed. I start eliminating pictures that don’t peak my interest, selecting ones that do and laying them out on either a corkboard or a table. Then I begin sequencing them, leaving it up somewhere where I can observe it through out the day. Every time I walk by I may notice something new, or try a new combination. It is really a process of elimination.

One of the things I learned through working at magazines was a story needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The same thing needs to happen with an exhibit.

JWE: When you are curating an exhibition, what are you looking to show?

L. Kratochvil: I am looking to show the uniqueness or style of the photographer and the mystery or the uniqueness of the photography. In other words, what makes a photographer good, in my opinion, is what he sees and what he is able to capture in that moment. And when you have a good photographer, you have a consistency to capturing that moment. Now, you could say that the moment exists and the photographer simply captures it. Or you could say
that the photographer creates the moment. I think John did both but he had a way of capturing a moment that made people feel very comfortable. I want to try and pick the moment from his photographs that is the most personal, the most intimate, that says the most between two people. I am looking for emotion, for mystery, for intrigue.

JWE: Do you find it challenging to curate an exhibit when the photographer is no longer living?  What special steps do you take to honor the photographer and his vision?

L. Kratochvil: I think it is important to do your homework on the photographer. Fortunately, there is a lot of material on John Hamilton in the archive. When he wasn’t shooting he was putting together stories that he could submit to magazines or putting together books that he wanted to publish. Additionally, he also recorded what was going on at a shoot, how he got a picture, or what the circumstances of the shoot were. Being able to read his notes was very helpful in understanding how Hamilton felt about his work, and what he was hoping to show through his photographs.

It was also helpful that John was a strong editor of his own work. He printed many of what he considered his best pictures many different ways. That being said, over the years people’s interest change and we have also been able to find some real gems within his work that maybe he didn’t see the first time around.

JWE: Did curating Hollywood and the American West present any unique challenges?

L. Kratochvil: I often had to remind myself when looking at an image that what it was capturing was not “real” but instead, a movie scene! That was a unique thing about this exhibit. Also, I think mixing landscape and more traditional art photography with Hollywood portraits was a challenge. In the end, I was happy with how it all blended together because I think it all spoke to John as a photographer.

JWE: What would you like the public to take away from Hamilton’s work?

L. Kratochvil: For one thing, the unique period that John worked in. This was the golden age of cowboy movies. When they had a stagecoach going across the land and horses running behind it, that wasn’t digitally produced. It was real. It is wonderful that work has been documented both in film and through John’s photography. I think that is his legacy.

JWE: Are there any specific pieces in the exhibit that you want to highlight, or that you find personally moving?

L. Kratochvil: One of my absolute favorites was taken in what I believe is Monument Valley. It is just these lonely Hollywood fans sitting out in the middle of the American West. And, of course, the incredible panorama of John Ford in Monument Valley is an iconographic picture that everybody knows and is absolutely spectacular. I think the other one of my all time favorites is Kirk Douglas, standing in his “front yard”, which is his trailer that has been built by some of the crew, with a white picket fence and a little umbrella with a table. Finally, I really love the landscapes. The picture of the covered wagons going across the fields is incredible. It doesn’t get more American than that.

JWE: Why do you think Hamilton’s photos continue to resonate today, decades after his career?

L. Kratochvil: They are real and timeless moments. A lot of these pictures could have been taken yesterday. There is a black and white picture of John Wayne in the car that looks just like a family snapshot. It is not easy to get pictures that can resonate, have that much energy, are candid and also are a good photograph. I think John was able to capture that.

JWE: Can you talk about John R. Hamilton’s legacy and the impact of his work?

L. Kratochvil: John’s work lives on because it continues to resonate with people from all industries, including other photographers. Love of celebrity, love of the American West, and love of the American Dream has never changed. His themes, the types of things he was photographing, they connect with people just as they connected with people 50 years ago. A good photograph lasts and that is the true sign of a fantastic artist.


Laurie Kratochvil is a photography dealer and appraiser, as well as a consultant on visual projects that include magazines, books, the internet and film. She began her career at the Los Angeles Times as a photography editor and went on to work for numerous national publications before joining Rolling Stone Magazine in 1982. During her twelve years there as photo editor, Kratochvil saw the magazine win every major photography award including the National Magazine Award.While working for Rolling Stone, Kratochvil edited a number of books, including the New York Times best seller, Rolling Stone: The Photographs. She has curated several photography exhibitions in the United States and Europe: she has been a frequent panelist and lecturer, and has judged numerous photography competitions.

Kratochvil was the founding photography editor for In Style Magazine and worked there until 2005 before leaving to start her own visual consulting business, working with consumer magazines such as Self, O the Oprah Magazine, Bloomberg Personal, Men’s Health and Essence. In 2009 she was hired by Reader’s Digest Development to consult on new titles as well as the magazine’s international editions.

Kratochvil’s book projects include Africa by Herb Ritts, CUBA-Picturing Change by E. Wright Ledbetter, Mil Besos by Ruven Afanador, and Cyclops by Albert Watson, as well as Watson’s two-volume book on Las Vegas that was published in the fall of 2010. In 2011 she edited Pearls, Tears of the Sea. She recently completed work on another book with Ruven Afanador.

Kratochvil is a board member of The Society of Publication Design, a jury member of World Press, and a faculty member in the continuing education program at The International Center for Photography. A native of Newport Beach, CA, Kratochvil lives in New York City and Southold, New York.

Duke’s Pal, Ward Bond

By Michael Goldman

None of John Wayne’s show-business friendships were as enduring, or as entertaining, as the kinship he forged with two men he met around the same time—character actor Ward Bond and director John Ford. The trio hooked up when Ford, in 1929, hired both Duke and Bond, former teammates on the USC football team, along with other former football players, for small roles in a movie called Salute. Duke’s friendship with Ford has received most of the headlines over the years, but that’s possibly because it lasted longer. He was as close to Bond as any man he ever met, but unfortunately lost his buddy to a premature death at the age of 57 in 1960.

Various versions of how John Wayne’s relationship with Bond began have been told. The best known comes from Duke himself, as he wrote it in the unpublished, partial manuscript about his life.  In the manuscript, Duke wrote that Ford put him in charge of wrangling the football players Ford had hired for Salute. Duke wrote that he initially rejected Bond’s participation, because “he struck me as ugly and a potential discipline problem.” Ford found Bond’s unruly youthful nature to be pleasantly unpretentious, however, and hired him anyway.  Apparently Bond didn’t show up when the cast and crew were preparing to board a train for Los Angeles until the last minute.  Duke wrote of this instance that “the last player to arrive, an hour late, a dollar short, one pocket torn, and a gin bottle hanging out of the other, was Ward Bond.”

Basically, Bond drove John Wayne nuts on that trip—spending money irresponsibly, getting drunk, and disobeying rules. Ford, however, realized both Duke and Bond had honest, self-effacing natures, so he paired them together, hung out with both of them, and the trio eventually became inseparable. Duke wrote that Ford’s decision to have them room together was “his idea of a joke.” However, “over corn whiskey and a few nocturnal escapades, Ward and I became close personal friends, and that friendship lasted until the day Ward died, over thirty years later.”

It was also a professional collaboration—the two of them appeared together on screen in 22 movies and two television shows, starting with the long-forgotten Salute, but continuing into some of the most memorable projects of both of their careers, including Ford’s seminal The Searchers (1956), which made Duke into a permanent star.

Bond was also notable for his high-profile Conservative political activism that, from time to time, even had John Wayne—himself a rock-ribbed Republican icon—playfully teasing him about “being on his Communist kick again,” if letters in the John Wayne Archive are any indication. But that teasing is sort of the point—the friendship between the two men was so much deeper than a shared profession or shared ideological or political beliefs. Their brotherhood was built on genuine personal affection, some wild adventures, a humorous outlook on life, and genuine humanity.

Letters found in the archives are filled with playful ribbing between Wayne and Ford, poking fun at their beloved Bond. In one letter, Wayne joked that Bond had given up the sugar substitute saccharine because someone told him it was bad for his virility. In many of them were ongoing jests about Bond’s appearance—jokes that had been making the rounds almost since the time the two men first met.

Bond, of course, gave as good as he got over those years. In one way, he got the last laugh. In his will, he left John Wayne a shotgun as a permanent reminder of one of Duke’s biggest foul-ups. It was the same shotgun that Duke, years earlier, had borrowed on a hunting trip and accidentally used to shoot Bond in, yes, his butt. No significant damage was done, but Bond never let John Wayne forget it, even after his passing.

But for all the teasing, John Wayne was heartsick when Ward Bond died suddenly in a Dallas hotel room from a massive heart attack in 1960 just as he had rejuvenated his career as the star of the hit TV series, Wagon Train. He accompanied Bond’s body back from Dallas and took part in the ceremony-at-sea that preceded the disposing of Bond’s ashes into the ocean. In his eulogy, Duke was quoted as saying “we were the closest of friends, from school right on through. … He was a wonderful, generous, big-hearted man.”

In his biography manuscript, when talking about Bond, Duke went a lot further, making clear that he basically never stopped thinking about Ward Bond the rest of his life, even going so far as to fantasize about casting him in various movies when he read screenplays over the years that followed Bond’s death.

“When you lose a friend that close after so many years together, you realize you’ve reached the time of life when the ghosts surrounding you are some of the most significant people in your life,” Duke wrote in the manuscript during the 1970’s, not long before his own life would draw to a close. “Part of me knows he’s gone; another part automatically spots good parts for him. Instincts stay long after friends are gone.”


Michael Goldman wrote the 2013 award-winning book that examined letters and documents from John Wayne’s personal archive—John Wayne: The Genuine Article. Goldman has authored six books about major media-related topics, legends, and institutions, including co-authoring a textbook on filmmaking, an acclaimed coffee-table book on director Clint Eastwood’s filmmaking techniques called Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker at Work, an authoritative history of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and more. He has also written for acclaimed film journals like American Cinematographer, CineMontage, Millimeter, Post magazine, Variety, and consumer publications like the LA Times, Orange County Register, Philadelphia Inquirer and others. Goldman podcasts interviews with filmmakers monthly at the Studio Daily site in a series called Podcasts from the Front Lines. You can learn more about his work at his Website—www.hollywood-scribe.com

Hollywood & The American West – Behind the Scenes

Starting February 3rd visitors of all ages will have the chance to view a photography collection that captures the essence of old Hollywood Westerns. “Hollywood and the American West” at Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum showcases the work of John R. Hamilton, magazine photojournalist and legendary film photographer.

In 2014 John Wayne Enterprises had the unique opportunity to acquire a portion of the John R. Hamilton Collection that features John Wayne. When the John Hamilton Estate offered the opportunity to acquire the entire collection around a year later John Wayne Enterprises jumped at the chance to curate an exhibition that captures never-before-seen images of icons of Hollywood’s golden age.

Taking the collection from raw negatives to exhibition quality fine art prints however was nothing short of a labor of love.

Viewing original slides with a lightbox.

After reviewing thousands of original images Executive Director of the John R. Hamilton Archive, Amy Shepherd, and Laurie Kratochvil, Curator of the Hollywood and the American West, worked with The Icon LA to clean, digitize, and correct for color balance, saturation, tone. The images included in the exhibit leveraged current technologies in fine art development to bring Hamilton’s photographs from over 60 years to their full potential.

Images shown at varying sizes to allow for review of any imperfections at the Icon LA.

After reviewing hundreds of images, 68 images were finally selected for inclusion in the exhibit. These final photographs capture Hamilton’s unique ability to showcase the energy and history of exceptional moments in film. Important to the exhibit is also the ability of the images to tell a story. Shepherd and Kratochvil developed a layout and order to the photographs that leads viewers through a history of Westerns on film.

With the final photographs enlarged, cleaned and framed the collection was ready to begin its journey from Newport Beach, California to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Working closely with a fine art shipping company each image was carefully wrapped and framed for its journey east.

Custom boxes were built to ensure images made the trip unharmed.

Upon arrival in Oklahoma each image was carefully measured and assigned its precise location on the wall. Taking the layout from a small mock-up to a full-scale exhibition requires precise measuring and a keen eye for visual perspective.

The beginning stages of the museum installation process.

Finally, the finishing touches were added including labeling each image with its title and short description.

The process of taking the images from a general collection to full exhibition development and installation was lengthy and collaborative. The final product however is one that is truly a testament to Hamilton’s love affair with the Western.

To learn more about the curating process for Hollywood and the American West, return here to johnwayne.com/journal on Feb 13, 2017 for an interview with Laurie Kratochvil, Curator.

#JohnWayneValues – Fans Weigh In

John Wayne Enterprises dedicates every Thursday to sharing stories of grit, Americana roots, courage, selfless acts, perseverance, strength or right vs. wrong otherwise known as John Wayne Values on our social media channels. The pieces we share each week represent the attributes John Wayne held dear and the values he would have instilled on himself…and those he expected of others.

In keeping with our John Wayne Values theme, we recently posted a question on social media to ask his fans, “What values have you learned from John Wayne?” The result was a tremendous outpouring of respect for the beliefs on which John Wayne stood that his fans had adopted through his example. The feedback was both inspiring and on target.

After receiving over 750 comments on Facebook, we noticed similarities in the values expressed among all John Wayne fans. The lessons learned were predominantly referred to under these three categories:

  1. Patriotism/Country
  2. Family
  3. Role Model

We enjoyed hearing what principals you (the fans!) have learned from John Wayne and would like to share a handful of our favorites:

 

Patriotism

“Patriotism! His love of country was evidenced in his daily life.”

“Honor America, our country, our flag and those who serve.”

“To be proud of our country and always show respect for America.”

“Most of the values I have today are due to watching John Wayne westerns…there was right and wrong, no in-between! Truth, honesty, integrity, justice, respect and love of this great land and its laws!”

 

Family

“He taught me right from wrong and respect for others, to be considerate of my elders and treat women with respect.”

“The values I learned from Duke are the love and respect for my family and country.”

“Family comes first.”

“To be self-reliant, but above all, to love my family and to enjoy them as much as I can.”

 

Role Model

“A man is only as good as his word, and the values he lives by.”

“He set an example. He was a role model. When I have encountered difficult situations in life, I have asked myself, what would John Wayne do in this situation! “

“What I learned from John Wayne was to always stand up for what you believe is right, no matter who is watching or what the consequences may be. I taught these same values to my girls and have watched them put them into practice.”

“Be honest. Be responsible and be a good person and a champion to those that need help.”

 

John Wayne was many things to many people. He was a courageous force for America, a loving father and an unwavering hero on the big screen. In short, he was a man who did what he thought was best.

Duke: Family Man, First and Foremost

By Michael Goldman

Thanksgiving is family time, of course. Such occasions were particularly important to John Wayne. The annual Thanksgiving cattle sale and turkey dinner he presided over at his beloved 26 Bar Ranch in Arizona for many years remain etched in the minds of surviving family and friends to this day. But, in fact, few topics were closer to his heart than his own family, and the importance family plays in keeping one’s personal compass heading true north. This is not just a general observation. I learned this first hand in 2012 while digging through boxes of Duke’s personal papers doing research for the book, John Wayne: The Genuine Article, and came across a pad of notes written by the late journalist Wayne Warga—notes from an interview with John Wayne on the set of The Cowboys in 1971. I was struck by one observation, in particular, and showed it to Ethan Wayne, Duke’s youngest child. Ethan, then a youngster, had been present on the set of The Cowboys at the time.

Warga wrote that he asked John Wayne why he was letting his son miss an extra week of school following Easter vacation to hang out on set with his dad. Duke replied, “Ethan’s nine and I want to be with him. He’ll be fourteen before I know it and something happens. They start to drift away and they don’t come back until they’re thirty. At thirty, they realize what fatherhood is. My oldest boys are in their thirties now, and they’ve come back. But with Ethan, I won’t be there when he’s thirty, so I’ve got to love him now.”

His prediction was correct—John Wayne died when Ethan was just 17. Ethan had never seen the note, was deeply moved, and wrote about it in the preface to my book. It precipitated a section of memories from Ethan and three of his surviving siblings about family moments, values, and life lessons imparted from their dad. For Duke’s kids or grandkids, John Wayne, family man, is the one who dominates their memories. For them, Duke wasn’t much different than any other dad, just more famous. He never stopped teaching, setting expectations, showing appreciation, having fun, and providing for his clan. That is the John Wayne they all will be remembering this Thanksgiving.

Marisa Wayne, for instance, might be thinking of the dad who could, occasionally and with some justification, get ticked off over one offense or another, and feel the need to initiate a consequence or two for her actions. But typically, Duke would be exceptionally quick to forgive, telling her to “get over here and give me a hug. He wasn’t one to let things stew for hours,” she recalls.

Ethan remembers countless lessons in responsibility. “If you were on the boat, there were chores. If you were on location, there were chores,” he says. “If you wanted to ride a horse, you had to take care of it.”

Melinda Wayne Munoz insists this was all just par for the course. What dad wouldn’t be, as she says “very interested in our behavior,” as John Wayne was? “And he always expected us to get good grades,” she emphasizes proudly.

Still, John Wayne was a fun dad. Marisa fondly remembers the many times when “he and I would get in the station wagon and stop at Orange Julius on the way to play Skee ball at the Bay Arcade” [in Newport Beach].” And, of course, Duke routinely took his family on vacations on the Wild Goose, leading to unforgettable adventures.

Aissa recalled fondly a fishing trip in Alaska, and getting into “a helicopter that could land in water. Dad and I would suit up in long fishing pants and fishing wardrobe and take the heli up, and land on untouched lakes filled with salmon. We would walk out knee deep in the water and throw out our lines, and fish would bite, one after another.”

On extended trips to shoot movies, Duke sometimes took all or part of the family with him, and moved them into temporary homes on location to keep them close. Once, while filming Brannigan in England, he rented a big house for the family in London, and Marisa remembers a practical joke he played on her sister while living there.

“He put [Aissa] and her friends on the top level, saying [the house] was haunted,” she recalls. “In the middle of the night, he would go up there and move stuff around and tilt paintings on the wall, to make it look like there was a ghost doing all this. She would come tearing down the stairs, telling us all of this, and he’d just roll his eyes, saying she was imagining things. Then, he’d give me a quick wink.”

Such memories exist because John Wayne saw to it. But they didn’t just revolve around vacations. Simple family dinners were particularly important to John Wayne because, according to Ethan Wayne, “meals are what brought us all together.”

And so did holidays. Ethan remembers Duke’s passion for home decorations every Yuletide season, for instance. “He really got into it,” Ethan recalls. “A tree decoration was something fun that we all did together. He would buy the old-fashioned foam you would spray on windows, and go through many cans, getting it to look like it snowed outside our house.”

The point to these tales is to contextualize the fact that John Wayne really was a family man first—a married father working to support four kids as he entered his 40’s by the time he hit stardom. His priorities were set long before he ever became an international star, and never wavered. His wife, Pilar, has said “he always wanted his family around him.” His daughter, Melinda, insists “he taught us to love our family and keep them close.” And his oldest surviving son, Patrick, points out that, to John Wayne, “values were a pretty basic thing. Loyalty, trustworthiness, true friendship—those are key elements in any successful relationship. He always believed that.”

As you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year, these are values that might be worth contemplating. And so might the advice John Wayne said he learned from his father, Clyde Morrison, over the years. “He told me to always keep my word and never insult anybody. And he told me not to go around looking for trouble.”

Boat Hat x Wild Goose

As part of John Wayne Enterprises growing initiative for Made in America products from local craftsmen, we have partnered with Boat Hat for Wild Goose inspired hand-painted patches and hats.

Founded by Dougie Mann in Newport Beach, CA, this is the 3rd collection of Boat Hat’s painted patches.  Working closely with Ethan Wayne and the John Wayne Enterprises team, Mann dug through the archives (and Ethan’s brain) to tell a little known visual story that would explain the feelings and lifestyle aboard John Wayne’s converted mine sweeper, the Wild Goose.  This boat is the place where John Wayne could truly be himself and partake on the adventures he loved so much.

As we launch the Boat Hat x John Wayne collection, we sat down with artist and founder Dougie Mann to learn more about his inspiration.

 

the-wild-goose-boat-hat-collection
How were you first introduced to John Wayne?

My dad is a big John Wayne fan, as a result I grew up watching his movies. He was a regional manager for the Chart House restaurants, his regions were Colorado and Hawaii – as a result, we used to drive a lot together – across country to and from Colorado and to New Mexico a lot – In his Ford Van were 2 VHS’s that were always there – El Dorado and Nevada Smith (starring Steve McQueen) – I watched those on repeat on a mini TV VCR combo that plugged into the cigarette lighter.

Can you tell us a bit about the Boat Hat project?

Boat Hat is an ocean hat company.  What distinguished Boat Hat is the back of the hat design – an overhand knot with 2 grommets. It is the same knot and sliding idea as those old friendship bracelets. Also, the primed canvas patch with embroidered frame. Both of these elements were designed on Balboa Island.

We team up with artist friends to curate meaningful, high level, patch artwork collections. The first collection of patches was done by myself, and the second by Kelsey Brookes. This, our 3rd installment in our curation is the second collection by myself and has been carefully collaborated on with Ethan Wayne to try and give a glimpse of life aboard the Wild Goose with his father, John Wayne.

Boat Hat comes from the same tireless, simplistic, clean, and practical core as John Wayne’s Wild Goose came from.

What inspired you to create a collection around John Wayne and the Wild Goose?

John Wayne is why I like boats.  Without seeing the book ‘On Board with The Duke’ – I would have never been as big of boat fan as I am now.

My love for boats did not come completely naturally – I grew up primarily surfing – also, I am a minimalist kind of surfer – always subconsciously looking to to use the least amount of gear possible – no leash, no massive quiver, no wetsuit, no towel – a big accomplishment was riding my beach cruiser to the beach in trunks with my board under my arm – putting my bike on the beach – and jumping and surfing – then coming out, hopping back on the bike wet and riding home – no towel, no shirt, no bike lock – it’s a weird obsessive thing about me.

As a result, boats were always something that seemed too cumbersome, and definitely not minimal – it took taking trips to Catalina on my step-father’s Pacifica – it was one of the first cool fishing boats I had ever been on – to start to look at boats in a different light. ‘On Board with the Duke’ was in my state room – I was transfixed.

He sold that boat a few years into our relationship, and the next time I saw the book was on board the boat of my future in-laws boat, DIXIE – I could not believe it – not only was I in love with this smokin’ hot chick, but her dad was a John Wayne fan! If I played my cards right, my fate was sealed!

Slowly, I began to evolve my thinking – maybe boats were worth the effort after all…

Then my pal Charlie bought a Grand Banks and anchored it in Coronado at stingray point, he was NAVY SEAL and all his pals were doing the same thing – there was a floating community of elite fighters drinking Bud heavies into the wee hours of the night on their awesome boats. When I saw that, I finally understood that boats were one of the coolest things on earth.

Now – my father-in-law has a different boat – a 31’ Rybovich called Cracker.

Being fortunate enough to be around these boats has shown me just how cool boats are, the responsibility and ownership it takes to properly maintain and operate one, as well as the incredible lifestyle it provides if you take the time to understand it.

Thank you John Wayne.

We enjoy partnering with you because of your made in America commitment.  Can you describe your creative and production process?

Each hat is canvas made in the US by a Martexin Waxed canvas.

Manufacturers of the hats come from a few different sources – here in California by Seasoned USA and Knickerbocker MFG in New York.

All grommets are made by Challenge Sailcloth – they are all brass spurred grommets that will last forever. All holes are punched, all grommets set, and all knots are tied originally on Balboa Island, now on the Newport Peninsula by myself, or someone I can buy with a beer (or two).

What do you think John Wayne represents today?

For me the Duke represents everything that makes America great – every plain, mountain, ocean, desert, and river – he sought, with every character and pastime in his life that he committed himself to, the most pure definition what that character or pastime was supposed to be.

The Wild Goose is how he defined the ocean and I think this is the most authentic role of his career.

The Boat Hat x John Wayne Collection is available now at boathat.com and store.johnwayne.com

 

How Artists Pay Homage to ‘Cowboy’ John Wayne: Lady Gaga, Billy Idol and More

Originally posted by Leslie Richin on Billboard.com

If you’ve listened to Lady Gaga’s Joanne over the past few days, you might have found yourself moving to an upbeat track called “John Wayne.” The song begins with Gaga stating, “I just love a cowboy” and then shouting, “Can you go a little faster!” The “real wild man” she craves, of course, is legendary actor and international icon John Wayne.

In 1996, Paula Cole asked, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” — specifically, “Where is my John Wayne?” But the song was called anti-feminist by those who didn’t grasp the song’s message. She told The Baltimore Sun, “There is a melancholy woven in there, and the story of a woman who was disappointed in her marriage. It’s been widely interpreted, and I kind of like that. It’s anthropologically interesting for me.” The song peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for three Grammy Awards; Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Even Billy Idol called on Wayne to save him, singing “I am not afraid, tonight I’m gonna be John Wayne.” The song “John Wayne” appears on The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself (2008). He told the New York Post, I enjoy singing “John Wayne,” because I always think about some of the characters he played that had to rise above their own limitations, so it’s fun to take a little bit of that magic for yourself.”

But who was this “cowboy figure” that artists continue to reference in their music? Well, over his six-decade career, John Wayne (1907–1979) became America’s hero. A larger than life force to be reckoned with, Wayne once said, “When you stop fighting, that’s death.”

Wayne (aka “The Duke”) left behind a legacy filled with accolades. Not only did he win an Academy Award for Best Actor for True Grit (1969), he’s been referenced in films and TV shows from The Birdcage to Family Guy. He has a home in The Hall of Great Western Performers, is part of an upcoming exhibit at The National Cowboy Western & Heritage Museum called “Hollywood and the American West,” and has been awarded both The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. There’s even a nine-foot bronze statue of the icon at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.

Then there’s his less-renowned music career.

Wayne’s album America: Why I Love Her peaked at No. 66 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 13 on the Top Country Albums chart in 1973. On the album, Wayne is reading patriotic speeches over accompanying music. Post 9/11, the album charted again on the Internet Albums chart (which ranks the top selling albums of the week through Internet sellers like Amazon.com), peaking at No. 18 in 2002.

Though music is healing in itself, artists have always turned to seemingly immortal icons to raise them up in troubled times. Wayne’s light in particular, has never dimmed. It’s safe to say we will continue to hold out for a hero.

John Wayne’s Plea for Civil Political Discourse

by Michael Goldman

In early 2012, when John Wayne Enterprises asked me to begin researching John Wayne: The Genuine Article, a New York Times Bestselling book published in 2013, I had the privilege of going into John Wayne’s personal Archive and examining his private papers first-hand. The book was conceptualized to be a “personal” look at Duke in his own words and point of view on various topics of deep importance to him. And few subjects were more important to John Wayne than the welfare of the country that gave him the opportunity to become a movie star and one of the most famous people who ever lived. He was, in other words, a deeply political creature.

More specifically, Duke was, as most people know, a rock-ribbed Conservative who, from the time he first campaigned for Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950’s, routinely befriended, supported, raised money for, campaigned for, and voted for Republican candidates and causes. This was not news when I found his letters concerning the political causes he was passionate about. What was enlightening, however, was the fact that his Archive contained irrefutable proof that John Wayne considered himself an American first, Republican second, and was committed to the principles of civility and respect even when standing up for his ideals.

Indeed, I learned that a huge number of his closest friends were Hollywood Liberals: Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, just to name a few. Duke would debate them in his letters, as he did Newman on December 13, 1961, when they exchanged views as to whether the Kennedy Administration was “Socialistic” or doing enough to defend the Middle Class. The debates were never personal—they were always respectful, intimate and caring even. When I thought about it, Duke’s mentor and lifelong best friend was famed director John Ford, known to sometimes have very liberal leanings, and yet, two men in Hollywood could not have been closer.

I was blown away to find in Duke’s datebook that in the 1970’s, John Wayne regularly had lunches with famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who wrote Duke a thank-you note in December of 1977 for “the horse poetry gift” John Wayne had given him, promising that “you have love from all of us who worked with you.” I knew Wexler was a legendary Hollywood Liberal in that era, and until he died last year, and that they ferociously disagreed about the Vietnam War. So in 2012, as I documented, I called Wexler and demanded an explanation for his friendship with John Wayne. Why were they wining, dining, and exchanging poetry?

Wexler explained that he was the director of the series of Great Western Bank commercials that Duke starred in in the 1970’s, and the two realized they had far more in common than not during that association—the Old West, horses, poetry, filmmaking, and much more. He insisted John Wayne was consumed with the notion of “fairness and humaneness” in all things, political and otherwise, and that the notion of Duke refusing to consider “the other side” of issues or to have respect for those who disagreed with his strongly held views was merely “a caricature.”

I also learned how John Wayne sent President Nixon many letters of support as Watergate broke. Then, as letters and speeches suggest, he appeared to become disappointed in Nixon when he realized not only were the charges against Nixon true, but that perhaps even worse, he had taken Nixon’s word for it when he said they were not true. To John Wayne, a man’s word was his bond. And so, some later letters and speeches, including a notable speech in 1974 that we quote in the book, indicate an increasing plea for civility, truthfulness, and mutual understanding that, he argued, was more important than mere politics.

Thus, if you haven’t already read John Wayne: The Genuine Article, don’t be surprised to learn that President Jimmy Carter penned the foreword—a politician who, as Carter articulates, John Wayne never voted for, and whom he largely disagreed with on a whole host of issues. We detail how and why Duke broke with his Republican brethren to lobby Senators of both parties to ratify Carter’s drive to approve the Panama Canal Treaties, solely because he felt they were good for the country. As he supported Carter on that issue, his close friend, Ronald Reagan, who was preparing to run against Carter, was angered, and a back/forth letter exchange broke out between them, as we document. What is instructive is, what ended their disagreement had nothing to do with one man giving in or changing his position. It had to do with two friends eventually comprehending that their dispute might be harmful to their relationship. And so, they simply knocked it off.

As John Wayne eventually became sick, the Archives indicate that Carter visited him and called to check up on him when he was hospitalized, and of course, he signed the bill granting Duke posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal and eulogized him to the country as “the genuine article,” which is where the book’s sub-title comes from. And it was Carter who stated in in his foreword that what we need today is “more John Waynes.”

Being just a couple weeks from a hugely divisive, bitter national election, Duke’s example of courtesy and country first is not a bad one to emulate. After all, his relationship with Carter began exactly the same way that he welcomed the other Democratic presidents who were elected during his years in the national spotlight into office—Kennedy and LBJ. All three of them received a telegram from him upon winning. That telegram was identical in all three cases, and read simply, “Congratulations sir, from one of the loyal opposition.”


Michael Goldman wrote the 2013 award-winning book that examined letters and documents from John Wayne’s personal archive—John Wayne: The Genuine Article. Goldman has authored six books about major media-related topics, legends, and institutions, including co-authoring a textbook on filmmaking, an acclaimed coffee-table book on director Clint Eastwood’s filmmaking techniques called Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker at Work, an authoritative history of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and more. He has also written for acclaimed film journals like American Cinematographer, CineMontage, Millimeter, Post magazine, Variety, and consumer publications like the LA Times, Orange County Register, Philadelphia Inquirer and others. Goldman podcasts interviews with filmmakers monthly at the Studio Daily site in a series called Podcasts from the Front Lines. You can learn more about his work at his Website—www.hollywood-scribe.com