I had an interview set up with Howard Hawks at his home in Palm Springs, California, when a call came that John Wayne had agreed to see me. But the appointment with John Wayne was at the same time as I had scheduled with Hawks. Ethics still mattered in those days, so I reluctantly was about to turn it down, but Hawks said, “See Duke. You can see me anytime.”
It turned out to be serendipitous.
Wayne’s office was being recarpeted, so he suggested we go to his home. My wife drove with him, and I followed in a rental car. His home, by the water, was full of western paintings and western sculpture and artifacts. It was an environment fit for a Duke of the frontier. I spent three hours with Duke, for the interview and a scrumptious lunch with him, his secretary Stacy (which is also my daughter’s name), and my wife.
One thing that surprised me that afternoon was how much Duke was concerned with how he was going to fare in Photoplay’s most popular actors poll. I thought, you’re John Wayne, you shouldn’t care. But he did. The interview seemed to be a positive experience for both of us. Later in the mail I received a signed photo that said, “Tony — You caught me in print as no one else has. Thanks, Duke.”
In the interview, he mispronounced the word nonentity as “nonity.” No, I didn’t correct him. At the end of the interview he gave a special statement for my daughter Stacy. It was magical. On another trip I was able to take Stacy to meet Duke at his house. I was to take a photo of him and Stacy by his pool.
“Take the damn picture, will ya,” he growled.
Then I shot John Wayne. —Tony Macklin