John Wayne Estate Shares Emotional Letter Sent by Co-Star During Duke’s Battle with Cancer

by Josh Lanier
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In her final letter to John Wayne, Lauren Bacall said she needed to tell him something. It was something she couldn’t work up the nerve to tell The Duke when they last worked together.

The estate of John Wayne released that letter on Instagram recently. Bacall sent it to him only a few months before he died of stomach cancer in 1979.

“Duke and Lauren Bacall appeared in two films together. Today, we’re sharing a letter from Bacall to Duke towards the end of his battle with cancer from the #JohnWayneArchive,” the caption says.

Dear Duke,

This has been on its way to you for months. You have been so very much in my thoughts.  I never have been able to tell you how much you’re standing up for me in ‘Blood Alley’ days meant to me. I wanted to say it on ‘The Shootist’ — never could somehow. — know how difficult that film was for you. You have the guts of a lion — I do admire you more than I can say.  It was so great to see you Academy Award nite. I’m being inarticulate — I want you to know how terrific you are and how really glad I am to know you. You give more than [you] know — I send you much love — constant thoughts

Betty.

Letter from Lauren “Betty” Bacall to John Wayne in 1979

Lauren Bacall’s birth name is Betty Joan Perske.

The two made two films together — Blood Alley and John Wayne’s final film, The Shootist.

John Wayne Stands up For Lauren Bacall in Casting Choice

The 1955 production of Blood Alley was a troubled one. John Wayne, who was originally only set to produce the film, ended up having to step in as the star after he fired Robert Mitchum.

He knew he needed a strong female lead so he went with one of the most popular actresses of her era, Lauren Bacall. However, she wasn’t everyone’s first choice.

Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who had issued with Bacall over the years, was a co-producer on the picture. Hopper didn’t want Bacall in the movie. Wayne made it clear, her opinion was noted, but it was his movie.

“Don’t tell me how to cast my picture,” he supposedly told her. Bacall stayed in the film.

They remained friends for the rest of Wayne’s life. And when Bacall’s husband, Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart was diagnosed with cancer, John Wayne was the first to send flowers. Even though he didn’t know Bogart well.

Bacall died in 2014. But in a 2007 interview, she joked that she didn’t think and Wayne would be friends. Bacall was a staunch liberal Democrat and Wayne was a well-known conservative Republican.

“Duke Wayne and I got along really well, considering that we didn’t agree about anything!” she said then. “It was quite amazing. He was great to work with. He really liked me, and I really liked him. We had great chemistry together.”

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