Why John Wayne Once Called Clark Gable ‘An Idiot’

by Suzanne Halliburton
why-john-wayne-once-called-clark-gable-an-idiot

John Wayne never was shy about offering an opinion, good or bad. So if you asked him about Clark Gable, a fellow Hollywood superstar, he’d call him an “idiot.”

Apparently, in Duke’s opinion, Gable was all face and no talent, an actor’s version of all hat and no cattle. But his opinion of Gable may have more to do with his loyalty to a friend and director. Read on for more details.

Aissa Wayne offered these anecdotes about her dad in her book “John Wayne: My Father.” Aissa was Duke’s first child by his third wife, Pilar. He was the proud father of seven children. Back in the 1990s, Aissa wrote a book which delved “into her father’s childhood, his film career, and his life off the screen. The result is an affecting portrait that offers a new perspective on one of America’s most enduring hero’s humanity.”

In the book, Aissa brought up her dad’s relationship with Gable, the star of the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind. Gable probably has one of the most-quoted lines in Hollywood history. His Rhett Butler told wife, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

The John Wayne Feud with Gable Probably Was Because of John Ford

Aissa recalled some of the conversations she had with John Wayne about Gable.

“Dad called Gable handsome, but dumb, at least four or five times,” Aissa wrote, adding that he also called him an “idiot.” She added: “And now I wonder if it had something to do with my father’s friend, John Ford.”

Still, Wayne didn’t mind working with Gable. He offered him the part of Davy Crockett in The Alamo. Gable turned him down because he didn’t trust Duke as a director.

John Wayne and John Ford collaborated on 14 movies. This is a scene from “The Wings of Eagles'” (Porges/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Gable and Ford clashed during the production of the 1953 safari movie, Mogambo. Gable even walked off the set. He didn’t like the way Ford treated his co-star, Ava Gardner. And he thought Ford made too many cracks about his age and appearance. IMDB reported that Gable’s heavy drinking gave him the shakes. Ford would reshoot the scene if Gable was having an issue. But one time he didn’t. That apparently also caused the problems between the two. Plus, Gable and Grace Kelly started an affair on the set. This was before she became Princess Grace of Monaco.

“In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, support in any fashion for their enemies, was expressly forbidden,” Aissa Wayne wrote. “If Clark Gable took on John Ford, my father’s code demanded that John Wayne stand by his old pal.”

This is a movie poster from Stagecoach, the first significant role for John Wayne. John Ford directed it. (LMPC via Getty Images)

In Duke’s World of Loyalty, You Never Crossed One of His Friends

John Wayne and John Ford were tight. They did 14 movies together, including some of Duke’s greatest films. The films included The Searchers, Stagecoach, Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Quiet Man.

Sadly, Gable died of a heart attack in 1960. He was only 59. John Wayne maintained his status as one of the world’s biggest box office draws well into the 1970s. He died in 1979 at the age of 72.

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