John Wayne Once Joked That the ‘Most Dangerous Stunt’ He Did was ‘Talk Back to Marlene Dietrich’

by Quentin Blount

John Wayne is well known for his bravery and courage, both on and off the screen. But there was one “stunt” that he considers the most dangerous one he ever performed.

Fans of classic television know that there was no one better suited than a good gunfight than John Wayne himself. In fact, The Duke performed several of his own stunts throughout his career. Some of the most exciting stunts came in scenes from Back to Bataan, Big Jake, Sons of Katie Elder, Lawless Frontier, Randy Rides Alone, and True Grit.

In fact, in the 1945 film Back to Bataan, John Wayne did all of his own stunts. One of those was in an explosion scene in which Wayne had to fly through the air in a chest harness. Another particular scene had Wayne underwater in an icy pool. He was only able to breathe through a reed that poked out above the water’s surface.

So, it is safe to say that The Duke has seen his fair share of dangerous stunts. As a result, one fan asked Wayne during a 1976 interview with Phil Donahue which stunt was the most dangerous he’s ever done.

“John, what is the most dangerous stunt you have ever done in a movie?” the fan asks.

Wayne had to think about it for a moment, leaving the audience in suspense. But his hilarious answer was well worth the wait.

“Talk back to Marlene Dietrich,” The Duke replied.

Who Was Marlene Dietrich to John Wayne?

Marlene Deitrich was a German-born American singer and actress. She had an extremely long, and successful career that spanned from the 1910s all the way to the 1980s.

Thanks to her glamorous personality and her exotic looks, Dietrich became one of the highest-paid actresses of her time. She starred in several big Hollywood films. Some of those films include Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express and Blonde Venus (both 1932), The Scarlett Empress (1934) and The Devil is a Woman (1935).

So, you may be wondering where exactly the legendary John Wayne was involved. Well, Wayne and Dietrich first met in 1940 when they starred together on the set of Seven Sinners. They also starred together in another film, The Spoilers, two years later.

However, rumor has it that Wayne and Dietrich were much more than just co-stars. According to, Dietrich had her eyes set on Wayne before he even knew it. He even recalled the first time she invited him into her dressing room.

Dietrich invited him inside and then quickly closed the door behind him and locked it. After an awkward silence, Dietrich asks Wayne, “I wonder what time it is?” And before he could peek down at his watch, Dietrich lifted her skirt to show off her famous legs. She slowly made her way over to The Duke and said, “It’s very early, darling. We have plenty of time.”