John Wayne: President Ronald Reagan Couldn’t Get Tickets to One of the Duke’s Movies in 1968

by Clayton Edwards

John Wayne starred in a lot of movies including many westerns and war epics. It turns out that some of his films were hard to get tickets to – even for a future president of the United States.

You don’t have to support a war to support the troops who are fighting it. John Wayne knew this. In fact, that was his stance on the Vietnam War. He didn’t like the fact that American men and boys were fighting and dying over there. However, the Duke fully supported the military. That was, in essence, why he made The Green Berets in 1968. At the time, the war in Vietnam was at its peak and so was the anti-war sentiment in the United States. The Duke wanted to have something in Hollywood that reflected his pro-military stance.

During a 1988 interview that was part of the documentary John Wayne: An American Hero, Ronald Reagan talked about how he and the Duke felt about the Vietnam war. Then, he talked a little about how hard it was for him to get tickets to see The Green Berets.

Reagan on Getting Tickets to John Wayne’s 1968 War Film

 Ronald Reagan echoed John Wayne’s feelings on the Vietnam war. “The great immorality of the Vietnam War was for our government to be asking young men to give up their lives in that war when the government had no intention of winning it,” he added that the Duke felt the same way. Then, he went on to talk about the strange thing that happened when he and Nancy Reagan attempted to go see The Green Berets.

Ronald Reagan said, “When [John Wayne] made The Green Berets, there was something more going on in Hollywood, at that time, than just whether people weren’t in favor of the war. I remember that we called the theater when the picture first opened. It opened to reserved seats like a play would be. Nancy and I couldn’t get tickets to it.” Reagan said they went as far as to call the box office to see if they had any cancelations so they could see the film. They were told there were no available seats.

Then, Ronald Reagan said, they called someone else who was supposed to be in charge of the tickets. They were told that there were plenty of tickets left for the film. In fact, “There were tickets available for any night that you wanted them. But, at the box office, you were being told that there weren’t any tickets available.” according to Reagan.

Regan Reaches out to the Duke

“In other words,” said Ronald Reagan, “the people who were supposed to be promoting the attendance of that film were literally keeping people away.” The next step was obvious. Reagan called the Duke and told him what was happening. About that, he said, “I think some John Wayne action took place rather quickly.”

The Green Berets went on to be financially successful when it opened to moviegoers. So, John Wayne got his wish, in the end. People flocked to theaters to see the other side of the military argument.