Ann-Margret had always been a fan of John Wayne, so when she got to work with him on Train Robbers in 1973, she was nervous. But she said he was one joy to work with, was a consummate professional, and a kind man.
Meeting John Wayne
Meeting Wayne was a dream come true for Margret, she said. Outside of Walt Disney, he was the person she most wanted to work with. And he didn’t disappoint.
“I didn’t know what to expect. But when he hugged me, it’s like the world was hugging me. He was so big and wide with that booming voice. We were shooting in Durango, Mexico and my parents came down to visit me. He was so great with my parents. So absolutely welcoming and gentle with them. And anybody who was great to my parents was on a throne in my eyes.”
She said they remained friends until his death in 1979, six years after Train Robbers was released.
“I was friends with him forever,” Margret said. “He was never [pretentious]. He had so many friends and every single person loved him.”
But when they met, it was hard for her to see him as anything but the movie star, even though he didn’t act like it.
“It’s hard for me to call him ‘Duke,’ because I was always taught growing up that when you first met someone, it’s ‘Mr.’ whatever or ‘Mrs.’ whatever or ‘Miss’ whatever,” she told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But he was bigger than life. When I went to work with him, I would sit in the back [of a car] and he would sit in the passenger seat. He was such a huge man, and he’d have a window open, and in the fields, people would be working and of course, everyone knew who he was.”
Wayne Even Lent His Private Jet for Oscars
While they were filming Train Robbers in Mexico, Ann-Margret was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Carnal Knowledge. Ben Johnson who was also there filming, was also nominated for that film.
The only problem was they were 1,300 miles away from Los Angeles, and it seemed unlikely they’d be able to make the ceremony, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said.
That was until John Wayne stepped in and lent them his private plane so they could make the ceremony. Ann-Margret lost to Cloris Leachman, but Johnson picked up his golden statue. Wayne had won his Oscar two years earlier for True Grit.
“The next day, we were back on the set, and Ben had won and I hadn’t,” Ann-Margret recalled. “I don’t know what Mr. Wayne said to Ben, but he got me in a corner, and he just said some wonderful things to me.”