John Wayne and Steve McQueen were two American heroes with entirely different personas.
Wayne was all swagger and cowboy, whether he was riding a horse, courting a woman or leading soldiers or sailors into battle.
McQueen was America’s ultra-cool anti-hero. He collected fast cars and really fast motorcycles. And his on-screen persona might not have been much different from real life.
Yet one time, a young, but earnest fan got John Wayne and Steve McQueen confused.
The John Wayne estate posted a fan letter to the star’s Instagram account, Monday.
“Duke knew how important his fans were to his career and at one point had four secretaries to write back to all the fan mail he received. Swipe to see a letter from a young fan who mistook Duke for Steve McQueen & his response.”
Check It Out: 10-year-old Wrote John Wayne
A 10-year-old boy named Ross wrote John Wayne. “Dear Mr. Wayne,” Ross says. “I love the movie Bulit and I thought your acting was great. I would like to know if I could have a autographed picture of you. (And) I would like to see you some day.”
If you’re a John Wayne fan or a lover of 1960s-era cinema, you know that Steve McQueen was in Bullitt. But Wayne played along with young Ross, who took the time to write him. He sent McQueen a letter:
“Dear Steve. Would you please send him a picture of me from ‘Bullitt.’ I will forever be grateful.” John Wayne signed the letter “Duke.”
Both letters were undated. But chances are Ross wrote the note in the late 1960s. Bullitt was released in October, 1968. Remember McQueen’s love for fast cars? He got to show that in this film set in San Francisco. McQueen played Frank Bullitt, a San Fran police detective. The chase scene still is the best of McQueen as he maneuvered his Mustang through the winding streets of the city. A stunt driver actually guided the car, but McQueen did all the closeups.
We’ll Spot You Bullitt and Raise You True Grit
And while McQueen was wowing fans with Bullitt, John Wayne was doing some of his best work. He co-directed and starred in The Green Berets. And then in 1969, Wayne starred in True Grit as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. He won his only Academy Award for the role.
Sadly, John Wayne and Steve McQueen died within 18 months of each other. Wayne passed away at age 72 of stomach cancer in June 1979. McQueen died of complications of lung cancer in November 1980. He was only 50.
Back in present-day, fans loved the nostalgia of the letter written more than a half-century ago.
One wrote: Absolutely remarkable. The big stars always have time for their fans.”
Another said: He had a great sense of humor.”
We’re still wondering if McQueen ever did send a John Wayne photo from Bullitt.