John Wayne was known for his commanding presence both on-screen and off, both physically and artistically. People don’t just stop being 6’4″, after all. You don’t get the nickname “The Duke” for no reason. Wayne was a larger-than-life figure during Hollywood’s Golden Age, making around 162 films during his career.
Actress Constance Towers, the Duke’s co-star in The Horse Soldiers in 1959, spoke with Fox News about her experiences on set with John Wayne and William Holden; she discussed her first meeting, her initial reaction to the stars, and recalls the tender way they treated her on set.
Recalling John Wayne and William Holden: ‘Both Wonderful to Me’
Towers, 88, reminisces about her second-ever Hollywood film, The Horse Soldiers; in the film, she played Miss Hannah Hunter, the mistress of a plantation where a Union brigade sets up camp during the Civil War. She eavesdrops on a Union meeting in her home, and Colonel John Marlowe–played by John Wayne–decides he must take her with them to protect the Army’s secrets.
Of working with Wayne, Towers said, “He was as big as he was on the screen and he treated me like his little princess.” She also said she was in shock when first meeting both John Wayne and William Holden: “I could hardly speak when I first met them,” going on to say, “I was in total awe of working with these two stars, but they were both just wonderful.”
Towers spoke about two stuntmen who helped her on set as well, Slim Hightower and Freddy Kennedy. “They were the two cutest men you’d ever seen,” she said. “They played tricks on me and they just had fun.” Whenever she had to do horse stunts, her two cowboys were there with her. She claims they were silly, but “I had a wonderful relationship with them because they protected me.”
On Becoming a Villain
Towers is now most often recognized as Helena Cassadine on General Hospital, a role that originated with Elizabeth Taylor in 1981. Towers found fame on the long-running soap opera, and spoke about what it was like to pivot from “the purest heroine” to a “delicious, wonderful, evil woman.”
“My character is over the top. So I went over the top,” she continued. “I keep experimenting with her because every villain has a weakness somewhere…They killed her four times and yet I keep coming back.”
A long way to go from a woman too shocked at working with John Wayne to speak, to the main villain of an immensely popular soap opera. Towers has had a long and illustrious career, from The Horse Soldiers to years in the theater, to General Hospital.
When asked what keeps her going, Towers replied, “I have such a passion for performing…I can’t imagine my life without some form of performance.”