John Wayne may have been one of Hollywood’s leading men. But he also had his struggles in both his personal life and also the finances department.
In fact, the Duke almost wound up flat broke at one point in his career. This wasn’t early in his career either but after more than 25 years in the business. So how did Wayne lose vast quantities of his fortune? Well, Wayne and his manager made some bad financial investments. The actor chronicled his financial woes in a 1962 interview with the Saturday Evening Post.
“I suddenly found out after 25 years,” Wayne told the outlet, “that I was starting out all over again. I just didn’t have it made at all. Until last year I had a business manager who didn’t do anything illegal, but we were involved in many unfortunate money-losing deals. I would just about break even if I sold everything right now.”
What kinds of bad investments did the Duke make? Well for one, he betted on himself as a director. John Wayne wanted to make his passion project based on the Battle of the Alamo. As the old saying goes, put your money where your mouth is. And well, Wayne did just that. He invested a hefty sum of $1.2 million into the film. Likewise, several of Wayne’s friends also invested in the project.
According to the outlet, Wayne needed to make $18 million to turn a profit. But fortunately for the Duke, the film ended up making $20 million at the box office across its lifetime.
John Wayne’s ‘Cursed’ Film
Of course, money or no money, John Wayne was probably glad to wash his hands of the film. Production on “The Alamo” felt like a curse of biblical proportions. As the director, Wayne struggled to manage the film, which he also had to star in. The film seemed to suffer setback after setback.
For one thing, a heavy rain storm delayed filming early in production. We’re not talking about a little afternoon shower either. In total, the storm deposited some 29 inches of rain. And that’s before the set garnered a reputation for wild rattlesnakes and scorpions.
A couple of crew members died in a car wreck. The publicity office caught fire, destroying all the necessary paperwork for the film. And then, 80 percent of the cast caught the flu during an outbreak during production. Not to mention, an actor smashed his foot with a canon as well.
And to top it all off, there was a murder at the heart of the production. An extra, LaJean Ethridge, was murdered by her boyfriend while they were working on the film. Wayne ended up having to shoot the film around a police investigation into the killing.
But for his hard work, Wayne produced a classic that’s remembered today. And hopefully made back his lost money.