One of the main goals of our upcoming book, John Wayne Speaks: The Ultimate John Wayne Quote Book, is to provide an authentic reference to Duke’s best movie lines. That’s why we’ve placed footnotes next to more than 1,000 fascinating quotes and bits of dialogue, each relating to a specific movie in Wayne’s 172-film career.
On the other hand, you could just type “John Wayne Quotes” into a Google search box and get hundreds of results. But how accurate are those quotes? Hit or miss, at best...
Here are five highly dubious quotes:
“I’m here to kick ass and drink whiskey. And Pilgrim, I’m out of whiskey.”
Found on souvenir plaques and whiskey glass collections. John Wayne, though forceful in his opinions, expressed himself almost always in a calm and gentlemanly way, even in a fistfight. He was unlikely to publicly use the phrase “kick ass.”
“Life is hard. It’s even harder if you’re stupid.”
Sometimes quoted as “Life is tough…etc.” Snopes.com confirms Duke never uttered those words, which are often found on T-shirts, posters, and coffee mugs. The quote appears to have come from the 1983 crime film The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It’s unclear how it was misattributed to Wayne.
“Gun control requires concentration and a steady hand.”
Found on anything printable, and sometimes spoken in the halls of state governments by gun-rights proponents. We can’t find it anywhere—not in a John Wayne movie, not in an interview.
“Courage is being scared but saddling up anyway.”
Perhaps Wayne’s most famous "quote," but we have scoured the internet, watched every John Wayne movie from 1926 to 1976, read references in more than a dozen books, and not a single one of them attributes this quote to either a film role or an interview.
“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
This ranks right up there with the preceding quote as the most famous line that Wayne never spoke, but you won’t have any trouble finding it on posters, plaques, mugs, T-shirts, keychain holders, and more, all giving credit to Wayne. Although some sources attribute this to the movie Stagecoach, a reading of the script proves the line is not there.
If you know the source of any of these quotes so that we can find them ourselves, email us at email@example.com and we’ll update this post, with a credit to you.