John Wayne at home--reflective, old-fashioned, self-deprecating.
With the emphasis these days on John Wayne’s 1971 Playboy interview, whose handful of quotes taken out of context now threaten the actor’s reputation, we are delighted to put a spotlight on a different interview carried out around the same time, 1969, conducted by film critic Roger Ebert, the primary film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. Ebert is notable not just for his vast knowledge of and appreciation for cinema history, but also for being an incisive writer. So good was he that he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1975.
And yet Ebert chose not to inject himself or his opinions into this long and informative interview, apart from a few scene-setting details. Instead, he let Duke talk. And talk. And talk some more. The resulting picture the actor unwittingly paints of himself is at times self-aware (“…my first chance to play a character role instead of John Wayne,” he says of True Grit), loving (he describes his efforts to expand a bedroom because his son wanted space for a bunk bed), and unashamedly old-fashioned (of the then-current movie industry, he says, “It’s like when the strippers took over burlesque”). But it’s his everyman bonhomie that is most vivid.
He led the way out to the patio and around the pool to his own den [Ebert writes]. It was a big, lived-in, masculine room. "Place is a mess,'' Wayne said. "You get in the middle of a construction project and, hell, you know how it is. Hold on here and I'll see if I can get some coffee or something to drink.”
You can read the full interview and read other interviews and film reviews by Ebert on his legacy website, along with current reviews by today’s critics. As a film lover, it would be more than worth your while.