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John Wayne was actually very good at chess (film director and experienced player Josef von Sternberg "was livid" when beaten by Wayne) and the actor had a chessboard permanently set up on his 136ft boat, The Wild Goose. Wayne once said of fellow actor Rock Hudson: "Who the hell cares if he's queer? The man plays great chess." Wayne repeatedly cheated when playing chess against Robert Mitchum (Wayne had huge hands and would carefully slide a piece into a different position as he made a separate move) and Mitchum eventually plucked up the courage to tell him he was cheating. Wayne replied "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."
Wayne liked the novels of Agatha Christie but his two favourite books were written by Arthur Conan Doyle and both are historical novels - The White Company (1891) and Sir Nigel (1906) - both set during the Hundred Years' War. Wayne was also a fan of Charles Dickens and if the actor agreed to a business deal, he would always say "Barkis is willing!", a phrase used by Mr Barkis when he tells David Copperfield that he is ready to marry Peggotty.
Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison (on May 26, 1907) and earned the lifelong nickname Duke, after Big Duke, the family dog. Big Duke, an Airedale, would chase fire engines, and the firemen christened Wayne Liitle Duke, which was shortened to Duke. Wayne said: "The guy you see on the screen isn't really me. I'm Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne. I know him well. I'm one if his closest students. I have to be. I make a living out of him."
Ford's four Academy Awards for Best Director (1935, 1940, 1941, 1952) are a record but he missed out in 1939 for Stagecoach. His behaviour on set angered Wayne, who said of the director "I was so f--king mad I wanted to kill him". Ford kept baiting Wayne during filming, yelling at one point: "Don't you know how to walk? You're as clumsy as a hippo. And stop slurring your dialogue and show some expression. You look like a poached egg." Privately Ford said of Wayne at the time: "He'll be the biggest star ever".
Wayne was born in Iowa but went to the Glendale Union High School in California, where he played for the football team. Although he was seen as sporty, he also did well academically. He was part of the high school debating team and president of its Latin Society. He graduated with an average score of 94/100. He was also a member of its newspaper staff and wrote sports reports under byline 'M.M.M'.
John Wayne was known for his right-wing views (he was scathing about actress Jane Fonda's anti-Vietnam war pronouncements) and was a fervent supporter of President Richard Nixon, insisting in 1972 that "Nixon is too great a man to be mixed up in anything like Watergate." But Wayne also liked debating politics with the actor Paul Newman, who would send him political essays written by progressive liberal thinkers.
Among the many things (normally wives) that made a volatile Wayne fly off the handle was the act of anyone leaving a hat on top of a bed. Also, no one in his family was ever allowed to pass salt directly to Wayne, it had to be placed on the table instead and then he would reach for it. He was not superstitious about his smoking, though, getting through five packets of cigarettes a day, something that brought him first a persistent hacking cough and later lung cancer.
When he first met Michael Caine, Wayne gave him some friendly thespian advice. "Talk low, talk slow and don't say too f------ much". He then baffled the Brit by adding "and never wear suede shoes". When Caine asked "Why?", Wayne replied: "Because one day a guy in the next stall recognised me and turned towards me and said 'John Wayne you're my favourite actor! And p----d all over my suede shoes. So don't wear them when you're famous, kid."
Wayne would often tell friends how highly he thought of Winston Churchill and had a complete set of the British Prime Minister's prose on his bookself.
When he won his Best Actor Oscar for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit(1969), Wayne whispered in presenter Barbra Streisand's ear "beginner's luck". Wayne later spent the night drinking with Richard Burton (who had been nominated for playing King Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days), having knocked on the Welshman's door, thrust the Oscar statue at him and shouted: "You should have this, not me."
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