John Wayne was well known for his tough and gristly persona on and off-screen, not holding back on what he really thought of peers he clashed with. He lambasted Red River co-star Montgomery Clift as “an arrogant little bas**rd” and blasted Gene Hackman as “one of the worst actors in Hollywood.” Duke was part of a conservative inner circle that included his long-time collaborator John Ford and it turns out Wayne’s exceptionally rude dismissal of Clark Gable was rooted in a feud with the director.
Back in 1953, Gable – who would have been 62 today – starred opposite Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly in Ford’s romantic adventure Mogambo. The director was a notoriously bad-tempered character who often humiliated and baited his cast to get better performances out of them.
During the African production, he would make remarks about Gable’s age and weathered appearance. The actor even walked off set in protest of the filmmaker’s treatment of Gardner.
In her book John Wayne: My Father, Aissa wrote: “During the filming of Mogambo, Ford and Gable had clashed again and again and the subsequent feud had simmered for years. In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, support in any fashion for their enemies, was expressly forbidden. If Clark Gable took on John Ford, my father’s code demanded that John Wayne stand by his old pal.”
As a result of his loyalty to Ford, Duke made some extremely rude comments about Gable: “[He’s] extremely handsome in person. That’s one guy that doesn’t need Hollywood to make him look good. But Gable’s an idiot. You know why Gable’s an actor? It’s the only thing he’s smart enough to do.”
His daughter also shared why her father thought the Gone with the Wind star wouldn’t be able to have another career outside of acting.
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Wayne saw himself as more of a star than an actor, which was in contrast to Gable’s view of being a thespian.
Duke said: “I don’t act at all, I react. In a bad picture, you see them acting all over the place. In a good picture, they react in a logical way to a situation they’re in, so the audience can identify with them. All I do is sell sincerity, and I’ve been selling the hell out of that since I started. I was never one of the little theatre boys. That arty crowd has only surface brilliance anyway. Real art is basic emotion. If a scene is handled with simplicity—and I don’t mean simple—it’ll be good and the public will know it.”