Hollywood superstar John Wayne remains one of Tinsel Town’s most enduring figures, featuring in more than 150 films and TV productions throughout a celebrated career. He collected a number of revered awards, including in 1970, when he finally claimed the Academy Award for Best Actor for True Grit he had been chasing his entire life. The actor, who died at the age of 72 in 1979, was often incredibly outspoken, criticising fellow actors he did not believe were talented enough for the silver screen.
His famous targets included the likes of Gone with the Wind star Clark Gable, and double Oscar winner Gene Hackman.
But iconic British actor Michael Caine once detailed how Wayne, known for his performances in western flicks, issued him with some blunt advice that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Caine, himself a winner of two Academy Awards, spoke about his encounter with Wayne in the aftermath of his 1966 film Alfie, in which he played the lead role.
Speaking on The Graham Norton Show in 2018, Caine described how he was “in this luxurious suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel” while he was waiting to do some filming on Gambit.
Michael Caine attending John Wayne’s birthday party
However, he “didn’t know anybody” and so ended up “just in this luxury hotel, ordering caviar and champagne, all on my own for a week”.
He continued: “In the daytime I used to go down to the lobby and sit in the corner, and see if I could see any stars.
“And one day a helicopter landed, and all the flowers went up in the beds outside, up in the air and in walks John Wayne in a complete cowboy hat just like that.”
Wayne spotted Caine and immediately told the star that Alfie, which earned the star a Best Actor Oscar nomination, was among his favourite films, saying “it’s very good son”.
Michael Caine in Get Carter
Wayne said: “You’re gonna be a star, kid. But if you wanna stay one, remember this: Talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much.”
Caine recalled, a moment later, Wayne issuing a final piece of advice that stayed with The Italian Job legend for the rest of his career: “He said, ‘Never wear suede shoes.’ I asked why and he said, ‘Because you’ll be taking a p**s in a men’s room and there’ll be a guy next to you, and all of a sudden the guy will recognize you and he’ll turn and go, ‘Michael Caine!’
“And he’ll p**s all over your shoes!’ I never wore suede shoes again.”
Another star of the screen who enjoyed a close relationship with Wayne was acting titan Kirk Douglas, who once revealed how he was left red-faced when the actor criticised one of his films.
The pair, Douglas noted, watched through his turn as Vincent van Gogh in the 1956 film Lust for Life.
While critics were impressed with Douglas’ performance as the Dutch painter, Wayne was not, and made his disappointment with his friend’s film clear.
During a discussion with James Bawden and Ron Miller, on their Conversations with Classic Film Stars, Douglas described the “famous story” of Wayne giving his own review of the film.
He said: “When I played Van Gogh in Lust for Life, we had a private showing of it, and John Wayne was there.
“We had a little supper party, and Wayne had a few drinks.”
“Afterwards, he motioned to me to go out on the veranda with him, and he berated me! He said, ‘How the hell could you play a goddamn character like that?’
“And I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m an actor. He’s a fascinating character.’
“And Wayne said, ‘No, no. We should never play those kinds of weak, snivelling characters. I don’t ever want to see you in a part like that again! They have no dignity!'”