The cinematic contributions of John Wayne are set in stone, with countless classic roles in the western movie genre etched into history, including his collaborations with directors John Ford and Henry Hathaway. Yet, despite the actor’s industry fame and prominence, he ruffled his fair share of Hollywood feathers throughout his career, with tales of on-set clashes being rife from his earliest years in the industry.
As Wayne swung his weight about during that classic era of Hollywood, he had several run-ins and feuds with his fellow stars, many of whom fell out with the actor for his conservative political and extremely questionable and offensive personal views, whilst others just never quite saw eye to eye with the cinema icon.
It looks as though few stars felt the brunt of Wayne’s vitriol as harshly as Clark Gable, though, via a falling out with Wayne’s frequent collaborator and conservative ally, John Ford. Gable had starred in Ford’s 1953 movie Mogambo, but the two figures clashed on set and fell out for good.
Ford had made several comments about Gable’s looks and age during the production of his movie and had been equally rude to the actor’s co-star, Ava Gardner, leading to Gable walking off set on more than a few occasions because of how Ford treated his actors, completely ignorant to their feelings as human beings.
John Wayne’s daughter once explained the feud between Gable and Ford and how this impacted her father’s opinion of his fellow actor. “During the filming of Mogambo, Ford and Gable had clashed again and again, and the subsequent feud had simmered for years,” Aissa Wayne wrote in John Wayne: My Father.
“In my father’s way of thinking, disloyalty to allies, support in any fashion for their enemies, was expressly forbidden,” she continued. “If Clark Gable took on John Ford, my father’s code demanded that John Wayne stand by his old pal.”
And stand by Ford Wayne did, feeling that the best course of action was to speak rudely of Gable, despite having no direct problem with him. “[He’s] extremely handsome in person,” Wayne noted. “That’s one guy that doesn’t need Hollywood to make him look good. But Gable’s an idiot. Do you know why Gable’s an actor? It’s the only thing he’s smart enough to do.”
Gable was indeed one of the best-looking actors in classic Hollywood, but to say that he’s only intelligent enough to act seems to be a great disservice. By the same line of reasoning, what did John Wayne ever do but act? In that light, perhaps his words prove that he was the imbecile all along, as per the opinions of several of the movie industry figures who knew him all too well.