John Wayne Said the ‘Best’ Advice He Ever Got Was to Keep Working on Bad Movies

Actor John Wayne starred in some of the best Western movies of all time. However, he was also a part of plenty of box office and critical stinkers that never found an audience. Actors don’t typically set out to make films that audiences are going to hate, and Wayne was no exception to that. Nevertheless, another actor gave him the advice to keep working on bad movies, which the Western movie star said was the “best” advice he ever got.

John Wayne didn’t go to B-movies right after ‘The Big Trail’ bombed

John Wayne, who starred in Western movies. He's smiling wearing a suit jacket and white dress shirt. He has a hat on his head.
John Wayne | PA Images via Getty Images

Before the iconic cowboy that Wayne created across his Western movies, he had his first leading role in 1930’s The Big Trail. However, it bombed big time at the box office, and the actor earned criticism for feeling awkward on-screen. Some accounts said that his career immediately took a bad turn into B-movies, but that’s not true.

The studio cast Wayne alongside Marguerite Churchill in Girls Demand Excitement after his initial box office disappointment. They were able to make the film for cheap, where he played the captain of a college men’s basketball team. A battle of the sexes erupts when they must play against the girls’ team. However, it wasn’t the type of movie he wanted to make.

Will Rogers told John Wayne to keep working on bad movies

According to Michael Mun’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth, the actor hated working on some of his own movies. Girls Demand Excitement was certainly one of the titles that he really didn’t enjoy working on.

“I really hated making that film,” Wayne said. “It had no substance to it and was a big comedown after the adventure I’d had on The Big Trail. The studio really only threw the picture together to give work to a group of young actresses it had under contract that they didn’t know how to use. So the film was created for them, so my part was pretty lousy.”

However, Wayne realized that he should be happy working on movies, even if some of them are bad. Actor Will Rogers gave him the “best” advice ever when it came to working through these features.

“One day I met Will Rogers, the biggest star at Fox, who saw I was pretty despondent and he asked what the matter was,” Wayne recalled. “I told him, ‘I’m making a terrible movie,’ and he said, ‘But you’re working, aren’t you? Just keep it up.’ That was the best advice I ever got; just keep working and learning, however bad the picture—and that’s what I did, and boy, I made some lousy pictures!”

He could recognize when he made a bad film

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There were several movies that made Wayne question his status and future as an actor. Girls Demand Excitement was one of those movies, where he recognized that his performance wasn’t up to par. However, this was early on in his career. Wayne would go on to make plenty of bad movies over the course of his career.

Some of his most hated flicks include The Conqueror, Jet Pilot, Ride Him, Cowboy, and The Telegraph Trail. Nevertheless, he was very proud of himself when he made something worthwhile. Wayne was particularly excited about his performances in films such as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Red River, and The Searchers.