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Actor John Wayne had fairly strong opinions about various things, including actor Clark Gable. The Gone With the Wind actor impressed many audiences around the world with his acting abilities and good looks. Wayne could admit that Gable was a handsome man, but he didn’t fall for his charm as many others did.

John Wayne rarely spoke negatively about his acting peers

Thomas Mitchell, John Ford, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, and John Wayne standing around on the set wearing suits and smoking cigarettes
L-R: Thomas Mitchell, John Ford, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, and John Wayne | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, wrote John Wayne: My Father, where she explored his thoughts on his peers, including Gable. The actor was known for his feature film performances, but he did make television appearances later in his career. However, Aissa explained that he never had anything negative to say about the actors who exclusively performed for television.

Aissa noted that Wayne had high praises for Lucille Ball, Hal Linden, and Jackie Gleason. He also had nice things to say about many of his film co-stars, except for Gene Hackman. He “skewered” every performance that he delivered and called him “the worst actor in town.”

John Wayne thought Clark Gable was an ‘idiot’ who could only ever be an actor

However, John Wayne: My Father also pointed to the harsh criticisms the actor gave Gable. The actor told his daughter that he thought his fellow A-lister star was incredibly handsome. He could see why audiences wanted to see his face on the silver screen, but he didn’t care for him as a person beyond that. Additionally, Wayne thought that Gable wouldn’t be able to pull off any other line of work outside of acting.

“[He’s] extremely handsome in person,” Wayne said. “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.”

Wayne would call Gable “handsome but dumb” at least four or five more times, which got Aissa thinking. She wondered if it perhaps had something to do with her father’s close relationship with filmmaker John Ford. The director clashed with Gable while filming Mogambo, and the feud didn’t dissipate for years.

Aissa wrote that Wayne had strong loyalty to friends, which perhaps created his negative feelings toward Gable. She believed that her father would have defended Ford against Gable if given the chance.

He thought of himself as more of a ‘star’ than an ‘actor’


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John Wayne: My Father detailed why Wayne thought Gable wouldn’t be able to tackle another career outside of acting. He always told his family that he “loved the goddamn business,” but he thought of himself as more of a star than as an actor, which combated how Gable viewed the art of acting. Wayne frequently told the press, “I don’t act at all, I react.”

“In a bad picture, you see them acting all over the place,” Wayne said. “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.” 

Wayne continued: “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.”