Actor John Wayne earned both positive and negative reviews from movie critics over the course of his career. Some actors consistently follow critical opinions of their movies, but others choose to avoid them at all costs. Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, recalled seeing her father raging at major movie critics’ negative reviews of his feature films.
John Wayne supposedly never read movie reviews
Aissa’s John Wayne My Father explores her relationship with her father both on and off the set of movies. She noted that several sources stated that Wayne was so secure in his work that he never read any of the reviews for his movies. However, Aissa noted that was false. In fact, Wayne read nearly all of the major critics’ reviews.
Wayne didn’t have the time to read all of the reviews himself, but he had his confidante and longtime secretary Mary St. John read them to him over the phone. Her father tried to pass it off as if the bad reviews never upset him, but she knew otherwise.
John Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, saw her father rage at negative reviews from movie critics
Aissa specifically pointed back to The Green Berets, which was a Vietnam war motion picture. Her father held great pride in the film and it earned a strong audience turnout. However, The New York Times, Life Magazine, The Washington Post, and others ripped Wayne and The Green Berets apart in their negative reviews.
“A little clique back in the East has taken great satisfaction in reviewing my politics instead of my pictures,” Wayne told Roger Ebert. “And they’ve drawn up a caricature of me, which doesn’t bother me: their opinions don’t matter to the people who go to the movies.”
However, Aissa specified that negative movie critic reviews did deeply bother Wayne. “That son of a b****,” the actor howled. “I’ve been in this goddamn business for 50 years. He’s never been in front of a camera in his life. What the hell does he know about acting?”
Yet, Wayne never slammed The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, who consistently bashed the actor and his work. Aissa recalled that her writings about True Grit especially stung him, even though he wouldn’t admit it.
Kael’s review read: “The two principal subjects of the script’s attempts at humor are Wayne’s gut and (Katharine) Hepburn’s age, which is to say that the film tries to make jokes of what it can’t hide. It never Waynes, but it bores.”
The actor didn’t expect to win an Oscar for ‘True Grit’
However, John Wayne My Father explained how positive the early critic reviews were at the time for True Grit. Some potential Oscar chatter began, but the actor never believed that it would actually happen. An executive from Paramount Pictures even told Wayne: “Duke, this is the one. This one’s gonna get you the award.”
Wayne appreciated all of the positive reviews and praise from his colleagues. Nevertheless, he figured that even if he secured an Oscar nomination, he would lose again after his previous acting nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima. However, he would be proven wrong when he did in fact earn his one and only Oscar for True Grit.