John Wayne Needed to Be ‘Bullied’ to Get a Good Performance out of Him

John Wayne in his performance as Col. John Marlowe on horseback looking over his shoulder

John Wayne‘s critics often pointed out that his style of performance wasn’t really acting, but him simply playing himself. However, that isn’t to say that he didn’t earn praise for movies, such as the Oscar-winning True Grit. Wayne’s The Horse Soldiers co-star William Holden said that the actor was “bullied” to get a good performance out of him.

‘The Horse Soldiers’ star John Wayne had issues to deal with on the set

John Wayne as Col. John Marlowe | ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The Horse Soldiers set had non-performance issues for Wayne. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth explored the difficulties he encountered throughout production. His wife, Pilar, developed a dependence on sleeping pills, so Wayne had his mind on personal matters outside of his performance.

“It was a difficult picture to make all round,” director of photographer William H. Clothier said. “Pilar had become addicted to sleeping pills and Duke insisted she join him on location so he could keep an eye on her. Before they left home, she had run out of pills and after a day without them she got terrible withdrawal symptoms.”

Clothier continued: “Her doctor wanted to put her in a private sanatorium for people with drink and drug problems. But Duke wanted her in Louisiana and said he’d be with her as much as he could. So she arrived in Alexandria where we were based with little Aissa and a couple of maids.”

John Ford had to ‘bully’ John Wayne to get a good performance from him

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What’s your favorite John Wayne movie quote of all time?

Photo: John Ford and John Wayne on the set of The Horse Soldiers (1959) pic.twitter.com/OUOPqqtLuT

— John Wayne Official (@JohnDukeWayne) January 27, 2018

Munn wrote that it was Holden’s first time working with director John Ford, who was battling alcoholism, and Holden swore to work with him ever again. The actor recalled Ford’s cruel behavior toward Wayne for the sake of a better performance from him. However, it initially started with the filmmaker telling the actors that they aren’t allowed to have any alcohol.

“I liked Duke a lot,” Holden said. “I wasn’t sure how we’d get on, but he was a really nice guy. But I was pretty disgusted with the way Ford treated him. Ford would yell at him and treat him like he was a newcomer. I said to Duke, ‘Why do you let that old bastard treat you like that?’ He said, ‘Aw, Bill, that’s just his way of making sure I give him a good performance.’”

Holden continued: “I said, ‘Duke, you’ve been at this longer than me. You got nominated for an Oscar, didn’t you?’ He said, ‘Yeah!’ I said, ‘And what film was that for?’ Of course I knew the answer. Sands of Iwo Jima. I said to Duke, ‘Did Ford get a good performance out of you for that?’ He said, ‘Ford didn’t direct Iwo Jima.’ …read more

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