April 14, 2014

John Wayne "upbraided star Kirk Douglas for playing the part of Vincent van Gogh like a 'weak queer.'"

"How can you play a part like that? There’s so few of us left. We got to play strong, tough characters," Wayne said.
“It’s all make-believe, John,” a dumbfounded Douglas replied. “It isn’t real. You’re not really John Wayne, you know.”
Here's a clip from "Lust for Life," the movie that brought out the homophobia in John Wayne. Vincent and his dinner date, Gauguin/Anthony Quinn, are having a nice conversation about which other artists to invite to their French country home, and when Vincent brings up Millet — Millet! — it erupts into a lover's quarrel about art and emotion. Vincent adores Millet, who, he says, "uses paint to express the word of God," and Gauguin snaps that "he should have been a preacher, not a painter." Then it's on to "If there's one thing I despise, it's emotionalism in painting," a none-too-subtle attack on Vincent that escalates into accusations of the "You paint too fast"/"You look too fast" kind.

60 comments:

Mark O said...

What brought out the homophobia in Moses?

TCR James said...

I think I'd rather follow Jimmy Stewart's example on how to be manly, than John Wayne's advice.

Diamondhead said...

Let's tear up his star from the walk of fame.

rhhardin said...

I think Woody Allen had a story of meeting John Wayne in some movie studio, and was surprised that JW was interested in literary dramatic arts.

He's not a cowboy, somebody told him. He's an actor.

Dick Cavett, I think.

MayBee said...

Homophobia?

Why would you play van Gough as gay?

Amexpat said...

Maybe being born Marion made the Duke touchy about this.

Henry said...

This seems slightly ironic given how
completely Irving Stone elided Michelangelo's homosexuality from The Agony and the Ecstasy.

I'm betting Charlton Heston had no trouble being manly in that part.

eric said...

"Here's a clip from "Lust for Life," the movie that brought out the homophobia in John Wayne"

I've never understood why this slut is ok. Would it be ok to slur those who have other phobias? Why is it ok to mock those of us who are afraid of homosexuals?

Granted, it's reasonable to say, "How can you fear a homosexual?" And I understand, just as I do when I go to the dentist, that there isn't really any reason to be afraid. But fear isn't logical. My experiences from childhood are hard to overcome by my rational mind.

And I just don't see why it's ok to use that as a slur on people with whom you politicaly disagree.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've never understood why this slut is ok. Would it be ok to slur those who have other phobias? Why is it ok to mock those of us who are afraid of homosexuals?"

Why is the mere quoting of John Wayne construed as mocking him?

My question answers your questions.

Gerrard787 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerrard787 said...

Phobia? How does one ascertain that from Wayne's mild comment?

David said...

What a wonderful link. I had no idea TCM maintained those clips.

Quinn and Douglas do not come across as "weak queers" in that clip. If they are being portrayed as queer at all, they are quite manly queers.

eric said...

Obviously I meant slur and not slut, darn keyboard!

"Why is the mere quoting of John Wayne construed as mocking him?"

I wasn't clear that it was John Wayne using the word Homophobia.

William said...

John Wayne's greatest creation was John Wayne. I suppose Kirk Douglas, as an actor, showed more range and chose riskier parts, but he never created a character as memorable as John Wayne. In terms of method acting, he got far deeper into the role of John Wayne than Marlon Brando did into the role of Stanley Kowalski

Bob Ellison said...

Gerrard787, "phobia" is the new word-part for "hater and probable white male gun-toting nut who wants to shoot whatever part of the word to which I'm attached".

YoungHegelian said...

Wayne upbraided star Kirk Douglas for playing the part of Vincent van Gogh like a “weak queer.”

You've got it all wrong, professor! It would have been okay with the Duke if Douglas had played van Gogh like a really butch queer. Or, maybe one of them thar "Bears" that the 19th c. Zuiderzee coast was so famous for.

eric said...

"Phobia? How does one ascertain that from Wayne's mild comment?"

Exactly.

It seems that, instead of ascertaining that from anything he said, it's just a slur being used by Ann.

Which I think doesn't recognize that some of us out here actually have real phobias of homosexuals.

And I'm not saying it's ok that I should have such a phobia, that's it's reasonable or logical, because it's not. And I do my damdest to suppress it (not repress it).

But I seriously doubt John Wayne has anything going on like what I do in this regard, and even if he did, I don't see how you'd get it from anything he has said.

Paul Zrimsek said...

John Wayne was a fag.

rhhardin said...

The John Wayne School a Elocution.

stan said...

Homophobia?! I don't think John Wayne was afraid of gays.

jr565 said...

No different than when Denzel told Will Smith not to kiss a man when he did the movie Six Degrees of Separation.
But I guesss he's a little more tolerant in that it was ok for Will to play the role. Just not have the kiss.

jr565 said...

Was Van Gogh a weak queer? Why play him as such?

Graham Powell said...

Van Gogh was gay? I thought he cut off his ear over a woman.

Otto said...

"weak queer" a tautology.

hombre said...

"Why is the mere quoting of John Wayne construed as mocking him?"

Why is characterizing the quote as evidence of "homophobia" called "mere quoting" by the Prof?

Ignorance perhaps? Bias perhaps? Among men of Wayne's generation "weak queers" were not objects of fear or loathing. They were simply considered effeminate and absurd. "Homophobia" confers a dignity and stature on homosexuality that Wayne and his peers would have found laughable.

Pogo is Only Mostly Dead said...

The 'homophobia' slur is a liberal's conclusory trump card, meant to stifle dissent and prevent debate.

I reject the premise of the question.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Henry said...

This seems slightly ironic given how
completely Irving Stone elided Michelangelo's homosexuality...


Michelangelo was gay? Did the other turtles know?

Chris Lopes said...

I don't think it was homophobia as much as the thought that a particular acting style that he preferred might be going out of style. One can play a gay character without it turning into a swishy metro-sexual stereotype. I think Wayne was just afraid that the manly characters he played were going out of style. He needn't have worried.

Unknown said...

rhhardin (10:32 am) has the story backwards. It was Dick Cavett who was surprised at Wayne's interest in and knowledge of Noel Coward. When Cavett told the story to Allen, the latter wasn't surprised. It was Allen who said "he's an actor, not a cowboy." See http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/awesome-and-then-some/

lgv said...

That was the problem with John Wayne. He always played John Wayne the cowboy, John Wayne the soldier, John Wayne the detective. It wasn't really acting. Well, except for Genghis Khan. We all know how well that turned out.

I sure every actor who played a gay character had a friend questioning the choice, whether it's Douglas, Heath Ledger or William Hurt.

Gerrard787 said...

John Wayne made his comment in 1957.

Heck, even the brightest independent minds at the American Psychiatric Association didn't officially get over their "homophobia" until 1973.

Lucien said...

@Gerrard787:

You may be on to something here. If people owned "homophobia" as a real condition, then they could sue for disability discrimination if they suffered any adverse actions on that score. Might work for "transphobia" too.

phx said...

“It isn’t real. You’re not really John Wayne, you know.”

I don't know who said it first but it became a commonplace that John Wayne got his Oscar for playing John Wayne.

Valentine Smith said...

I knew John Wayne, and you madam are not him!

Brando said...

I agree with everyone here who hates the term "homophobia". For one thing, it's only a phobia if it's something being feared. We never call those who are bigoted towards blacks "negrophobic" or those who are bigoted against Jews "semitophobic". Second, "homophobia"--break that down and it means fear of the same. Complete nonsense!

There's got to be a better term for anti-homosexual bigotry that is easier to say than "anti-homosexual bigotry".

Brando said...

John Wayne will never be considered a good actor, but how many other actors can say they created such an iconic type? Even today, fifty years after he passed his prime, people know what you mean when you refer to a "John Wayne type". He was a force to be reckoned with in all of his films.

And, to be fair, while most of his roles were similar--strong, morally upstanding middle-aged hero--there was more nuance in his roles than he was given credit for. Sometimes he played the tough, grizzled cowboy. Sometimes he played the tough, grzzled soldier. Sometimes he played the tough, grizzled cowboy. And other times he even played the tough, grizzled soldier.

dwick said...

As some others have commented, seems a thin reed to be throwing the 'homophobia' charge around against a person one doesn't know and who didn't leave 10 years of searchable blog postings behind. This is the same Ann Althouse that a week ago was railing about 'unsupported attacks on her' and needing to be 'genuinely substantive and thoughtful and evidence-based', etc?

Interesting the end of the linked article summarizes:

"...the book makes it plain that the star was a straight-shooter who refused to hold a co-worker’s creed, color, politics, or sexuality against him."

Maybe she missed that...

dbp said...

"Michelangelo was gay? Did the other turtles know?"

He kept it under his shell.

dbp said...

"Here's a clip from "Lust for Life," the movie that brought out the homophobia in John Wayne."

It is pretty clear that the slur erik is referring to is homophobia which is a word that did not come out of John Wayne's mouth and so it cannot be a quote.

It is not even clear that Wayne had anything against gays at all. The context is that he is complimenting Douglas that he is one of the few actors who can play strong tough types and it is foolish to put future such roles at risk.

Lydia said...

Unlike Jimmy Stewart, Wayne didn't volunteer to serve in WWII. He apparently felt guilty for the rest of his life about that. Maybe made him extra-sensitive when it came to "manly" stuff.

Chef Mojo said...

Miller: John Wayne was a fag.
All: The hell he was!
Miller: He was, too, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors in his pad in Brentwood, and he come to the door in a dress.

Repo Man (1984)

Rocketeer said...

I'm not afraid of spiders, either, but that doesn't mean I want to wake up and find one in my bed.

Howard said...

NB

It's called homophobia because sexuality is a continuum, not a bright line. The expressed derision of the gay is overcompensation for the terror that the gay fraction imparts on the heterosexual vanity of the homophobic. I think this only applies to men.

Matt said...

John Wayne, who wasn't really John Wayne, upbraided Kirk Douglas, who wasn't originally Kirk Douglas but was really Kirk Douglas by this time, for not really being Kirk Douglas. You can see really-Kirk-Douglas being not-really-Kirk Douglas, at least according to not-really-John-Wayne, in a scene with Anthony Quinn, who wasn't really Anthony Quinn.

gspencer said...

Kirk I can live with.

It's his shiittehead son Michael that makes me sick.

Matt said...

John Wayne, who wasn't really John Wayne but was very focused on keeping John Wayne authentic, upbraided Kirk Douglas, who wasn't originally Kirk Douglas but had become Kirk Douglas by this time, for not being an authentic Kirk Douglas. You can see an example of real Kirk Douglas' inauthenticity, at least according to fake John Wayne, in a scene with Anthony Quinn, who wasn't really Anthony Quinn.

harrogate said...

The linked article wants Douglas to be wrong, but the quote nonetheless destroys the rest of the article. Gotta love it when that happens.

Hagar said...

Lydia,
John Wayne did volunteer to serve in WWII, but the Army genius he talked to wanted to enlist him as a private. Wayne did not think that was the best use of a major movie star, so he backed out and just made supporting pictures, etc. as best he could from Hollywood.
That is not "serving in the war" as Stewart did, but that Wayne could not do due to an old football injury, so that he could not pass the physical.

And like most of the old-time stars, when John Wayne wanted to, he could indeed act. Just see his final scene in "The Shootist."

Mark O said...

John Wayne was a movie star. While he did not aspire to anything higher, his acting in "The Quiet Man" is brilliant.

Is anyone here suggesting Reford could act? Harrison Ford?

Lydia said...

@Hagar 3:42 pm -- From Breitbart.com:

"According to Randy Roberts and James Olson’s top notch John Wayne American, as a married but separated father of four and thirty-four years old in 1942 Wayne was classified by the Selective Service as 3-A (deferred for family dependency). In 1944 as the U.S. Military feared a manpower shortage he was reclassified 1-A (draft eligible). There is no record that he disputed this reclassification but his employer, Republic Studios, did and requested he be given a 2-A classification (deferred in the national interest, i.e., war bond drives, visiting the troops, etc.)."

Sounds pretty much like the kind of thing well-connected folks did during Vietnam.

harrogate said...

Redford yes and Ford yes. I wouldn't call either of then brilliant actors but it's silly to suggest they "couldn't act."

Wayne was not the worst actor by a long sight. But nowhere near those two.

None of which really is the point. The point is what a great exchange that was between Wayne and Douglas. One would like to think Wayne had enough self awareness to appreciate Douglad had bazingad him, even if the author of the linked article didn't get the joke

Saint Croix said...

I think Marlon Brando is overrated as a film actor. He's a fine actor, but there's a huge amount of baggage that went along with him. The upshot is that he did not make the number of great films that great actors should make.

Great film actors make great films. Under that standard, it's Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart we should be talking about. And I would put up John Wayne's body of work over Brando and Olivier combined. It's not even close.

harrogate said...

Wayne made a lot of films, some of which were very good.

And Brando didn't make films constantly. But his great films are why he is held high as an acting talent. Quantity is not the be all and end all.

Gahrie said...

Next week on Althouse:

Motherhood and apple pies are outrageous insults to the gay community.

Gahrie said...

Sounds pretty much like the kind of thing well-connected folks did during Vietnam.

And the unconnected moved to Canada. The country pardoned them long ago...maybe you should get over it.

Hagar said...

I remember when it was demanded that Elvis Presley be drafted, and he was. Elvis really was a pretty good kid back then, and he did his best to keep a low profile and just quietly serve out his two years, but he was Elvis the Pelvis and a continual problem for the Army to worry about. No way could he just be a normal recruit.

Then later the hue and cry about "Broadway Joe" Namath, and why wasn't he drafted for service in Viet Nam. Same problem as Elvis plus they would have needed his knee surgeon and a personal field hospital to keep him on his legs.

William said...

You pay to see a movie star be a movie star. Just recently I saw American Hustle. It's a good movie and Jennifer Lawrence gives a fine performance. You can see why a guy would want to marry her just as clearly as you can see why he would want to divorce her. She was fun to watch, but she wasn't the movie star Jennifer Lawrence. The movie star Jennifer Lawrence was in Winter's Bone and the Hunger Games movies. In those roles she played a heroine that resonated on some deep mythic level. It's the kind of presence that you can't learn in acting schools. Wayne had that kind of presence. Someone said that his walk was manifest destiny made visible.

Saint Croix said...

And Brando didn't make films constantly. But his great films are why he is held high as an acting talent.

Brando is hammy. He is a great actor, but every scene, every movie, it's "look at me!" I'm not a fan of his work for Kazan, and of course that's all his famous work in the 50's and 60's. His work with any other director was bad. Coppola took a real chance on him in The Godfather. It remains my favorite Brando performance, by far.

To give you an idea of the nightmare it was to work with the guy, Brando wouldn't read the screenplay. He never learned his lines. He had to read his lines off cue cards. That's the standard definition of a hack. It's amazing that his performances were so good. He really had a remarkable talent. But it would be incredibly aggravating working with somebody like that.

Hagar said...

John Wayne's walk may have been "manifest destiny made visible," but it resulted from that old college football injury, and he just went with it to good effect.

R. Chatt said...

I don't know anything about John Wayne's personal life, but either he already was the character he played, in which case he really wasn't "acting" or he decided he liked being that guy better than himself and adopted it as his persona. Lots of actors play a type and we know they are limited to that. But we recognize that the really greatest actors can become anyone and be convincing. As has been said, John Wayne was a type, an icon actually.

Sometimes there is so much fear and need to conform that people suppress those aspects of themselves which do not conform to social norms of male and female.

I saw something today about a new play by Harvey Fierstein, Casa Valentina, about a group of heterosexual men who secretly vacationed together as transvestites back in the 60's. They weren't homosexuals they just liked dressing up and hanging out as women occasionally. Different. Definitely interesting.