Apropos of this daring admission, a reader writes:
I thought you might be interested in this little story. Years ago here in Boston, I knew the then-managers of the Lyric Stage (long since departed), who had many stories about the various guest stars who appeared in Lyric productions. Among them was Nehemiah Persoff, who had a John Wayne story. Though Persoff was very far from Wayne on the political spectrum, he still liked working with him since he was such a skilled professional, and Wayne returned the compliment, once inviting Persoff to dinner. Wayne was then carrying a big briefcase and at the table he started to rummage through it looking for something and out came, of all things, a volume of Noël Coward plays! Persoff was amazed. Wayne said he greatly admired Coward and had always wanted to be in a Coward film—but “the sons-o-bitches wouldn’t let me.”
This surprises me a little, but not much. Not only was Wayne very well read, but he had, as all of his fans know, a flair for comedy. Indeed, two of his middle-period films, A Lady Takes a Chance and Without Reservations, are out-and-out romcoms, while Rio Bravo (like North by Northwest) is best understood as a comedy sprinkled with intermittent bursts of gunplay.
Trying to figure out which Coward role would best have suited Wayne is…well, rather more of a stretch. I can’t exactly see the Duke as Charles Condomine or Garry Essendine! But it sure would have been fun to watch him try—and I bet he would have had just as much fun trying.
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The trailer for the 1953 re-release of Without Reservations, directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Claudette Colbert and John Wayne: