From the S&S archives: On the Town
Stars and Stripes November 3, 1957
MARION MICHAEL MORRISON, CALLED "DUKE" BY HIS friends but better-known as John Wayne to millions of movie-goers, resembled a beardless Abraham Lincoln in his cutaway coat and top hat.
He was standing In the bow of a wave-tossed longboat, towering a good 12 inches above veteran actor Sam Jaffe, who plays Townsend Harris' Dutch Interpreter. On the shore, Japanese actor So Yamamura and a fierce-looking samurai sidekick were warning the two men that they weren't at all welcome in Japan.
After several shouted exchanges of Japanese between Jaffe and Yamamura's aide, Wayne got that old we'll-hold-the-fort-at-ail costs tone in his voice and growled, "Tell 'im I'm landing!"
IN A FEW MOMENTS the scene was finished and Wayne, suffering from a miserable cold, stepped from the boat and slouched into a canvas-backed chair. He was immediately surrounded by extras, school kids and giggling girls who clamored for his autograph.
Joking, smiling and setting everyone around him at ease, the Big Man disposed of the autographs in a matter of minutes and we sat down to ask some questions.
Since a lot of eyebrows have been raised over the choice of Wayne to play Townsend Harris, this is where we began:
"BEFORE I LEFT THE STATES," SAID THE DUKE, "I read everything about Townsend Harris that I could lay my hands on. And I'd like to read more ... to talk to people who know about him." (He got his wish when he had a long discussion with Chicago Daily News correspondent Keyes Beech, who has made a hobby of America's first ambassador to Japan.)
"Some of the things I read, I didn't like. One version described Harris as a mama's boy, a guy who couldn't make his own decisions. I don't like this character. Other books showed him to be a pioneer, an adventurer who was always breaking new ground. This is the Harris I prefer and the Harris I think I can portray."
Here we interrupted to remind him of the critical drubbing he took for his role in Howard Hughes' "The Conqueror." "Don't I know it!" he laughed. "But the picture made a lot of money ... Oh, I know the name of John Wayne is associated with westerns. And if that's the case, I'm happy. I like westerns. As I've said before-nobody likes my acting but the public."
JUST FOR THE RECORD, BIG JOHN ISN'T THE ONLY actor in the family. His 19-year-old son, Pat, has completed a starring role in a film for C.V. Whitney.
A couple of years ago it was rumored that young Pat would enter the priesthood, but John says, "That's all in the past. His godfather (Director John Ford) was sort of pushing it for awhile ... but now, Pat seems interested in moviemaking. If that's what he wants, It's all right. with me."
"And you know what?" he added, a genuine twinkle in his eye. "Once the bug bites you this is a pretty wonderful business I'm in."