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Playboy Interview: John Wayne

By Richard Warren Lewis

Published May 01, 1971

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I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility quote mark

Playboy: Many militant blacks would argue that they have it better almost anywhere else. Even in Hollywood, they feel that the color barrier is still up for many kinds of jobs. Do you limit the number of blacks you use in your pictures?

Wayne: Oh, Christ no. I've directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position.I had a black slave in The Alamo, and I had a correct number of blacks in The Green Berets. If it's supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor. But I don't go so far as hunting for positions for them. I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There's no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren't Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can't always be that way. There isn't necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven't trained themselves for that type of work.

Playboy: Can blacks be integrated into the film industry if they are denied training and education?

Wayne: It's just as hard for a white man to get a card in the Hollywood craft unions.

Playboy: That's hardly the point, but let's change the subject. For years American Indians have played an important -- if subordinate -- role in your Westerns. Do you feel any empathy with them?

Wayne: I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that's what you're asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.

Playboy: Weren't the Indians -- by virtue of prior possession -- the rightful owners of the land?

Wayne: Look, I'm sure there have been inequalities. If those inequalities are presently affecting any of the Indians now alive, they have a right to a court hearing. But what happened 100 years ago in our country can't be blamed on us today.

Playboy: Indians today are still being dehumanized on reservations.

Wayne: I'm quite sure that the concept of a government-run reservation would have an ill effect on anyone. But that seems to be what the socialists are working for now -- to have everyone cared for from cradle to grave.

Playboy: Indians on reservations are more neglected than cared for. Even if you accept the principle of expropriation, don't you think a more humane solution to the Indian problem could have been devised?

Wayne: This may come as a surprise to you, but I wasn't alive when reservations were created -- even if I do look that old. I have no idea what the best method of dealing with the Indians in the 1800s would have been. Our forefathers evidently thought they were doing the right thing.

Playboy: Do you think the Indians encamped on Alcatraz have a right to that land?

Wayne: Well, I don't know of anybody else who wants it. The fellas who were taken off it sure don't want to go back there, including the guards. So as far as I'm concerned, I think we ought to make a deal with the Indians. They should pay as much for Alcatraz as we paid them for Manhattan. I hope they haven't been careless with their wampum.

Playboy: How do you feel about the government grant for a university and cultural center that these Indians have demanded as "reparations"?

Wayne: What happened between their forefathers and our forefathers is so far back -- right, wrong or indifferent -- that I don't see why we owe them anything. I don't know why the government should give them something that it wouldn't give me.

Playboy: Do you think they've had the same advantages and opportunities that you've had?

Wayne: I'm not gonna give you one of those I-was-a-poor-boy-and-I-pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps stories, but I've gone without a meal or two in my life, and I still don't expect the government to turn over any of its territory to me. Hard times aren't something I can blame my fellow citizens for. Years ago, I didn't have all the opportunities, either. But you can't whine and bellyache 'cause somebody else got a good break and you didn't, like these Indians are. We'll all be on a reservation soon if the socialists keep subsidizing groups like them with our tax money.

Playboy: In your distaste for socialism, aren't you overlooking the fact that many worthwhile and necessary government services -- such as Social Security and Medicare -- derived from essentially socialistic programs evolved during the Thirties?

Wayne: I know all about that. In the late Twenties, when I was a sophomore at USC, I was a socialist myself -- but not when I left. The average college kid idealistically wishes everybody could have ice cream and cake for every meal. But as he gets older and gives more thought to his and his fellow man's responsibilities, he finds that it can't work out that way -- that some people just won't carry their load.

Playboy: What about welfare recipients?

Wayne: I believe in welfare -- a welfare work program. I don't think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living. I'd like to know why they make excuses for cowards who spit in the faces of the police and then run behind the judicial sob sisters. I can't understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim.

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