Scott Eyman’s superb biography of John Wayne presents a multi-dimensional portrait of a good and decent man who went out of his way to help others. But out of intrinsic modesty, Wayne never made his kindness and charity a public calling card.
Before becoming a superstar in Stagecoach (1939), Wayne was working like a dog, churning out awful B Westerns for Republic.
Late on afternoon, Wayne and his leading lady were about to shoot a scene that called for them to walk across a porch and down a couple of steps. Before the director called “Action,” Wayne leaned over to Gray and said, “I’m going to stumble over a nail. Then I’m going to do it a couple more times. Pay no attention.”
“He stumbled over the nail, and [director] George Sherman reset the camera and he tripped a couple more times, and I wondered why he was doing this—it was a simple scene. And then I realized he was stalling to kill the five minutes it would take for the extras to go into overtime. That’s the kind of man he was—a wonderful man.”