John Wayne

John Wayne’s death was ‘ordered’ by Joseph Stalin because of star’s threat to comm*n*sm

The legendary film star was among a selection of prominent figures who were reportedly given death threats by the Soviet Union.

John Wayne, who stars in the 1947 flick Angel and the Badman on STZEN from 3pm on April 2, was once the target of death threats by Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, who believed the Hollywood pin-up would be detrimental to his communist crusade. Stalin led the Soviet Union between 1924 and his death in 1953, and accused Wayne and his close associates of using anti-communist rhetoric. Among the others also targeted was Orson Welles, the acclaimed actor, director and producer of the 1941 film Citizen Kane.

The details of Stalin’s desire to kill one of the world’s most recognisable faces was laid bare in the 2001 book John Wayne – The Man Behind The Myth, which was written by film historian Michael Munn.

According to Munn, Stalin became aware of Wayne’s influence during conversations with the Russian filmmaker Sergei Gerasimov. He himself learned about Wayne when attending a peace conference in 1949, in New York.

As the pair talked, it soon became clear that Gerasimov believed Wayne embodied ardent anti-communist beliefs, and the actor was on Stalin’s hit list.

Munn recalled being told of this plot by Welles during a dinner in 1983, and that the actor said: “Stalin had decided that he would have [Wayne] killed.”

John Wayne and Joseph Stalin

John Wayne’s death was reportedly ordered by Stalin (Image: GETTY)

Joseph Stalin's rally

Joseph Stalin rally: The Russian also put Orson Welles on his hit list (Image: GETTY)

While admitting that Welles was a “great storyteller”, the tale itself was offered to him without a prompt.

Stuntman Yakima Canutt, Munn detailed, also saved Wayne’s life, the actor once told him. Munn continued: “Yakima told me that the FBI had discovered there were agents sent to Hollywood to kill John Wayne.

“He said the FBI had come to tell John about the plot. John told the FBI to let the men show up and he would deal with them.”

Wayne reportedly carried out a scheme with his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant to abduct the assassins, drive to a beach and then mimic an execution in a bid to frighten them. Munn was unsure if this actually happened.

John Wayne alongside Kirk Douglas

John Wayne starring in a war epic alongside Kirk Douglas (Image: GETTY)

He added: “Afterwards though, John shunned FBI protection and did not want his family to know. He moved into a house with a big wall around it.”

In a bid to stay away from communists looking to kill him, Wayne’s stuntmen came to his aid. “He then gathered all the stuntmen, went to the communist meetings, and had a huge fight,” Mr Munn said – the moment Canutt “saved Wayne’s life”.

The order for Wayne’s death was reportedly cancelled by Nikita Khrushchev following Stalin’s death. Khrushchev and Wayne met to discuss the scenario in 1958.

Khrushchev, the book claims, said the death threat was “a decision of Stalin during his last five mad years… when Stalin died, I rescinded that order”.

John Wayne

John Wayne won an Oscar in 1970 (Image: GETTY)

Wayne was renowned for detesting the values of communism, so much so he even played a prominent role in creating the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA) in 1944, becoming President five years later.

Its membership included the likes of Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney and Clark Gable.

For a man so intrinsically linked to stereotypical personas of what a man should look like in the Thirties and Forties, it is a surprise that, unlike his fellow Americans, Wayne did not fight in World War Two.

His contemporaries, such as Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Mel Brooks and Kirk Douglas, all served, but Wayne was excused on medical grounds and instead continued his film career.

John Wayne on the set of Stagecoach

John Wayne: The star of the set of Stagecoach (Image: GETTY)

Being unable to serve was a “terrible embarrassment” for Wayne, Carolyn McGivern’s 2000 book John Wayne: A Giant Shadow argued. The star reportedly said: “Mine became the task of holding high and ever visible the value that everyone was fighting for.”

However, there were counterclaims that Wayne could have served, including by author Marc Eliot, who discussed the topic in his 2014 book American Titan: Searching for John Wayne.

He claimed Wayne did not want to fight Germany on account of his relationship with Marlene Dietrich, a German actress he reportedly had an affair with. Unwilling to end the bonk, Wayne instead just vetoed taking part in the war.

In 2014’s publication John Wayne: The Life and Legend, by author Scott Eyman, Wayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1970, described how one encounter affected him while he grew up.

He wrote: “Duke Morrison [Wayne]’s learning experiences were not always pleasant, but deeply imprinted on his ethical compass. He remembered catching a bee, and tying a thread around the creature so all it could do was fly in circles. A boy who was about three years older and had recently arrived from Poland walked by and said, ‘Don’t do that.’

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button