I don’t recall any nudity in John Wayne’s films. Of course, I am sure one reason was the different standard of the times in which most of his movies were made but I also think it had a lot to do with Duke’s standards for his pictures. He had plenty of pretty leading ladies like Maureen O’Hara, Sophia Loren, and Ann-Margaret. These beautiful women greatly improved the scenery as well as the content of his pictures but were always clothed.
At what point did it become chic for movies to include at least one shot of a topless woman or a man’s bare butt? At what point did Hollywood decide that an “R” rating would result in higher profits than a “PG” rating? Sometimes these scenes actually seem out of place in an otherwise great film. It’s as if they were inserted just for the sake of having nudity. Not that nudity is the only requirement for an “R” rating.
Obviously, strong language and violence can also garner the rating. Duke’s later films did usually contain both language and violence but not in an obnoxious way. I recently saw the Academy Award nominated film, Lincoln, and was surprised to find that the “F-word” was used in 19th century America. As far as violence goes, what used to be left to the imagination can now even be seen in great detail on television in such shows as The Walking Dead with exploding brains and bloody body parts.
For most of his career, Wayne was able to avoid excessive realism in his pictures, as he detested the idea of “bodies opening up and liver flying out at you.” This was mostly due to the times in which his movies were made. However, in the early 1970’s, times had changed and he allowed himself to be bloodied up for the fight scene in The Cowboys. He didn’t like it but according to his make-up man, Dave Grayson, Duke was willing to allow a little more gore than in the past because he knew moviegoers were beginning to expect such realism.
“I’m not preaching a sermon from the mount, you know. This is just my own opinion. But it does seem to me that when our industry got vulgar and cheap, we began losing our regular customers. Sure, people are curious, and they’ll go see any provocative thing once – maybe even four or five times – but eventually they’ll just stay home and watch television. The only sadness in my heart for our business is that we are taking all the illusion out of it. After all, it’s pretty hard to take your daughter to see ‘Deep Throat’”. – John Wayne, early 1970’s