Fifty Shades Of Wayne

John Wayne and Sophia Loren

Much has been made of the popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey book series as several news stories have detailed its popularity among housewives and soccer moms.  Over 65 million copies of the first steamy volume have been sold worldwide and sales have outpaced even the Harry Potter series in paperback.  Many are anticipating the upcoming screen adaptation of the first volume.  Just how much Hollywood will include of the scenes marked by dog-eared pages in countless copies of the book across the country remains to be seen.

“Contrary to a rumor circulating on campus, I will not appear as a Cosmopolitan centerfold – I have two big calluses – nor will I star in the first pornographic western, Last Tango In Tucson!”  – John Wayne, Harvard University – January, 1974

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.

Not that there weren’t strong sexual currents flowing through some of his movies.  Who can forget the wedding night bedroom scene with O’Hara in The Quiet Man“There’ll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate, except those in your mercenary little heart!”  Or his instructions to Ann-Margaret in The Train Robbers:  “That shirt-it oughta be tighter.  Take it off and I’ll boil it . . . shrink it up.  I want you to kinda stick out in the right places so that anybody a long way off sees you, there’ll be no doubt you’re a woman.”  She followed his instructions and threw her shirt to him, but Ann-Margaret still remained modestly covered in her undershirt.

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

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