Longtime fans of movie star John Wayne recognize him for playing the hero in his Western and war movies. Therefore, he took the character that he developed and the moral compass behind him very seriously. Wayne once got into an argument with a college professor, who he absolutely tore apart over the definition of a hero.
Wayne put plenty of hard work into getting The Alamo made. He starred as Col. Davy Crockett, but the film also marked his directorial feature debut. However, the movie star had a difficult time getting the movie made because of the monumental budget that it would take to complete. Wayne also saw the movie as a piece about what it means to be a hero and he didn’t want outside voices tampering with that.
As a result, the actor and producer Robert Fellows joined forces to form their own production company named Batjac. Wayne didn’t initially want to star in the movie, but it made financiers more comfortable knowing that he would bring some level of box office draw. Additionally, he invested $1.5 million of his own cash to fund his efforts.
According to an interview with The Saturday Evening Post, Wayne talked about some of the disagreements that he had over the course of his career. He often charmed most of those who crossed his path, but he had no problem speaking his mind against those he disagreed with. In this case, Wayne slammed Professor Herman Finer from the University of Chicago on a television forum.
“We were talking about the picture and the definition of a hero,” Wayne said. “And this professor started right out twisting words around in my mouth, and he tried to say that all the good traditions were just legends. And he said that he was afraid to let his wife and daughter go out on the streets of Chicago, and if he didn’t know that he had the Social Security thing, he wouldn’t know what he’d do.”
Wayne initially held his tongue, but when the mics turned off, he went off on Professor Finer.
“You miserable little so and so,” Wayne recalled with his fists clenched. “The people who developed Chicago didn’t know whether they were going to be alive the next day, or whether their kids would be chopped up by Indians, or whether they could raise enough food and develop this place for you. And now you’re whining, sitting in your easy chair over at that university and teaching kids this philosophy?”
The actor’s outburst shocked the professor, who didn’t respond.
Wayne had plenty of negative press over his time as a movie star, but condemning his idea of a hero is not something he would accept. This also extended to his patriotism, which he always took very seriously. The actor earned criticisms for not serving in World War II, as many notable Hollywood stars did at the time. However, this only further fueled him to serve America in his own way.
In fact, Wayne not serving in the war ultimately defined him as a major star in Hollywood. Many of the leading men were fighting in the war, which left the Western star as one of the few still hanging around to star in feature films.