Frank Sinatra and John Wayne were two of the biggest stars of their eras, but that didn’t mean that the two men got along. On more than one occasion, they got into disagreements that ended dramatically. When they were both staying at the same Las Vegas hotel, Wayne grew so incensed by a party thrown by Sinatra that he responded with violence.
Frank Sinatra and John Wayne didn’t always see eye to eye
Though the two men’s political beliefs were more aligned later in Sinatra’s life, he and Wayne once greatly disagreed. Sinatra’s politics were left-leaning, with an emphasis on antiracism and antifascism. Wayne, however, was a prominent Hollywood conservative who supported the House Un-American Activities Committee.
When Sinatra hired Alfred Maltz, a Communist filmmaker, to write a screenplay for The Execution of Private Slovik, media outlets turned to Wayne for a statement.
“I don’t think my opinion is too important,” he said, per the Saturday Evening Post. “Why don’t you ask Sinatra’s crony, who’s going to run our country for the next few years, what he thinks of it?”
With “crony,” Wayne referred to John F. Kennedy, who Sinatra openly supported. Later, Sinatra stormed off the stage at a benefit event when Wayne approached the microphone. The two nearly came to blows over Wayne’s comments.
The actor once punched the singer’s bodyguard
On another occasion, Sinatra and Wayne were staying in the same Las Vegas hotel, with Sinatra’s room directly below Wayne’s. Wayne was shooting a movie and hoped to get sleep. With a downstairs neighbor like Sinatra, however, this proved difficult.
Sinatra had a reputation for debaucherous nights in Las Vegas, and this one was no different. He hosted a party in his suite and was making so much noise that Wayne couldn’t sleep. He called down to the party, which quieted the revelers down for a time. Soon, though, the noise was back at full volume. Further attempts to call reportedly did not help.
Eventually, Wayne went downstairs and knocked on Sinatra’s door. Per the book The Quotable John Wayne: The Grit and Wisdom of an American Icon by Carol Lea Mueller, when he told Sinatra to stop the noise, the singer’s bodyguard informed Wayne, “Nobody talks to Mr. Sinatra that way.”
“Wayne looked at the man, turned as though to go, then turned back swiftly and backhanded the bodyguard, who dropped to the floor — the party noise stopped.”
Frank Sinatra and John Wayne eventually reconciled
Despite their contentious early years, Sinatra and Wayne eventually grew closer. Sinatra and his fourth wife, Barbara, would often visit Wayne at his home in Newport Beach.
“They were buddies,” Barbara said, per the book John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman. “I don’t know why, because they were completely different in almost everything. But they liked each other a great deal, and they kidded a lot.”
Toward the end of Wayne’s life, Sinatra and Barbara visited him in the hospital and were “devastated” to see him so sick. Though they had their differences, they did eventually come together as friends.