John Wayne and Julie Andrews were both huge icons in the 1960s, however, Wayne was not a fan of one of Andrews’ movies. He felt one of her films “fell on its face” because of one of her ideas. Here’s what he thought of her as a performer.
Why John Wayne felt movies were getting worse
During the late 1960s, Hollywood underwent a lot of changes. For example, the industry started embracing graphic violence and sexuality –or, at least, what constituted graphic violence and sexuality at the time. Explicit movies like Psycho, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Graduate that never could have been made in a more restrictive era were finding success.
Wayne was not a fan of the increased sexuality in American films. “All the real motion picture people have always made family pictures,” he told Roger Ebert in 1969. “But the downbeats and the so-called intelligentsia got in when the government stupidly split up the production companies and the theaters. The old giants–Mayer, Thalberg, even Harry Cohn, despite the fact that personally I couldn’t stand him – were good for this industry. Now the goddamned stock manipulators have taken over. They don’t know a goddamned thing about making movies.
“They make something dirty, and it makes money, and they say, ‘Jesus, let’s make one a little dirtier, maybe it’ll make more money,’” Wayne opined. “And now even the bankers are getting their noses into it.”
John Wayne felt Julie Andrews was trying to be like another star
Wayne felt Andrews had succumbed to this trend. “Take that girl, Julie Andrews, a refreshing, openhearted girl, a wonderful performer,” he said. “Her stint was Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But she wanted to be a Theda Bara. And they went along with her, and the picture fell on its face.”
Which of Julie Andrews’ movies was he talking about?
For context, Bara was a silent movie actor who was an early Hollywood sex symbol who often played femmes fatale. In the interview, Wayne never specifies which movie he was discussing. Between the release of The Sound of Music in 1965 and the time Wayne gave the interview, Andrews starred in five films: Torn Curtain, Hawaii, Think Twentieth, Thoroughly Modern Millie,and Star!. It’s impossible to know for sure which movie Wayne criticized, but it may well have been Thoroughly Modern Millie, whose plot involves sex trafficking.
It’s unclear if Wayne meant the movie he mentioned “fell flat on its face” artistically or commercially. Obviously, whether Thoroughly Modern Millie is a good movie is a matter of taste. However, the movie performed well for the time. According to The Numbers, it earned $34,335,025. In addition, Thoroughly Modern Millie inspired the famous musical of the same name. Regardless of which of her movies he disliked, Wayne still praised Andrews’ talent.