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John Wayne Punched a Refrigerator so Hard in a Fight With a Director, His Fist Was Permanently ‘Implanted’

Actor John Wayne isn’t the type of person that most folks would want to get into a fight with. He stood at a tall 6 feet and 3 3/4 inches, often towering over those around him. Additionally, Wayne went down into movie history for his ability to throw a mean punch. A real-life fight with director Budd Boetticher accidentally found Wayne’s fist permanently “implanted” into a refrigerator.

John Wayne had a ‘difficult’ relationship with director Budd Boetticher

Actor John Wayne, who got in a fight with director Budd Boetticher. A black-and-white picture with him holding up his fist, wearing a button-up shirt under a jacket.John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Wayne liked the story of a different type of fight in 1951’s Bullfighter and the Lady. The film was directed by Boetticher and written by James Edward Grant. They filmed it in Mexico, and the story explored the dangerous reality of bullfighting. The movie only came to life because Wayne liked the story and had an interest in producing it. However, he didn’t star in the movie himself.

The movie star saw Boetticher’s original cut, but he didn’t like it. As a result, he cut 37 minutes from its 124-minute runtime. According to Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend, the pair had a “difficult” relationship from there on out that would later come to a head in a fight. However, they did hold great respect for one another’s talent in their respective area.

John Wayne got in a fight with Budd Boetticher and accidentally ‘implanted’ his fist into a refrigerator

Eyman spoke with Boetticher, who detailed the fight that he got into with Wayne. Their differences especially came out after they had a few drinks, which is when things turned physical. Fortunately, Boetticher said that Wayne couldn’t box, but his sheer strength made him a formidable foe.

“Duke couldn’t box,” Boetticher said. “But … he was one of the strongest men I’ve ever seen in my life. And when we were drinking, he’d really hate my guts. He thought I was cocky and wasn’t as good as I thought I was.”

Boetticher continued: “One time we were standing in front of a big new Electrolux refrigerator which was as tall as Duke. And he reared back to hit me . . . and telegraphed his punch. I was a boxer and slipped to one side and he hit my refrigerator and sprung the door. I gave the refrigerator to [actor] Walter Reed and that was the great thing in Walter’s house—[the imprint of] Duke’s fist was implanted in the refrigerator.”

The actor didn’t earn praise for ‘Bullfighter and the Lady’

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Aside from the fight, Wayne and Boetticher had some other differences. Bullfighter and the Lady went up against The Brave Bulls at the box office, but Boetticher’s film earned better reviews. However, Wayne was angry that they didn’t give him any credit. He always felt that especially eastern press never liked anything that he had a connection to.

The longer cut of The Bullfighter and the Lady would later earn a release of its own, which garnered greater praise than the shorter version. However, movie studio Republic didn’t have an interest in distributing a longer, more serious feature about bullfighting.

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