Westerns, very little for him. Joseph Stalin did not taste cowboy movies, let alone portrayed by John Wayne, the paragon of anti-communism in Hollywood. So much so that from 1949, when he learned of the popularity of the American actor from the Russian filmmaker Sergei Guerassimov, the “little father of the people” gave the order to eliminate him.
This plot, it is the British historian of the 7th art Michael Munn who unveiled it in 2003 in The Man Behind The Myth, a very supported biography published by Berkley and whose first chapter, devoted to this “communist conspiracy”, abounds in twists and turns.
During the Cold War, John Wayne, nicknamed the Duke, openly displayed his views. A strong supporter of Senator McCarthy’s witch hunt in the film world, from 1949 to 1953 he chaired the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, hence the wrath of the Soviet despot.
“The Communists have been trying to kill me since 1949”
By cross-checking multiple sources, including the testimony of Orson Welles, Michael Munn has managed to trace several assassination attempts, including one on American soil by two Russian barbouzes finally arrested by the FBI, or another in Mexico on filming Hondo, the man of the desert. The Duke knew it, he told his biographer: “The Communists have been trying to kill me since 1949.”
When Stalin died in March 1953, his successor Nikita Khrushchev canceled the execution order for the star of the Fort Apache Massacre. He told her himself during a private meeting in 1958, as reported by Michael Munn: “It was a decision of Stalin during his last five years of madness. When he died, I overturned it.”
A decade later, rebelote. In 1966, passing through Vietnam to support the American troops mired in the war, John Wayne escaped the firing of a sniper. Arrested, the latter will say that the head of the actor had been put at a price by the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. The hero of One hundred dollars for a sheriff (True Grit) finally died in 1979, at age 72, died of stomach cancer.
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