30 September 2014

You have the guts of a lion

Lauren Bacall and John Wayne made two movies together. The first one was the 1955 "Blood Alley", directed by William Wellman and produced by John Wayne's production company Batjac. And two decades later, the two were reunited for "The Shootist" (1976), which was Wayne's final film. 

On 7 May 1979, Lauren Bacall wrote the following letter to John Wayne in which she finally thanked him for standing up for her almost 25 years earlier. Both Wayne and director Wellman wanted Bacall to be the leading lady in "Blood Alley", but for some reason gossip columnist Hedda Hopper tried to keep them from hiring Bacall. Wayne told Hopper to mind her own business ("Don't tell me how to cast my picture") and then went ahead and gave Bacall the female lead. 

John Wayne and Lauren Bacall in "Blood Alley"
Here is Lauren "Betty" Bacall's warm note to John Wayne, which was written just a month before Wayne lost his battle against stomach cancer:

Source: heritage auctions/ images reproduced with permission


Dear Duke-

This has been on its way to you for months. You have been so very much in my thoughts. 
I never have been able to tell you how much your standing up for me in 'Blood Alley' days meant to me. I wanted to say it on 'The Shootist'- never could somehow. I know how difficult that film was for you. You have the guts of a lion-I do admire you more than I can say. 
It was so great to see you Academy Award nite. I'm being inarticulate-
I want you to know how terrific you are and how really glad I am to know you. You give more than [you] know- I send you much love-
constant thoughts-

John Wayne and Lauren Bacall having fun during "The Shootist"