Archive of John Wayne personal correspondence

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Archive of John Wayne personal correspondence
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Archive of John Wayne personal correspondence spanning the richest period of the actor’s career with films such as The Spoilers, Pittsburgh, The Fighting Seabees, Angel and the Badman, Red River, Wake of the Red Witch, The Fighting Kentuckian, Sands of Iwo Jima, Island in the Sky, Hondo, The High and the Mighty, The Searchers, Jet Pilot, The Alamo, The Longest Day, In Harm’s Way and many others - Extensive archive of John Wayne personal correspondence representing over 25 years, 1941-1966, and spanning the richest period of the actor’s career with films such as The Spoilers (1942), Pittsburgh (1942), The Fighting Seabees, Angel and the Badman, Red River (1948), Wake of the Red Witch, The Fighting Kentuckian, Sands of Iwo Jima, Island in the Sky, Hondo (1953), The High and the Mighty, The Searchers (1956), Jet Pilot, The Alamo (1960), The Longest Day, In Harm’s Way and many others. The archive contains significant correspondence and consultations, with 350+ individual pieces including (1) John Wayne 2 pg. autograph letter signed, (4) autograph notes signed, (6) typed letters signed, (1) signed promissory note to Feldman, (4) signed agreements, extensive collections of copies of legal documents, inter-office memos, and telegrams; the majority being intimate exchanges with his agent, Charles K. Feldman, as well as letters to and from Darryl F. Zanuck, Howard Hawks, Howard Hughes, Spyros Skouras, studio and department heads and many others.

Charles K. Feldman (1904-1968) was Wayne’s long-time agent and one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood. He had notable creative input as executive-producer on several important films, Pittsburgh, Red River, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Seven Year Itch, and others. The frank and, at times, highly personal nature of this correspondence is testament to the long, intimate friendship and complete trust Wayne had in Feldman. Many letters run to several pages of intricate details on management issues, whether a role is suitable or not, payment and royalties, etc.

The archive begins in late 1941. At this time, Wayne was ending a frustrating 5-year contract with Leo Morrison and just had a taste of box office success after appearing in John Ford’s Stagecoach. It was his encounter with star Marlene Dietrich however, newly acquired by Charles Feldman’s agency, which set his sights higher. Dietrich was attempting to revamp her career after being dubbed “box office poison,” dismissing the forced exoticism and taking on different roles in robust American scenarios. Wayne ceased paying commissions to Morrison in late July, 1941, and the archive starts with a signed 4 pg. deposition from John Wayne, dated Sept. 25, 1941, in the case Leo Morrison, Inc. v. Feldman and Dietrich, et al. as well as his 5 pg. signed statement to SAG framing the reasons for Morrison’s dismissal. Interestingly, an unsigned file copy, submitted to SAG, of Marlene Dietrich’s response to the accusations that she personally influenced Wayne’s decision to dismiss Morrison and accept Feldman’s representation is included. It culminates in an historic 8 pg. signed agreement, signed by John Wayne, both as “Duke Morrison” and “John Wayne,” as well as Marlene Dietrich as “Mary Magdalene Sieber,” whereby Wayne agrees to pay Morrison commissions solely on his Republic contract.

1950s: 3 pg. Typed Letter Signed, Nov. 4, 1955, from John Wayne to Feldman regarding the possibility of purchasing beleaguered RKO studio for $15 million. A fascinating exchange of long and heated letters from John Wayne to Howard Hughes venting his anger about delays in filming The Conqueror: “…you have caused me a huge financial loss and a great loss of prestige at a point in my life and in my career when I can afford neither…it must surely be apparent to you that this is unjust and unfair and you have no moral or legal right to impose on me to this extent.” July 16, 1959: Strongly worded 2 pg. letter from Feldman to Wayne stating Skouras displeased with script for The Alamo and afraid it will be a fiasco. Together with a 7 pg. letter, dated Nov. 30, 1960, from Feldman covering numerous production details, filming difficulties and outlining a concerted effort to garner Academy Awards. In addition, several pages of telegrams from Skouras to Feldman indicating he’s quite pleased with footage he’s seen of The Alamo and sure of its success.

1961: Includes a fascinating 4 pg. TLS from Zanuck to Wayne with important scenario changes tweaking the role of “Cota,” who was initially to be played by John Wayne, “Here is why I very much want you to play the role of Brigadier General Norman Cota. Ultimately the role went to Robert Mitchum, Zanuck closes with “This may sound like a lot of crap, but I feel this can be an important motion picture, probably one of the most important films ever made.” Together with a collection of Dec. 1961 telegram exchanges between Darryl Zanuck and Feldman, as well as Zanuck and Skouras regarding obtaining Wayne in the role of “Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort.” William Holden (in addition to Charlton Heston) was strongly considered for the role and this interesting dialogue is noteworthy for Zanuck determined to get Wayne in the film. Zanuck paid dearly to have Wayne in the picture.

Condition is generally Very good or better; with slight signs of handling, tiny chips and creases. A rich trove of information and fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes stories, his process of carefully selecting roles and scripts, and most evident, the leeway provided by the artistic control granted in his contracts that shaped Wayne’s early career and persona. The present material should be considered a view into the birth of a cultural icon and ascension to the top of the box office. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to view this material in person.