Katharine Hepburn lambasted John Wayne at their Rooster Cogburn wrap party | Films | Entertainment


Back in 1969, John Wayne starred in True Grit as one-eyed US Marshal Rooster Cogburn, winning him the Best Actor Oscar the following year.

A few years later, Duke would star in the sequel opposite Katharine Hepburn – but it was far from an easy shoot.

Wayne had been seriously ill at the beginning of 1974 having suffered from pneumonia in London while shooting Brannigan.

At one point, the 67-year-old coughed so hard he damaged a valve in his heart that wouldn’t be diagnosed until 1978.

All the while Duke had been living with one lung for the last decade, having had a cancerous one removed. This meant he had to rely on an oxygen mask, especially at high altitudes, as he had great trouble breathing.

On top of all this, Wayne injured himself during the Rooster Cogburn shoot in Oregon when teaching his eight-year-old daughter golf, but luckily his character’s eye patch covered the mark. Struggling through all this meant the star had little patience, becoming frustrated by director Stuart Millar’s instance on lots of takes. At one point Duke snapped at the Rooster Cogburn director: “God damn it Stuart, there’s only so many times we can say these awful lines before they stop making any sense at all.”

Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn co-star Hepburn became bemused by his continual arguing with everyone on set. So at the wrap party, she told him: “I’m glad I didn’t know you when you had two lungs, you must have been a real b*****d. Losing a hip has mellowed me, but you!” Despite all this, both Hollywood legends who were born within two weeks in 1907 were very admiring of each other.

Hepburn had put aside her opposition to Wayne’s conservative political beliefs and said she saw a lot of Spencer Tracy’s integrity in Duke.

In her autobiography Me, she wrote of the Western star: “From head to toe he is all of a piece. Big head. Wide blue eyes. Sandy hair. Rugged skin–lined by living and fun and character. Not by just rotting away. A nose not too big, not too small. Good teeth. A face alive with humor. Good humor, I should say, and a sharp wit. Dangerous when roused. His shoulders are broad–very. His chest massive–very. When I leaned against him (which I did as often as possible, I must confess–I am reduced to such innocent pleasures) thrilling. It was like leaning against a great tree.”

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