Katharine Hepburn on John Wayne:
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. His hands are big. Mine, which are big too, seemed to disappear. Good legs. No seat. A real man’s body.
And the base of this incredible creation. A pair of small sensitive feet. Carrying his huge frame as though it were a feather. Light of tread. Springy. Dancing. Pretty feet.
Very observing. Very aware. Listens. Concentrates. Witty slant. Ready to laugh. To be laughed at. To answer. To stick his neck out. Funny. Outrageous. Spoiled. Self-indulgent. Tough. Full of charm. Knows it. Uses it. Disregards it. With an alarming accuracy. Not much gets past him.
He was always on time. Always knew the scene. Always full of notions about what should be done. Tough on a director who had not done his homework. Considerate to his fellow actors. Very impatient with anyone who was inefficient. And did not bother to cover it up….
Life has dealt Wayne some severe blows. He can take them. He has shown it. He doesn’t lack self-discipline. He dares to walk by himself. Run. Dance. Skip. Walk. Crawl through life. He has done it all. Don’t pity me, please.
And with all this he has a most gentle and respectful gratitude toward people who he feels have contributed very firmly to his success. His admirers. He is meticulous in answering fan mail. Realistic in allowing the press to come to the set. Uncomplicated in his reaction to praise and admiration. Delighted to be the recipient of this or that award – reward. A simple man. None of that complicated Self-Self-Self which seems to torment myself and others who shall be nameless when they are confronted with the Prize for good performance. I often wonder whether we behave so ungraciously because we really think that we should have been given a prize for every performance. And are therefore sort of sore to begin with. Well, as I began – he is a simple and decent man. Considerate to the people who rush him in a sort of wild enthusiasm. Simple in his enjoyment of his own success. Like Bogie. He really appreciates the praise heaped upon him. A wonderful childlike, naive open spirit.
As an actor, he has an extraordinary gift. A unique naturalness. Developed by movie actors who just happen to become actors. Gary Cooper had it. An unselfconsciousness. An ability to think and feel. Seeming to woo the camera. A very subtle capacity to think and express and caress the camera – the audience. With no apparent effort. A secret between them … Wayne has a wonderful gift of natural speed. Of arrested motion. Of going suddenly off on a new tack. Try something totally unrehearsed with him. He takes the ball and runs and throws with a freedom and wit and gaiety which is great fun. As powerful as is his personality, so too is his acting capacity powerful. He is a very very good actor in the most highbrow sense of the word. You don’t catch him at it.