Dick Cavett in today’s NY Times recalls a conversation with John Wayne on the set of The Shootist, the Duke’s final film in which the rugged star of war films and westerns talks about his love of Noel Coward’s work:
Wayne: Wasn’t he great?
Me (Cavett): Who?
Me [startled, realizing now that the tune was Noel Coward’s “Someday I’ll Find You”]: Yes.
Wayne: I’ve always loved his stuff. Remember the scene in “Private Lives” when they realize they still love each other?
Me: Yes, and did you know there’s a recording of Coward and Gertrude Lawrence doing that scene?
Wayne: Gee, I gotta get that. I guess I’ve read most of his plays.
Me [still not convinced there isn’t a ventriloquist in the room]: I’ll send you the record.
Wayne: Well, thank ya. I like the line [he switched to quite passable upper-class British], “You’re looking very lovely you know, in this damned moonlight.”
Me: I did a show with Coward and, as he introduced them, “My dearest friends, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.”
Wayne: I sure would love to have seen them in “Design for Living.” [Mentally I reach again for the smelling salts.] And, damn, I’d love to see that show of yours.
Me: I’ll see that you do. [Jesus! Did I? Oh, I hope so.]
Wayne: That’d be awful nice of ya.
Me: Did you ever think of doing one of his plays?
Wayne: Yeah, but it never got past the thought stage. I guess they figured that maybe spurs and “Blithe Spirit” wouldn’t go together. Can’t you see the critics? “Wayne should go back to killing Indians, not Noel Coward.”