Twentieth century dictators have a well-documented affinity for cinema. Adolf Hitler realized the power of film early in his 12-year reign. Decades later, Muammar Gaddafi ordered a Libyan TV channel to play his favorite movie on repeat. Joseph Stalin, meanwhile, loved Westerns.
However, John Wayne’s outspoken criticism of communism put him in Stalin’s crosshairs.
At the height of the Duke’s career, communism represented an immediate danger to the free peoples of the world. Concerned about Wayne’s influence on public perception, Stalin allegedly sent multiple hit squads to silence him.
As Military.com reports:
According to the book John Wayne – The Man Behind The Myth, Soviet filmmaker Sergei Gerasimov told Wayne of the KGB plot in 1949. What the Duke and his Hollywood friends did to the hit squad is mind blowing.
Obviously not one to let a thing like Communist assassins get him down, Wayne and his scriptwriter Jimmy Grant allegedly abducted the hitmen, took them to the beach, and staged a mock execution. No one knows exactly what happened after that, but Wayne’s friends say the Soviet agents began to work for the FBI from that day on.
But there were other incidents. The book also alleges KGB agents tried to take the actor out on the set of 1953’s Hondo in Mexico. A captured sniper in Vietnam claimed that he was hired by Chairman Mao to take the actor out on a visit to troops there.
Stalin died in 1953. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, met privately with John Wayne in 1958 and informed him that the order had been rescinded. Wayne told his friends Khrushchev called Stalin’s last years his “mad years” and apologized.
Wayne reportedly declined the FBI’s offer of protection the entire time there was a price on his head. He supposedly didn’t even tell his family!
Wayne never mentioned details of the alleged assassination attempts publicly.