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A Fox Exec Shut Down A Xenophobic John Wayne On The Set Of The Longest Day – SlashFilm

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The publicist on “The Longest Day” was longtime film industry worker Fred Hift. Hift also served as a publicist on other notable films such as “Exodus,” “The Hustler,” and “Wake in Fright.” The story goes that Wayne visited Hift’s office and briefly talked to his secretary, somehow asking her what her nationality was. Hift’s secretary said that she was half-French and half-American. It seems that Wayne, in a fit of jingoistic pique, replied “There is no such thing. You’re either 100 percent American or nothing.” Oh boy. 

It seems that Hift’s secretary told Darryl F. Zanuck about the incident, and Zanuck was outraged. Zanuck, it should be noted, was no angel himself, known for his short temper and blustering behavior. He was also alleged to have kept a “casting couch” at his office and was said to frequently be sexually inappropriate with various actresses, so he was hardly a hero. He was, however, extremely miffed that John Wayne should treat Hift’s secretary so brusquely. 

It seems that Zanuck went to the set of “The Longest Day” to confront Wayne in front of the entire French crew. “Tell them what you told Hift’s secretary,” Zanuck yelled. “I’m sure they’d like to know.” Wayne wouldn’t repeat his remark, so Zanuck told everyone what he said. The French crew were disgusted and refused to talk to Wayne for the rest of the shoot. Hift recalls visiting thereafter and finding every French actor giving Wayne the cold shoulder. 

“It was one of the few occasions when I felt proud of Darryl F. Zanuck,” Hift said. Wayne may not have rethought his xenophobia, as he gave the infamous Playboy interview nine years after “The Longest Day,” but he was, for a brief moment, embarrassed by it. 

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