Actor John Wayne (Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
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John Wayne’s Morals Made Him Turn Down The Dirty Dozen
Although Robert Aldrich’s “The Dirty Dozen” isn’t the first men-on-a-mission movie, this film about a group of convicts getting enlisted for a suicide mission during World War II has proven to be the pinnacle of the genre. Complete with a star-studded cast and exciting finale, there is little that could have made it better, except perhaps if John Wayne joined the movie as was initially intended.
According to Randy Roberts and John Olson’s “John Wayne: American,” MGM and producer Kenneth Hyman gave Wayne first crack at the role of the no-nonsense Major John Reisman in charge of training the unit of malcontents. However, the film’s original screenplay opens with Reisman having an affair with a woman whose husband was deployed elsewhere in Europe.
Wayne opposed playing an adulterer regardless of the situation, but he especially hated the notion of a man knowingly sleeping with an enlisted man’s wife. Despite Hyman having the script rewritten, Wayne ultimately turned down the role, partially due to wanting to make “The Green Berets,” and the part of Reisman would go to Lee Marvin, an actual World War II veteran.