As Ann Margret passed the milestone of reaching 80 years of age, marking her birthday on April 28, she was happy to be talking to reporters so they can get a story out while she’s still alive. She may not be able to remember who she’s talking to, but she remembers hugging John Wayne like it was yesterday.
Ann Margret reminisces
Legendary film queen Ann Margret was thrilled to get a call from some reporters. They paid her a visit to congratulate her on reaching her eightieth birthday.
Since the early 1960’s she appeared in at least 85 different productions. She’s most famous for Bye Bye Birdie and Made in Paris. In 1964, she danced her way through Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley in front of the camera by day and between the sheets by night.
By 1973 she “had the incredible opportunity” to join wild west icon John Wayne. The film was called “The Train Robbers.” The way the plot was laid out, three Civil War veterans were played by the Duke, Ben Johnson, and Rod Taylor.
Margret played the widow of a train robber, out to claim the cash. Along with getting her hands on half-million dollars in hidden gold, the wild widow hoped to clear her husband’s name in the process.
John Wayne and his buddies were in it for the reward money. $50,000 then was like a million today. Not only did they have to get the gold and solve the mystery, they had to fight off the dead guy’s partners.
Duke or Duchess
It wasn’t anywhere close to her first movie but it was the first where Ann Margret got the lead role. She happily chirped to Faux News reporters all day about how “gentle” John Wayne was. She didn’t mention if she ever saw him in a dress.
The book “Duke Or Duchess” “paints Wayne as a man of few vices.” As author Myron Steigelberg writes, “the Duke didn’t do no drugs! He didn’t cheat on his wife or girlfriends. All he did was like to play a little dress up. You see? And drink a little, maybe.”
Ms. Margret “didn’t know what to expect. But when he hugged me, it’s like the world was hugging me. He was so big and wide with that booming voice.” At the time they were on location in Durango, Mexico.
Her “parents came down to visit me. He was so great with my parents. So absolutely welcoming and gentle with them.” That meant a lot to the young actress. Anybody “who was great to my parents was on a throne in my eyes.”
The friendship that began while they were working that picture continued long after. “I was friends with him forever. He was never [pretentious]. He had so many friends and every single person loved him.”