John Wayne’s family held a two-day auction in Los Angeles October 7-8, during which some 700 of the Duke’s personal items, including movie costumes, went on the block. When the dust settled, the take was some $5.3 million, a portion of which will go to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
The olive drab green beret that Wayne wore in his 1968 Vietnam War film The Green Berets went for $179, 250. Heritage Auctions, which ran the sale, said that that was the most money ever paid for a costume hat.
The Green Berets, which Wayne directed, is the only Hollywood Vietnam War movie made and shown during the war itself. Wayne also starred in the film, which movie critics almost universally panned.
Renata Alder, in her June 20, 1968, review in The New York Times , for example, wrote that the movie was “so unspeakable, so stupid, so rotten and false in every detail that it passes through being fun, through being funny, through being camp, through everything and becomes an invitation to grieve, not for our soldiers or for Vietnam (the film could not be more false or do a greater disservice to either of them) but for what has happened to the fantasy-making apparatus in this country.
“Simplicities of the right, simplicities of the left, but this one is beyond the possible. It is vile and insane. On top of that, it is dull.”
Wayne starred in the film, looking old and overweight as a Special Forces Colonel. When the film, which was shot in California, was shown to the troops in Vietnam during the war, it was met with derisive laughter because it was so egregiously unrealistic.