Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

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    • Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      GRETCHEN WAYNE
      Photo coutresy of Life Magazine

      Date of Birth
      1958

      Birth Name
      Gretchen Diebel

      Spouse
      Michael Wayne (1958 - 2 April 2003) (his death) 5 children

      Chris, Teresa, Alisa, Josephine, and Maria

      Trivia
      Her sister is Katherine Diebel, who is married to Frankie Avalon.

      Daughter-in-law of John Wayne.

      Biography by David Krissman
      Almost everyone who reads this will have had some experience speaking with a doting parent. But, really, how seriously can you take them? Parents are parents! If they aren't the living embodiment of embellishment and bias toward their children, who is?

      Less often, however, do we hear about proud children. If you talk with Gretchen Wayne's children, they are more than appreciative of their mom. Daughter Josephine describes her mom as a great example of faith. She is dedicated to family, friends, religion, and the community.

      It is Beverly Hill's pleasure to have Gretchen Wayne grace our Mother's Day cover not just because of the way Josephine describes her mom, but, because it's true.

      Before Gretchen Wayne was a mother or a Wayne she was a child and a Deibel. The daughter of Evelyn and Burt Deibel, Gretchen grew up in Toluca Lake, which she describes as a lovely area nestled between Warner Brothers and Universal. For her to describe her surroundings in terms of entertainment companies isn't surprising. She grew up around a bunch of Hollywood celebrities including the Hopes, the Crosbys, Roy Disney, not to mention that her own father-in-law, John Wayne, remains a Hollywood acting legend. Although she greatly appreciated their talents, she never viewed them as extraordinary. Somebody's father had a job,she says. Somebody else's father was an electrician.

      What she did greatly value just as she does today is being a good, caring person something her own mother had ingrained in her since she was a child. If somebody needed something, you're there for them. Whether this came in the form of a meal or clothing, she was always taught to care for others. It was just automatic at Christmas time. When asked what she would want her children to always remember, she selflessly speaks of her husband, Michael.

      There's a lot of things by example my husband left them. He was always doing for someone else. There's a [homeless] man that stands by the garage entrance next to Gearys. Michael always carried ones in his pocket because, he said, You know, that's really a hard job to ask somebody else for money. I don't care if they've got another income, I like to be able to give to them.' After Michael passed away that same man told his son Christopher that Michael was the only man who ever asked how he was and looked him in the eye when he spoke to him.

      There is no doubt that Michael was a great man. But, if he were alive today he'd probably tell you a great deal of his inspiration came from his own wife. Like many other women in our community, much of Gretchen's life has been dedicated to being a loving mother and wife.

      After graduating from Immaculate Heart High School and College, Gretchen taught school for one year before giving birth to her first child. Given the opportunity, she elected to stop working and be a stay-at-home mom. And it's probably a good thing she did. She ultimately had five childrenChris, Teresa, Alisa, Josephine, and Maria. And as she'll tell you, raising five children isn't easy, especially with one born sick.

      It was very hard for us, Michael and me, when Christopher was born because he was born at 7 months with a hole in his heart. He was at Children's Hospital for 11 months six of those months he was in an incubator. I went every day to feed him. I would spend every afternoon at Children's and I still had four little girls at home. Alicia was 6, Teresa was 5, Maria was 4, and Josie was 2, and they demanded a lot of attention. It was very difficult to be sure they weren't slighted while I was looking after Christopher.

      Not only did Gretchen provide each of her children with love and individual attention, she saw them all grow up into compassionate people, all with a great sense of humor. How did she do it? It's instinctive to nurture, to feed, to bath, to clothe, to protect, and, most of all, to love a child. And as you watch their progress, like the first time they recognize you and smile, the first words they say, which is usually Da Da, the first steps they take they learn to make new friends, they learn about getting along with other people when they suddenly aren't the center of their own little universe, and they learn to develop their own opinions. That might be a simple answer to the daunting question how to be a good mom? but maybe the answer really is simple. Maybe you don't need anything more than what the Beatles sang All you need is love.

      Now Gretchen is more than a doting parent. She's a proud grandparent. With her children all grown up, she has been donating her time to numerous charitable organizations, and, ironically, has become something a little unexpected for being a housewife of so long she's an executive. Since Michael passed away from Lupus three years ago, Gretchen has taken over Batjac, the production company started by her father-in-law. Incredibly, she has struck a major deal with Paramount Home Entertainment to restore and then release nine Batjac films, which include The High and the Mighty, Island in the Sky, Hondo, and McLintock! My husband's dream was to bring back to the public one of John Wayne's greatest films, The High and the Mighty, which had been out of circulation for half a century Michael knew that someday the technology would be here to restore the film to all its glory. I'm humbled to be able to complete his dream.

      Regarding this major career transition, Gretchen says, As a teacher, you know that it's about learning from your students and then teaching. As a parent, you know it's about listening to your children and then acting. As an executive, it's about learning, teaching, and then acting. If her executive abilities come even close to her maternal aptitude, Hollywood better look out.

      Interview with Gretchen Wayne by TCM
      Gretchen Wayne is the daughter-in-law of John Wayne and the wife of the late Michael Wayne who handled his father's business affairs and produced several of his movies. Gretchen is currently president of Batjac Productions, a company founded by John Wayne, and has been instrumental in releasing many of the Batjac films on DVD within the last few years.

      TCM:When did you first meet John Wayne and what were your first impressions of him?

      Gretchen Wayne: I met John Wayne in 1950 while I was a student at Immaculate Heart High School. His daughter Toni and I were classmates. There was a school play and he had come to watch Toni's performance. I remember being in the back of the auditorium and being introduced to him. He was very kind, polite, tall and low key. He wasn't the kind of person that sought to attract attention to himself. However, he did just by his very presence.

      TCM: Was your husband Michael already producing films when you first met him or was he still working as an assistant on your father-in-law's films?

      GW: No. We were in high school -- went on a blind date to a school dance. I was 14 and he was 15. We dated off and on through High School and steadily through college.

      TCM: What was the first John Wayne film you remember Michael working on after you were married?

      GW: That film would be "The Alamo."

      TCM: Did you often visit the sets of Wayne’s movies and if so, do you have any favorite anecdotes about anything you experienced or saw while there?

      GW: No, I did not often visit the sets or go on location. However, I did visit the location of "The Alamo" and took a three month old baby to Bracketville, Texas. We stayed for about a month and it was an incredible experience.

      TCM: I read where you and Michael appeared on the TV show "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx. What are you memories of that event?

      GW: Horrendous! We were on that show exactly one month after we were married. I was teaching school in the LA city school system and Michael was an assistant director for Review Productions at Universal Studios. We thought for sure that together we would win a lot of money because we wanted to put a new roof on the little house we had just purchased. That was not to be the case. Because I was teaching school to junior high school students, I did not want to choose an academic subject. One of the categories was Latin phrases and I tried to encourage Michael to select that category because he had received straight A's in four years of Latin. So, we did the logical thing and chose Nursery Rhymes. Needless to say, they were rhymes I had never heard of. We were asked, finally, who was buried in Grant's Tomb and I think we won $100 for our efforts. The VHS of that show is floating around somewhere.

      TCM: Of all the Batjac film productions Michael worked on, which one do you think was the most satisfying for him in terms of the experience and the film's reception?

      GW: That would be the first film that he produced, "McLintock!" He was 27 years old and given the opportunity to produce a John Wayne film which was, indeed, a big thrill and challenge. He brought it in under budget and ahead of schedule and it was tremendously successful. It came out just after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The country was looking for a little levity and "McLintock!" filled the void of a country's sorrow.

      TCM: What was Michael's working relationship like with his father on the films they made together? Did they have creative differences or often share the same point of view? Was it difficult to put the father-son relationship aside while they were working?

      GW: Because they were very much alike and shared a similar philosophy in terms of work, the only differences really would be financial. Michael wouldn't spend money unnecessarily and sometimes his father wanted certain things in a scene to make it more effective and Michael might have thought at times it wasn't necessary. As to whether it was difficult to put the father son relationship aside, I don't believe that was ever a problem. After all, Michael handled all of his father's financial affairs, ran his company and therefore became the person that he could depend upon.

      TCM: Most of the Batjac productions are out on DVD now but a few of them are still missing in action. Are you working on bringing these out on DVD soon? For example, "Good-bye, My Lady", "Gun the Man Down," and "China Doll."

      GW: I'm not sure who owns "Good-by My Lady" -- it might be Warner Bros. It's a charming story and it should be released. "Gun the Man Down,” “Escort West” and “China Doll” are going to be distributed by MGM. These are very, very early Batjac produced films.

      TCM: Were you the guiding force behind the DVD box set that came out last year, The Batjac Suspense Collection (which included "Ring of Fear, Man in the Vault, Plunder of the Sun, & Track of the Cat")?. Those were offbeat films and unusual choices for Wayne 's production company. I don't think many people know that the Duke produced several films in which he didn't star. Do you have any insight into what his vision was for Batjac? How did he develop projects there? Did he simply make the films he wanted to make or try to gage the public's interest in certain types of films?

      GW: Yes, to use your words I was the guiding force behind the Batjac Suspense Collection. They weren’t unusual choices for John Wayne’s production company, because they were character driven stories, a little like film noir. People don’t realize that he really chose the stories based on character. I agree that people didn’t know that John Wayne produced films. Some of the first films that he produced were for Republic Pictures, one being “The Bullfighter and the Lady” directed by the acclaimed director, Budd Boetticher and the other being “Angel and the Badman.” In mentioning Budd Boetticher, he also directed the Batjac produced film, “Seven Men From Now,” which has become a cult film. His vision, I suppose, for Batjac was to provide good entertainment – stories with interesting characters, work with writers he was comfortable with, and there were several, and make a return on his investment. I don’t think he ever used public interest as a bellwether for his selections. Most important was good family entertainment.

      TCM: Of all the film restorations from the Batjac partnership you have been involved with, which one has been the most difficult and challenging to bring to DVD?

      GW: Without a doubt it has to be “The High and The Mighty.” There was tremendous water damage in our film vaults and three reels of film were completely destroyed. While my husband, Michael, was alive, the technology was not available to restore this film. But as a good steward of his films, he had over the years, restored and protected his prints. In the late 70’s he created separation masters for the film. In the 50’s it was not a common practice to make separation masters. In fact, the film was often reused for other things. So his instincts to protect what he had served him well because with those separation masters we were able to recombine and fill in the gaps of the missing reels. However, film is like a living thing – in that it must be protected. It gets old, it gets brittle and it gets dirty and it needs to be cared for. So while we could restore the film and while we could recombine the missing reels, the end product was not satisfactory to me. That’s why we went to a digital process – which is relatively new in the world of film restoration. “The High and The Mighty” is a hybrid, if you will. It’s restored film, digital restoration of recombined reels, as well as the optical sequences and the end result is a film that we are happy to bring back to the public.

      TCM: What is your own personal favorite John Wayne film?

      GW: I would say I love “The Quiet Man”. I love “The Searchers” and “Hondo.”

      TCM: Did you find John Wayne the actor quite different from the man you knew as your father in law? Or was he very similar to his movie persona off-screen as well?

      GW: My husband, Michael, was fond of saying, “Only the wardrobe changed from film to dinner table.” I guess people are not aware of the fact that he was very sensitive and had a soft, kind side to him. Vulgarity displeased him and he truly was a man who loved his family, loved his country and I guess that’s why he is so comfortable playing those types of characters on screen.

      TCM: Did you ever have any interest in appearing in any of Wayne 's movies or did you ever appear as an extra?

      GW: No

      TCM: Do you have any association with the John Wayne Birthplace Museum & Learning Center in Iowa ? Do you have any plans to curate a John Wayne museum? I think his fans would love to see an archive that housed props and items from his films, family photos, audio recordings and other things of interest from his life.

      GW: The answer to all of the above is no.

      Interview conducted by Jeff Stafford/TCM

      Filmography

      Producer
      1. Budd Boetticher: An American Original (2005) (V) (executive producer: Batjac)

      Thanks
      1. Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That (2005) (TV) (special thanks)

      Self
      1. Budd Boetticher: An American Original (2005) (V) .... Herself
      2. Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That (2005) (TV) .... Herself - Interviewee
      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England

      The post was edited 11 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      There can be no mistaking,
      that Gretchen Wayne is head of the business,
      Batjac that is, and looks like she is now head of the family!
      I am sure Duke would find it, more than ironic,
      that an In-Law, should now head up the business,
      and not one of his own!
      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England

      The post was edited 1 time, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      VERY interesting interview, Keith! Thank you for finding and sharing it.

      After reading that interview, I would say that she doesn't seem to be a hostile in-law. Does anybody know if there was family strife over her taking over Batjac? Were Melinda or Patrick interested in it?

      I was also surprised at her response to the question about involvement with the John Wayne birthplace (which was that she has no association with the birthplace, and no plans to curate a JW museum). I wonder if she is open to making artifacts available to a museum, either on a loan/donation or purchase basis.

      Keith, do you know the year of the interview? Seems close to the time of release of THatM, maybe shortly afterwards.

      Again, thanks!

      Chester :newyear:
    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      Jim,
      I looks like the interview was dated May 21-26th,
      and took place during TCM's Celebration of Duke's Centenary.

      No she doesn't seem hostile, about anyone,
      but the fact she appears to distance herself from,
      Wayne Enterprises,and The Birthplace in particular,
      does raise an eye brow!
      I would think as the wife of Michael the lawyers,
      would have it pretty tied up,
      with the children, not having a look in!
      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England

      The post was edited 2 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      From all this information, Keith (which thank you for posting), Gretchen Wayne does not come off as the nasty type of person that is visualized by some. I'm sure that her business acumen makes her standoffish at times, but from what you have posted here, I get another side of her from most accounts.
      Cheers - Jay:beer:
      "Not hardly!!!"

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Jay J. Foraker ().

    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      I can't remember where I read the information I have but from what I remember about Gretchen taking over Batjak after Mike's passing. No family member wanted to take ovet the production company, and Gretchen has been in this business for a while, so she accepted the head job. Again, I don't remember where I read this, but it was at the time of Mike's passing.

      Cheers :cool: Hondo


      "When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it"
      - John Wayne quote
    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      Jay J. Foraker wrote:

      From all this information, Keith (which thank you for posting), Gretchen Wayne does not come off as the nasty type of person that is visualize by some. I'm sure that her business acumen makes her standoffish at times, but from what you have posted here, I get another side of her from most accounts.

      Jay, that is exactly how I felt after reading the interview (you expressed it so eloquently I just had to quote it :biggrin:).

      Mrs. C :angel1:

      The post was edited 1 time, last by chester7777 ().

    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      I remember reading somewhere that Michael had bought Batjak from Duke. So, of course, Gretchen would inherit the company after her husband's passing.

      Mark
      "I couldn't go to sleep at night if the director didn't call 'cut'. "
    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      dukefan1 wrote:

      I remember reading somewhere that Michael had bought Batjak from Duke. So, of course, Gretchen would inherit the company after her husband's passing.

      Mark


      Mar,
      I feel sure, that's what happened,
      and it would be as simple as that.
      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England
    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      I do not know how you do it in the U.K. But Batjac was Formed as a Family Corporation here in the U.S., and as a Family Corporation every one in the family is a Stock Holder.
      :wink_smile:
      After Duke's passing Mike Wayne was the President of Batjac as he was the Oldest of Duke's Children. The Younger Children of Pilar were way to Young Yet to Take Control, But were Stock Holders.
      :teeth_smile:
      Duke always Said that Batjac and His Films Made by Batjac, were His Legacy for All Of His Children, not just His Oldest Children !
      :glare:
      This was Before His Partner Louis Johnson Sold Their Ranches Here in Arizona for $45,000,000 and Gave Half of it to Duke's 7 Children !
      :ohmy:
      The Law Suit that Wayne Enterprises by Ethan Wayne Duke's Youngest Son against Batjac and Gretchen Wayne Mike Wayne's Widow was to try to Gain Some Control over Some Of The Things Duke had Left to ALL OF HIS CHILDREN !!
      :yeaahh:
      Mike Wayne Had Control of Every Thing after Duke's Passing and at His Passing Gretchen Wayne Got all of Batjac.
      :cry2:
      Now that Two of Duke's Older Children Are Gone, and there are only Two of them left, and there are Three of Duke's and Pilar's Children still here, I think thing are Going To Change !!!
      :stunned:
      Chilibill
      :cowboy:

      The post was edited 1 time, last by William T Brooks ().

    • Re: Duke's Daughter-In-Law- Gretchen Wayne

      Robbie, made a great post,
      with this video link.

      Gretchen Wayne Talks About John Wayne

      I have copied my reply and any other comments,
      over here for reasons of continuity

      What I notice more and more about Gretchen Wayne is,
      she comes across a much 'nicer' person than most of us gave her credit for,
      and seems genuinely, sincere about the legacy of Duke.

      Also she was very supportive of his non participation
      in the US Armed Services, and the reasons why!
      Best Wishes
      Keith
      London- England