John Wayne: Screen Ladies–Capucine (North to Alaska)

In the middle phase of his career, John Wayne, then in his 50s, was cast against younger and attractive stars, most notably Angie Dickinson (“Rio Bravo”), Capucine (“North to Alaska”), Elsa Martinelli (“Hatari!”), Donna Reed (“Trouble Along the Way”), and Martha Hyer (The Sons of Katie Elder”).


In 1957, film producer Charles K. Feldman spotted Capucine while she was modeling in New York City. Feldman put her under contract at $150 a week. He brought her to Hollywood to learn English and study acting under Gregory Ratoff.

She took the stage name “Capucine,” saying, “Two names are interesting and I hope one is interesting.”

Capucine signed a seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures in 1958. After unsuccessfully auditioning for the role of Feathers in Rio Bravo (1959) she landed her first English-speaking role in the film Song Without End (1960), a biopic of Franz Liszt, where she played Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

George Cukor took over the helming reins when director Charles Vidor died in the midst of the production.

Producer William Goetz said, “You can teach a girl to act, but nobody can teach her how to look like a princess. You’ve got to start with a girl who looks like a princess.”

“Every time I get in front of the camera, I think of it as an attractive man I am meeting for the first time,” she said in 1960. “I find him demanding and aloof, so I must do all I can to interest him.” “I got much better as we went on”, she said. “As the scenes warmed up, so did I.”


Photo: John Wayne and Capucine in “North to Alaska.”

Capucine followed this with North to Alaska (1960), a comedy which had been set up with her in mind by Feldman at 20th Century Fox. She played a French prostitute who becomes the love interest of John Wayne. Directed by Henry Hathaway, it was very successful at the box office.

Capucine returned to Europe to co star in Le triomphe de Michel Strogoff (1961) with Curd Jürgens, a sequel to Michel Strogoff (1956).

Back in Hollywood, she had second billing in Walk on the Wild Side (1962), produced by Feldman, in which she portrayed a redeemed hooker. Co-star Laurence Harvey complained that Feldman cut his part in order to expand Capucine’s role.

She was then William Holden’s love interest in The Lion (1962). During filming, Capucine began a romance with Holden, which led to the end of her romantic relationship with Feldman; however, the producer remained loyal professionally.

She moved to Switzerland in 1962.