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John Wayne: Revisited

John Wayne True Grit
Get A Haircut Son Via Newsday

John Wayne of all people was back in the news recently. USC is dismantling a John Wayne exhibit, and Orange County is considering renaming the local airport. Presumably, all of this is because of the recent scrutiny of how and why we honor the past. To be honest, I never understood why an airport, or anything for that matter, would be named after an actor. I just figured that was left coast LA dumbassery. I mean we all know the Duke was somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan politically. He made a movie glorifying the war in 1968. He thought Clint Eastwood was a liberal punk. I recently read the 1971 Playboy interview ...and wow. I'm not sure what is more disturbing...his white supremacy rants or that fact that no one really raised an eyebrow about them back in the day.

Art or Artist?

John Wayne Green Berets
We're Gonna Win This War Son! Via Newsday

As a person, he was certainly flawed. Although he was older, he spent the WWII years making money and lolling around Mexico drinking tequila with senoritas while his contemporaries joined the war effort. He was often ridiculed within the industry for it. Having said that, he made some pretty good movies, and a few great ones. He was a very good actor, no Laurence Olivier, but he came up in a Hollywood system that did not really allow a lot of acting flexibility. His three greatest movies were Stagecoach (1939), Red River (1948) and Searchers (1959). In Red River he plays a Captain Bligh of the cattle drive type...excellent. In Searchers he plays a pretty unlikable character, trying to find his niece, who was captured by the he can kill her. He was always good...when he was playing bad. You could maybe add Fort Apache (1948) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) also. Sorry, but True Grit (1969)...The Shootist (1976)...They Were Expendable (1945)...The Quiet Man (1952)...meh. Rio Bravo (1959) is enjoyable. Dean Martin plays the drunk sheriff in that opposed to El Dorado (1967) where Robert Mitchum plays the drunk sheriff. The rest of his movies are usually watchable and pretty predictable. They always have a decent story.

That's All Pilgrim

John Wayne and Rock Hudson
I Need A Drink Rock Via Pinterest

So how should we and future generations look at artists like John Wayne? Don't honor them...but enjoy their art while realizing it may be a flawed representation of the truth.

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