Friday, October 9, 2009

John Wayne: Feo, fuerte, y formal- He was ugly, he was strong, but he had dignity.

I have just finished up two biographies on John Wayne, Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne by Ronald L. Davis and John Wayne: My Life With the Duke by Pilar Wayne and Alex Thorleifson. John Wayne performs in one of my favorite films, The Quiet Man (1952) and I grew up, probably like most Americans, with John Wayne being a household name. He is a favorite of my father’s and his father before him. I have fond memories of sitting and watching the films of John Wayne with my father as he told me about certain parts that were his or his father’s favorite.
Reading biographies on legends such Wayne is always a double- edged sword. You grow up personifying that legend through what you see onscreen so when you find that they were not as perfect in real life, you are either relieved that they were just as human as you or disappointed that they too were flawed. In Wayne’s case I was disappointed to find that though he was a good man at heart, he was an insecure one and suffered for it. However, whatever Wayne lacked in security, he made up for it with conviction. Pro-conservative Republican, Pro-War and Pro-American since the forties, he stood by his beliefs during the Red Scare and Vietnam War, despite what it could do to his career. That unwavering, blind faith ultimately won even his most liberal critics as well as making him an icon to all the branches of the U.S. Military, despite his lack of military service. During and after Wayne’s life, he had everything from an airport to a day dedicated to him; he won numerous awards from best actor to lifetime achievement, his image has graced everything from a US postage stamp to toilet paper. Wayne also received the two highest civilian decorations awarded by the United States government, Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal the latter of which said simply, “John Wayne- American”.
For most of his adult life John Wayne loomed larger than life, a throw back to the previous century. By the end of his screen career Duke’s image was all that was left of the Old West, and he had become the most powerful personality in film history. The older he got, the more Wayne personified America’s past. His performances and his real-life behavior merged into a mythical figure of global consequence. An emblem of American resourcefulness, John Wayne came to represent the rugged male- tough, aggressive, competitive, a man against the elements, yet loyal to his comrades and full or moral certainty. In Wayne’s world there was little room for conciliation; his was an absolutist viewpoint oriented toward conquering adversity with speed and efficiency.

Wayne’s Hollywood career was a prolonged battle to reach the top. He had no major studio behind him the way Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, and Tyrone Power did. In his early years Duke worked mainly for Republic and lesser Poverty Row companies. He lacked the executive support and expansive publicity campaigns that boosted other screen stars to fame. Wayne pulled himself up through sheer determination and hard work. He developed a personal style of acting and put his signature on the better movies he made as much or more than the writers, directors, producers, and cinematographers did.

He became a summation of vanishing American ideals, a symbol of the strengths and limitations of the national character, a walking embodiment of the American dream. An anachronism energized by boldness and familiarity, John Wayne remains the quintessential Western hero, yet one more commendable in legend than in life.
The American way had served him well; he had no doubt it would serve others as well. Even when the swagger and punch had gone out of his life, he voiced gratitude for a
system that afforded him success. “The American people have been awfully good to me for a long time,” he often said. With the heart of a child, John Wayne eulogized an America that gave people like him a chance to turn aspirations and ambition into reality. That was the America he envisioned, the only America he understood. -E
xcerpt from Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne.
The oldest of two children born to Clyde and Mary Morrison, Wayne’s family eventually moved to Glendale, CA from Iowa due to his father’s failing health. No stranger to being poor, Wayne and his family lived on an isolated homestead in little more than a shack. “There were days when I was so hungry, I thought my stomach was glued to my backbone.” Wayne took up a paper route and in doing so, inadvertently became known as the “Duke”. “There's been a lot of stories about how I got to be called Duke. One was that I played the part of a duke in a school play--which I never did. Sometimes, they even said I was descended from royalty! It was all a lot of rubbish. Hell, the truth is that I was named after a dog!” The name “Duke” came from some volunteer firemen in Glendale, CA who frequently saw Wayne with the family Airedale named Duke when he went out on his paper route. The firemen took to calling his dog “Big Duke” and Wayne “Little Duke.” The name stuck and soon everyone but his mother was calling him by that name, a big relief to a boy who learned to fight at a young age for defending a name like Marion. In high school, Wayne excelled in his classes and was involved in many different activities, including student government and football. He also participated in numerous student theatrical productions. Though very handsome, girls remained a mystery to him and he didn’t bother about them until he reached college. Winning a football scholarship to University of Southern California (USC), Wayne joined the Sigma Chi fraternity and continued to be a strong student. Unfortunately, after two years, an injury took him off the football field and ended his scholarship. During this time he met, courted, and eventually married Josephine Alicia Saenz; a union that would prove to fail as it did with his second wife Esperanza Baur and eventually (though they never divorced) Pilar Pallete. While in college, Wayne worked as a film extra and a prop man. In 1930 Raoul Walsh gave Wayne his first big break with a lead role in The Big Trail and is credited with creating the legendary screen name John Wayne. Though Wayne performed well, the movie was a flop and he would spend the next ten years working on B films and building his career around becoming a famous movie star.

On his acting method Wayne said, “I don't act . . . I react. When I started, I knew I was no actor and I went to work on this Wayne thing. It was as deliberate a projection as you'll ever see. I figured I needed a gimmick, so I dreamed up the drawl, the squint and a way of moving meant to suggest that I wasn't looking for trouble but would just as soon throw a bottle at your head as not. I practiced in front of a mirror. I want to play a real man in all my films, and I define manhood simply: men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either. I don't want ever to appear in a film that would embarrass a viewer. A man can take his wife, mother, and his daughter to one of my movies and never be ashamed or embarrassed for going.”

It’s well known how close John Wayne and the director John Ford were. Ford who gave Wayne his second big break in Stagecoach (1939) considered Wayne a son. Wayne in turn called him Pappy. They worked on several pictures together and Wayne respected Ford’s opinion and took whatever advice Ford had to give. “I don't think John Ford had any kind of respect for me as an actor until I made Red River (1948) for Howard Hawks. I was never quite sure what he did think of me as an actor. I know now, though. Because when I finally won an Oscar for my role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969), Ford shook my hand and said the award was long overdue me as far as he was concerned. Right then, I knew he'd respected me as an actor since Stagecoach (1939), even though he hadn't let me know it. He later told me his praise earlier, might have gone to my head and made me conceited, and that was why he'd never said anything to me, until the right time.” Wayne was also known for surrounding himself with a group of friends and fellow actors on most of his pictures. Though their names might not be as well known, the viewer will always recognize the faces of Ward Bond, Jim Hutton, Bruce Cabot, Ben Johnson, Edward Faulkner, Jay C. Flippen, Richard Boone, Chuck Roberson and his son, Patrick Wayne.
In the late 1940s Wayne started working behind the scenes as a producer; he operated several different production companies, including John Wayne Productions, Wayne-Fellows Productions, and Batjac Productions. This allowed him to merge his personal beliefs and his professional life by supporting and acting in films with anti-communist, pro-war messages, most notably, The Green Berets (1968) the only pro-Vietnam movie ever made.
Wayne won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for True Grit (1969). When his name was announced he dashed to the podium. “Wow!” he said. “If I’d known what I know now, I’d have put a patch on my eye thirty-five years ago.” Besides the Oscar, he received a standing ovation.

The Shootist (1976) was Wayne’s last film. In an ironic twist, he plays an aging gunfighter who despite dying of cancer, is determined not to die a painful, undignified death. “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, I won’t be laid a hand on.” Instead he chooses to die in a final gun fight. Life imitated art with Wayne being diagnosed with stomach cancer two years later. When he died, instead of acquiescing to his wishes to be cremated and scattered over the sea, his oldest son Michael had him buried in an unmarked grave for fear of vandals. He finally received a headstone in 1990.
When drafting up this blog entry I asked my father to recall how he felt the day Wayne passed. Similar to most admirers, he felt a profound sadness in that he grew up with Wayne, learned from him, set examples by him and most importantly, shared a bond with his own father over him. Wayne for me is such an enduring star, I can watch most of his films over and over again. No other star has been able to step off the screen and resonate so soundly within me.

The Shootist (1976) .... J.B.Books aka John Bernard Books
Rooster Cogburn (1975) .... Rooster Cogburn
Brannigan (1975) .... Lt. Jim Brannigan
McQ (1974) .... Det. Lt. Lon McQ
Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973) .... U.S. Marshal J.D. Cahill
The Train Robbers (1973) .... Lane
The Cowboys (1972) .... Wil Andersen
Big Jake (1971) .... Jacob McCandles
Rio Lobo (1970) .... Col. Cord McNally
Chisum (1970) .... John Simpson Chisum
The Undefeated (1969) .... Col. John Henry Thomas
True Grit (1969) .... Marshall Reuben J. 'Rooster' Cogburn
Hellfighters (1968) .... Chance Buckman
The Green Berets (1968) .... Colonel Mike Kirby
The War Wagon (1967) .... Taw Jackson
El Dorado (1966) .... Cole Thornton
Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) .... Gen. Mike Randolph
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) .... John Elder
In Harm's Way (1965) .... Capt. Rockwell Torrey
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) .... Centurion at crucifixion
Circus World (1964) .... Matt Masters
McLintock! (1963) .... George Washington McLintock
Donovan's Reef (1963) .... Michael Patrick 'Guns' Donovan
How the West Was Won (1962) .... Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
The Longest Day (1962) .... Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
Hatari! (1962) .... Sean Mercer
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) .... Tom Doniphon
The Comancheros (1961) .... Ranger Capt. Jake Cutter
North to Alaska (1960) .... Sam McCord
The Alamo (1960) .... Col. Davy Crockett
The Horse Soldiers (1959) .... Col. John Marlowe
Rio Bravo (1959) .... Sheriff John T. Chance
The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958) .... Townsend Harris
Legend of the Lost (1957) .... Joe January
Jet Pilot (1957) .... Col. Jim Shannon
The Wings of Eagles (1957) .... Frank W. 'Spig' Wead
The Searchers (1956) .... Ethan Edwards
The Conqueror (1956) .... Temujin, later Genghis Khan
Blood Alley (1955) .... Capt. Tom Wilder
The Sea Chase (1955) .... Capt. Karl Ehrlich
The High and the Mighty (1954) .... Dan Roman
Hondo (1953) .... Hondo Lane
Island in the Sky (1953) .... Capt. Dooley
Trouble Along the Way (1953) .... Stephen 'Steve' Aloysius Williams
Three Lives (1953) .... Commentator
Big Jim McLain (1952) .... Jim McLain
The Quiet Man (1952) .... Sean Thornton
Miracle in Motion (1952) .... Narrator
Flying Leathernecks (1951) .... Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby
Operation Pacific (1951) .... Lt Cmdr. Duke E. Gifford
Rio Grande (1950) .... Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) .... Sgt. John M. Stryker
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) .... Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles
The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) .... John Breen
Wake of the Red Witch (1948) .... Capt. Ralls
3 Godfathers (1948) .... Robert Marmaduke Hightower
Red River (1948) .... Thomas Dunson
Fort Apache (1948) .... Capt. Kirby York
Tycoon (1947) .... Johnny Munroe
Angel and the Badman (1947) .... Quirt Evans
Without Reservations (1946) .... Rusty Thomas
Dakota (1945) .... John Devlin
They Were Expendable (1945) .... Lt. (J.G.) 'Rusty' Ryan
Back to Bataan (1945) .... Col. Joseph Madden
Flame of Barbary Coast (1945) .... Duke Fergus
Tall in the Saddle (1944) .... Rocklin
The Fighting Seabees (1944) .... Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovan
In Old Oklahoma (1943) .... Daniel F. Somers
A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) .... Duke Hudkins
Reunion in France (1942) .... Pat Talbot
Pittsburgh (1942) .... Charles 'Pittsburgh' Markham/Charles Ellis
Flying Tigers (1942) .... Capt. Jim Gordon
In Old California (1942) .... Tom Craig
The Spoilers (1942) .... Roy Glennister
Reap the Wild Wind (1942) .... Captain Jack Stuart
Lady for a Night (1942) .... Jackson Morgan
The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) .... Young Matt
Lady from Louisiana (1941) .... John Reynolds
A Man Betrayed (1941) .... Lynn Hollister
Seven Sinners (1940) .... Lt. Dan Brent
The Long Voyage Home (1940) .... Olsen
Three Faces West (1940) .... John Phillips
Dark Command (1940) .... Bob Seton
Allegheny Uprising (1939) .... James Smith
New Frontier (1939) .... Stony Brooke
Wyoming Outlaw (1939) .... Stony Brooke
Three Texas Steers (1939) .... Stony Brooke
The Night Riders (1939) .... Stony Brooke
Stagecoach (1939) .... Ringo Kid
Red River Range (1938) .... Stony Brooke
Santa Fe Stampede (1938) .... Stony Brooke
Overland Stage Raiders (1938) .... Stony Brooke
Pals of the Saddle (1938) .... Stony Brooke
Born to the West (1937) .... Dare Rudd
Adventure's End (1937) .... Duke Slade
Idol of the Crowds (1937) .... Johnny Hansen
I Cover the War (1937) .... Bob Adams
California Straight Ahead! (1937) .... Biff Smith
Conflict (1936) .... Pat Glendon
Sea Spoilers (1936) .... 'Bos'n' Bob Randall
Winds of the Wasteland (1936) .... John Blair
The Lonely Trail (1936) .... Captain John Ashley
King of the Pecos (1936) .... John Clayborn
The Lawless Nineties (1936) .... John Tipton
The Oregon Trail (1936) .... Capt John Delmont
Lawless Range (1935) .... John Middleton, aka John Allen
The New Frontier (1935) .... John Dawson
Westward Ho (1935) .... John Wyatt
Paradise Canyon (1935) .... John Wyatt aka John Rogers
The Dawn Rider (1935) .... John Mason
The Desert Trail (1935) .... John Scott, aka John Jones
Rainbow Valley (1935) .... John Martin
Texas Terror (1935) .... John Higgins
'Neath the Arizona Skies (1934) .... Chris Morrell
The Lawless Frontier (1934) .... John Tobin
The Trail Beyond (1934) .... Rod Drew
The Star Packer (1934) .... U.S. Marshal John Travers
Randy Rides Alone (1934) .... Randy Bowers
The Man from Utah (1934) .... John Weston
Blue Steel (1934) .... John Carruthers
West of the Divide (1934) .... Ted Hayden, posing as Gat Ganns
The Lucky Texan (1934) .... Jerry Mason
Sagebrush Trail (1933) .... John Brant (using alias John Smith)
College Coach (1933) (uncredited) .... Student greeting Phil
Riders of Destiny (1933) .... Singin' Sandy Saunders
The Man from Monterey (1933) .... Captain John Holmes
Baby Face (1933) .... Jimmy McCoy Jr.
His Private Secretary (1933) .... Dick Wallace
The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) .... Smith
Somewhere in Sonora (1933) .... John Bishop
Central Airport (1933) (uncredited) .... Co-pilot in Wreck
The Three Musketeers (1933) .... Lt. Tom Wayne
The Telegraph Trail (1933) .... John Trent
Haunted Gold (1932) .... John Mason
The Big Stampede (1932) .... Deputy Sheriff John Steele
That's My Boy (1932) (uncredited) .... Football Player
Ride Him, Cowboy (1932) .... John Drury
The Hurricane Express (1932) .... Larry Baker
Lady and Gent (1932) .... Buzz Kinney
Two-Fisted Law (1932) .... Duke
Texas Cyclone (1932) .... Steve Pickett
The Shadow of the Eagle (1932) .... Craig McCoy
Maker of Men (1931) .... Dusty Rhodes
Range Feud (1931) .... Clint Turner
The Deceiver (1931) .... Richard Thorpe as a corpse
Arizona (1931) .... Lt. Bob Denton
Three Girls Lost (1931) .... Gordon Wales
Girls Demand Excitement (1931) .... Peter Brooks
The Big Trail (1930) .... Breck Coleman
Cheer Up and Smile (1930) (uncredited) .... Bit Part
Rough Romance (1930) (uncredited) .... Lumberjack
Born Reckless (1930) (uncredited) .... Extra
Men Without Women (1930) (uncredited) .... Radioman on surface
The Forward Pass (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
Salute (1929) (uncredited) .... Bill (midshipman)
Words and Music (1929) (as Duke Morrison) .... Pete Donahue
The Black Watch (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
Speakeasy (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
Noah's Ark (1928/I) (uncredited) .... Flood Extra
Hangman's House (1928) (uncredited) .... Horse Race Spectator/Condemned Man in Flashback
Four Sons (1928) (uncredited) .... Officer
Mother Machree (1928) (uncredited) .... Extra
The Drop Kick (1927) (uncredited) .... Football Player/Extra in Stands
Annie Laurie (1927) (uncredited) .... Extra
The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926) (uncredited) .... Extra
Bardelys the Magnificent (1926) (uncredited) .... Guard
Brown of Harvard (1926) (uncredited) .... Yale Football Player


  1. Nice post - john wayne pictures ..Keep Posting

    john wayne pictures

  2. This is a nice tribute Sarah. I enjoyed this post. - Tom

  3. Thanks for this post. Very good. Found it when i did a search on Feo, Fuerte, y Formal.

    I born in 1952. When I was growing up, the only movies my mother would take me to were those made by Disney, and those with John Wayne. I remember dreaming about having my own collection of his films, which has come true through modern technology. When I was in college, living in Newport Beach, CA, Wayne lived there as well. I worked at a restaurant in NB that was owned by Burt Hixson, and dedicated to John Wayne. Wayne came to the dedication ceremony, stood in the bar, and shook hands with hundreds of people. His hands were huge, and I will never forget how his swallowed up mine when when we shook hands.

    I have to object to the characterization of Wayne as pro-war. He was pro-United States of America; and, to him, and most of the "greatest generation", that meant supporting a war in which the USA was involved. It was his sense of loyalty and duty that required him to support a war. No one who lived through WW2 was "pro-war". They were pro-freedom.

    1. Agreed! "Pro-Freedom" is the perfect way to say it!

  4. I truly enjoyed this tribute to John Wayne. In my humble opinion, they quit making westerns when he died. The fact is that in my opinion they quit making movies when he died. There is not an actor alive today that can match him. Thank you.