Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday John Wayne

John Wayne, born Marion Michael Morrison on May 26, 1907.

I have to admit that I never appreciated John Wayne when I was younger. Now that I've developed a better appreciation of westerns, I see him differently. Or maybe it's just because I'm getting older and realize that when I was younger I used to dismiss a lot of things before thoroughly investigating them. Or, it could be just because I prefer movies made the old-fashioned way (movies with plot and character) as opposed to the way they are made now (special effects spectacles). Whatever the reason, nowadays I relish the opportunity to sit down and watch a Wayne movie.

Here are 10 select portraits. Leave a comment if you wish as to what is your favorite John Wayne movie.











23 comments:

David Cranmer said...

#1 is RIO BRAVO followed by THE SHOOTIST.

Evan Lewis said...

When I was a kid, John Wayne was God. When I was a hippie, he was a Warmonger. Now that I'm a grownup, he's an Icon. Favorite movie? Geez, I like them all.

Melissa Marsh said...

Oh how I love John Wayne. He reminds me of my grandfather in so many ways.

Favorite movie has to be Rio Bravo. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that movie!!!

Ed Hulse said...

My favorite Wayne movie is one that's never mentioned as being among his best...but you
DID say "favorite," right? Anyway, it's TALL IN THE SADDLE (RKO 1944), which was adapted from a novel by prolific pulp writer Gordon Young. It's half Western and half murder mystery -- which I find an irresistible combination. The cast is loaded with Wayne cronies from his "B"-movie days (Ward Bond, Gabby Hayes, Paul Fix, Harry Woods, Raymond Hatton, and others) and features the gorgeous Ella Raines as a tomboyish spitfire. There's also a terrific musical score by Paul Sawtell; RKO reused parts of it for the rest of the decade, mostly in Tim Holt "B" Westerns.

There are lots of great moments in SADDLE, which shows the Duke at his most laconic. My favorite sequence has Wayne's "Rocklin" taking to the street to engage escaped convict George Clews (Woods) in what we expect will be a lethal showdown. Rocklin strides straight toward the drunken, wobbly Clews, who reaches for his six-shooter. "Draw that gun and I'll kill you," snarls our hero. Startled, Clews pauses just long enough for Rocklin to close the gap between them and pistol-whip the convict. George goes down in a heap. At this point, a harridan played by Elisabeth Risdon accosts Rocklin as he holsters his gun and stands over Clews. "I saw you!" she screeches. "I saw you! You struck that poor man!" To which Rocklin calmly replies: "Yes, ma'am...just as hard as I could."

I would never make the case that TALL IN THE SADDLE is a classic movie along the lines of STAGECOACH or THE SEARCHERS. But when it played on TV during my boyhood years (which was frequently), I rarely missed it. When I began collecting movies on 16mm film, it was one of the first prints I sought out. Subsequently I bought it in every video format, and I watch it every couple years.

Charles Gramlich said...

Happy birthday, Johnny boy. that first pic doesn't look much like him.

Rick said...

SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON - Its not his best film by a long shot, but I have a fondness for it. Almost always shows up on tv at bad times in my life. And I can't leave out THE QUIET MAN. One of my top 5 films of all time, but due more to the supporting cast and a steaming hot Maureen O'Hara.

Richard R. said...

Time to watch some John Wayne.

I like most of the westerns, and I also like some of the war movies he mad. It's all quite enjoyable stuff.

Thanks, Ed, for the memories your post about Tall in the Saddle brought.

Deka Black said...

I must admit it. my first memory of John Wayne is from a movie what is not a western. I don't remember the title, only what Wayne plays a character very special: Gengis Khan.

By the way, someone could tell me from where came the of "The Duke"?

Laurie Powers said...

He died of stomach cancer, June 11, 1979.

Wikipedia has an extensive entry on him, and a great picture of him on that page - a total hunk.

thanks from me too Ed, on the story from Tall in the Saddle - another one I didn't know about.

Evan, he definitely was a lightning rod during the Vietnam years.

I think my favorite is Red River, but there are so many.

Ed Hulse said...

Deka, THE CONQUEROR (1956) was the movie in which Wayne played Genghis Khan.

"Duke" supposedly was a childhood nickname. As a boy Wayne had a pet dog named Duke. The two were inseparable so, as the story goes, family members took to calling the dog "Little Duke" and the boy "Big Duke."

Deka Black said...

Thanks Ed! The story about the dog is very tender ^^

Laurie Powers said...

And for good measure, Turner Classic Movies is showing John Wayne movies all day, and it looks like they're focusing on the 1930s movies, ending with Stagecoach this afternoon. It all begins in about 15 minutes from now (Pacific time).

Barry Traylor said...

This is a tough choice to make but I have to say my two favorites in the western genre have to be Stagecoach and The Searchers. For a non-western there is no problem choosing The Quiet Man. Plenty more that I have watched again and again, among them Rio Bravo and North To Alaska.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Maybe not the best, but my favorite is SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON. The dressing down Wayne gives John Agar and Harry Carey, Jr. is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes.

Ed, I remember that scene from TALL IN THE SADDLE well. Gabby Hayes was great, too, as the old stage driver who was at constant loggerheads with the old biddy.

Laurie, I happen to be home from work today (thank you, intestinal flu) and saw one of the old JW oaters on TMC this morning, and part of another. His horse was called Duke in SOUTH TO SONORA, but the dog story is correct as far as his nickname goes.

ron said...

Here's my vote for SAGEBRUSH TRAIL (1933), one of his many B-westerns. It costars Lane Chandler and the amazing cowboy champion and stunt rider Yakima Canutt. What these guys were able to do with a week of shooting and limited budget was often inventive and entertaining. This one has an underwater escape sequence! Wayne and Chandler buddy up, only to have a shop girl come between them (darn those girls!). Big chase with a runaway stagecoach at the end. It's streamable at netflix.

Randy Johnson said...

Trying to narrow down one is hard. THE SEARCHERS and THE SHOOTIST would be up there though.

Walker Martin said...

I can't narrow it down to one. I love Red River and the cavalry trilogy, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande.

Laurie Powers said...

I just watched bits and pieces of the very early 1930s movies on TCM. It's a miracle that his career survived those oaters, I'm telling you. I can see why he didn't become a superstar until Stagecoach. He had matured quite a bit, his face had filled out, and he was much more credible as a hero. Just my two cents.

Walker Martin said...

Actually John Wayne was supposed to be a major star with the 1930 blockbuster movie, The Big Trail. After it failed at the box office, John Wayne was quickly dumped back into the B-westerns and serials. It wasn't until the end of the decade in 1939 that he finally broke out with his great role in Stagecoach.

Barry Traylor said...

I agree Laurie with your assessment of Wayne's early films. I have two to try yet from the TCM Wayne festival. But I tried to watch Haunted Gold and it was embarassing how bad he was. There was an actor by the name of Blue Washington in it and it is one of the most racist portrayals
I have seen in some time. The part where Wayne is invited into the big house for the night and Washington is told to sleep in the barn made my skin crawl.

Ron Scheer said...

I think it's a little unfair to fault Wayne's acting in those B-westerns. Untrained as he was, he needed good direction. If John Ford hadn't taken a chance on him in "Stagecoach," I'd be willing to argue that Wayne would have been only a footnote in movie history.

Laurie Powers said...

I wasn't faulting Wayne's acting, Ron - just the movies in general and the storylines. Like you said, if his acting wasn't good, I'd chalk it up to being a rookie. And John Ford did make Wayne's career, that's for sure.

Bob Conner said...

My favorite western by Duke is "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". It was a combination of "old" western meeting a "civilized" West.