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John Wayne

John Wayne Set Out To End The Era Of ‘Phony’ Western Heroes

It’s been nearly half a century since John Wayne last donned his iconic stetson hat to play a Western hero, but the actor’s name is still synonymous with America’s collective image of the Wild West cowboy. During the golden age of Hollywood Westerns, Wayne was the most recognizable gunslinger around, and he won the hearts of millions playing tough, imperfect, sometimes irascible men fighting their way through the rough-and-tumble frontier. From “Stagecoach” to “The Shootist,” Wayne frequently embodied what many remember as the prototypical on-screen cowboy.
In reality, though, Westerns existed on screen even before Wayne made his cinematic debut in the 1920s, and the actor wasn’t particularly fond of the way they tended to be portrayed. “I made up my mind,” Wayne told Maurice Zolotow for his biography “John Wayne, Shooting Star,” “that I was going to play a real man to the best of my ability. I felt many of the Western stars of the 1920s and 1930s were too goddamn perfect.” Beginning in 1934, censorship from the now-infamous Hays Code put a moral responsibility on Hollywood that restricted violence on-screen. Even before the Hays Code, many on-screen cowboys (like other early film figures) had a sense of costume to them, and Western heroes often looked more like playactors than real down-and-dirty cowpokes.
‘They were too goddamn sweet’Paramount PicturesWayne took issue with this. “They never drank nor smoked. They never had a fight,” the actor lamented in Zolotow’s biography. “A heavy might throw a chair at them, and they just look surprised.” Wayne famously played some questionable antiheroes along with his white-hat roles, as in John Ford’s “The Searchers.” That 1956 film grappled with — though didn’t completely address — long-brewing questions about violence, racism, and gender dynamics within the genre. Wayne’s Ethan was a revenge-driven antihero who shattered the illusion of the morally pristine cowboy once and for all.
“They were too goddamn sweet and pure to be dirty fighters,” Wayne says of the early film cowboys. He adds:
“Well, I wanted to be a dirty fighter if that was the only way to fight back. If somebody throws a chair at you, hell, you pick up a chair and belt him right back. I was trying to play a man who gets dirty, who sweats sometimes, who enjoys really kissing a gal he likes, who gets angry, who fights clean whenever possible but will fight dirty if he has to.”
Ironically, this portrait of a cowboy sounds just as oversimplified and idealized now as the 1920s cowboys did to Wayne at the time. The Western genre has mostly died out in recent decades as its traditional templates of racism, nationalism, and machismo have fallen out of fashion. When it has returned, it’s been with fresh spins on the cowboy story that reveal facets of the archetype rarely put to screen before, as with Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” and Jane Campion’s “Power of the Dog.” Both of those movies center the stories of gay cowboys, a notion that Wayne himself would likely find blasphemous if his homophobic reaction to “Midnight Cowboy” is any indication.
What counts as ‘phony’ anyway?

NetflixWayne isn’t alone in his homophobic attitudes. The idealization of the “manly man” cowboy has always gone hand in hand with an unstated put-down of anyone less-than, whether that’s actual gay cowboys (who did exist, of course) or simply men who didn’t perform the gruff, reckless sort of physical masculinity that Wayne popularized on screen. Just last year, actor Sam Elliott made comments about “Power of the Dog” that echoed Wayne’s from the early ’70s, criticizing the shirtless cowboys and “allusions to homosexuality” in the film. “What the f*** does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American West?” Elliott said on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. In his biography, Wayne condemns the squeaky-clean cowboys of the era before him. “I didn’t want to be a singing cowboy,” he says. “It was phony.”
The ironic thing about these juxtapositions between the cowboys Wayne and Elliott don’t like and the “real” men they idealize is that both treat the less overtly masculine portrayals as inauthentic in a way that offends them personally — as if they themselves were real cowboys, not actors who grew up in Portland and studied at USC, respectively. This isn’t to say that Wayne and Elliott aren’t qualified to have strong opinions on the matter, but that Westerns have always dealt in American mythology, which is ever-shifting and much more complex than a single portrayal of masculinity.
There’s no way of knowing how Wayne would feel about the recent return of movies about cowboys aren’t brawlers, but we do know that Wayne was aware of the way he shaped that image in the first place. “You could say, I made the Western hero a roughneck,” he says in “John Wayne, Shooting Star.” And the genre was never the same again.

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John Wayne

John Wayne heartbreak after pleading for one last film before death: ‘Hope to hell I do’

The crowning moment in his acting life came in 1970, when he earned his only Academy Award for Best Actor, as a result of his role in True Grit.

But one project that sadly never made it to life was Beau John, a film Wayne hoped would be his last.
Author Scott Eyman, who wrote ‘John Wayne: The Life and Legend’, discussed what Wayne wanted the project to be like, as well as the confession he made before he sadly passed away.
Eyman noted that Wayne’s wish was made at the end of 1978, just under a year before the western icon died in June.

Wayne reportedly felt directionless without any film work as he’d spent the last years in recovery with health issues as opposed to being behind the camera.
That year, Wayne received the Utah Film Festival’s John Ford Medallion, though he was unable to travel due to his health.
Instead, friend and director Peter Bogdanovich went to accept the award on his behalf, and when the pair were reunited Wayne asked if he’d consider the film he proposed.
Bogdanovich said: “It’s kind of a half-western thing, it’s not cowboys and Indians, you know, it’s — oh, the humour and the wonderful relationship between this grandfather and the son and the son-in-law and the grandson.
JUST IN: John Wayne was buried at unmarked grave with a beautiful message

“Wayne said, ‘I hope to hell I live to do it. Just a wonderful story’.”
His friend reassured Wayne he’d do the project, were he alive long enough to commit to it, and in his later life it became the Oscar winner’s main focus in life.
As he grew even more ill, Wayne then proposed the project to director Ron Howard, though he didn’t want anyone but the dying star to be in it.
According to the book, Wayne told Howard: “I found a book. I think it’s a movie. It’s you and me or it’s nobody.”

John Wayne died in 1979

John Wayne died in 1979 (Image: GETTY)

But sadly for Wayne, he died before anything could be done to start the movie.
Howard added: “It never got past the verbal stage.
“And at that point, he was showing signs of not being well. I was a little doubtful.”
Wayne passed away in 1979 as a result of stomach cancer, and was buried in the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach.
His legacy was secured when the American Film Institute chose him as one of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema.

He was among a select group of stars who managed to negotiate their way from the silent film era of the Twenties, into the talkies that followed.
He had seven children in total, and was married three times.

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John Wayne

John Wayne battled crippling injuries and heartbreaking loss on Rio Lobo set

The sight of The Duke thundering across The West on horseback remains one of cinema’s most indelible images.
Meanwhile, “Get off your horse and drink your milk” has frequently been attributed as one of John Wayne’s most famous ‘quotes.’

Despite some claims that it came from an advert he shot, it is actually almost certainly an urban myth, most likely started by comedians doing drawling impressions of the Hollywood Westerns legend.
Sadly, though, by the time the star came to film 1970’s Rio Lobo (a blatant remake of Rio Bravo) towards the end of his career, he was in so much pain struggled to get on and off his horse.
In fact, the entire film shoot was surrounded by personal tragedies for the actor.
DON’T MISSJohn Wayne revealed his own three favourite films from his career

John Wayne on horseback in Rio Lobo

John Wayne on horseback in Rio Lobo (Image: GETTY)

John Wayne starred in Rio Lobo
John Wayne was in agony in Rio Lobo (Image: GETTY )

It was director Howard Hawks’ final film and the third film he made with John Wayne about a beleaguered sheriff standing against outlaws.
In a 1971 interview Hawks said of Rio Lobo: “The last picture we made, I called him up and said, ‘Duke, I’ve got a story.’ He said, ‘I can’t make it for a year, I’m all tied up.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s all right, it’ll take me a year to get it finished.’
“He said, ‘Good, I’ll be all ready.’ And he came down on location and he said, ‘What’s this about?’ And I told him the story. He never even read it, he didn’t know anything about it.”

Famously, when Wayne realised it was a remake of Rio Bravo and El Dorado, he quipped: “Yes, he said, ‘Do I get to play the drunk this time?”

Hawks was less jocular after the film bombed and blamed it on 63-year-old Wayne being too old and out of shape for the role.
Critics and audiences agreed and the film took just over $4million against a production budget of $6million plus all the extra promotional costs which are often the same again.
Wayne’s physical difficulties were not due to his age, however. He had piled on weight for 1969’s True Grit and then while filming The Undefeated the same year, The Duke fell from his horse and fractured three ribs, leaving him unable to work for two weeks.
Later in the shoot, he tore a ligament in his shoulder. With no movement in one arm, he had to be filmed only from the other side.

John Wayne with a rifle in Rio Lobo
John Wayne with a rifle in Rio Lobo (Image: GETTY)

Wayne came into Rio Lobo in considerable pain, out of shape from True Grit and still suffering from a torn shoulder.
Most of his fight scenes had to be filmed with stand-ins or carefully from restricted angles. Some fights even happened off-camera. And he struggled greatly getting on and off his horse.
He also suffered two devastatimg personal blow when his mother died during filming and then his younger brother Robert E. Morrison lost his battle with lung cancer the month after filming ended.
But there was one shining moment of happiness also.

John Wayne in True Grit
John Wayne in True Grit (Image: GETTY)

Always a dedicated workhorse on set, no matter the physical injuries or personal pains, Wayne took a rare break from filming.
He had a very good reason, since it was to attend the 1970 Academy Awards. After exactly 40 years on screen, The Duke finally won the Best Actor Oscar for True Grit.
Touchingly, when he returned to the Rio Lobo set, he was greeted by the cast and crew all wearing eye patches like True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn.

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John Wayne

Ann-Margret recalls ‘gentle’ and ‘welcoming’ John Wayne who did her a big favour

Legendary actress Ann-Margret turns 80-years-old today on April 28, 2021. The singer, dancer and performer made quite the name for herself in Hollywood in a number of films during the early 1960s, including Bye Bye Birdie and State Fair. She is perhaps best known for her epic performance in 1964 hit Viva Las Vegas alongside Elvis Presley, with whom she shared a passionate love affair. Shortly after working with the King, she joined wild west star John Wayne in his 1973 movie The Train Robbers.

Ann-Margret played the lead in the movie – one of her first lead roles – Mrs Lowe.

The story followed her character after her husband had been killed, leaving her half-million dollars.
Mr Lowe had acquired this money from robbing banks in the wild west, however, she was keen to return it to the government to clear her name. John’s character, Lane, had different ideas. He wanted her to help find the money and claim a reward for it.
Ann-Margret recently gave an interview about her time on the silver screen, where she touched upon working with the legendary John.

Ann-Margret continued: “He was so great with my parents. So absolutely welcoming and gentle with them. And anybody who was great to my parents was on a throne in my eyes.
“I was friends with him forever. He was never [pretentious]. He had so many friends and every single person loved him.”
Ann-Margret also previously praised John for doing her an enormous favour in her time of need.
During the filming of The Train Robbers, Ann-Margret was up for an Oscar alongside her co-star Ben Johnson.
However, considering Ann-Margret was filming in Mexico she was struggling to find a way to attend the ceremony.
Without a second thought, John gave her and Ben his own private plane to allow them both to attend the ceremony.
Ann-Margret said later: “The next day, we were back on the set, and Ben had won and I hadn’t.
“I don’t know what Mr Wayne said to Ben, but he got me in a corner, and he just said some wonderful things to me.”
Ann-Margret also spoke candidly about her relationship with Elvis.
The pair enjoyed a relationship together for just over a year while filming Viva Las Vegas.

Speaking in the same interview, Ann-Margret said: “Just thinking about Viva Las Vegas, or anytime someone mentions it, I smile.
“It was one of the happiest times of my life. George Sidney, who directed Bye Bye Birdie also directed Viva Las Vegas. And believe it or not, I had never seen [Elvis] perform.”

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