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John Wayne

John Wayne: Icon Of America’s Booming Confidence

Earlier this year, the Harris Poll released its annual list of America’s 10 favorite movie stars. There, among today’s big names — Depp and Jolie and Clooney — was a lone name from the past: John Wayne. He finished third — 32 years after his death. Such enduring popularity served as a reminder that Wayne wasn’t merely a towering movie star, he was one of the defining Americans of the 20th Century.
When I was growing up, Wayne was a cultural given, a man whose fame and physical stature made him something of his own Mount Rushmore. It never occurred to me that the John Wayne we all knew was a figment, a hard-earned act of self-invention.
His given name was Marion Morrison, and he was born in Winterset, Iowa, a few miles from my hometown. Part of the great migration to L.A., Marion spent his adolescence trying to escape his parents’ unhappy marriage and to win his mother’s love — which, incidentally, he never did. A chronic overachiever, he won a football scholarship to USC, but poorer than his frat brothers, he had to earn money by serving them their meals. Like so many others, the mortified Marion found himself drawn to the democratic fluidity of a Hollywood that was invented by social outsiders.
Although Marion was quickly given a manly new moniker — he always thought of it as the single word, “Johnwayne” — he took his own sweet time becoming John Wayne. Over countless B movies, he taught himself to talk that strange hesitant talk, and he consciously created a trademark walk, all swinging shoulders and hips. Duke was ambitious, and when other male stars volunteered for WWII, he stayed home. Working in a Hollywood suddenly deprived of male stars, he made movie after movie, often playing the thing he pointedly was not — the indomitable American fighting man. No actor has ever been better at embodying male authority.
Wayne’s voice and manner are so easy to parody, it can take a while to grasp that he was a marvelous, canny screen actor. At his most ambitious, as in Red River, Rio Grande, The Searchers and Rio Bravo, he could act brilliantly. Yet even in routine pictures, he dominated the screen as few stars ever have, often by appearing to do nothing. A master of silence, he knew the camera, was the best reactor this side of Cary Grant and didn’t fear emotion. Wayne let you feel his deep affection for his screen soulmate, Maureen O’Hara, who brought out his tenderness and middle-aged rue.

Americans care less about authenticity than a good show, and though Wayne’s life wasn’t heroic — he personally drank and smoked enough for the whole cast of Mad Men — his screen roles made him something grander than a mere hero. He became this country’s “Idea of the Hero.” From the mid-’40s through the ’50s, Wayne embodied the American Century in all its booming confidence. If this sometimes meant embodying the darkness of our national past — Ethan Edwards in The Searchers is a genocidal monomaniac — that was never counted against his fundamental goodness. America’s Duke was tough, honorable, ready to laugh and share a drink, and always ready to do what men had to do in order to see justice done. He didn’t ask you to like him. He asked you to live up to him.
Over the years, Wayne’s monolithic image turned him into a cultural lightning rod. Even as he inspired decades of conservative iconography — you can find his echoes in Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Rick Perry — his Republican politics and patriarchal style made him a target during the 1960s and 1970s. Mocking Wayne was part of a whole generation’s rejection of authority.
But time moves on, and watching his work today, I don’t care who he voted for. I’m moved by his film’s portrait of an America whose confidence had yet to be shaken and by Wayne’s uncynical ability to embody virtues that are well worth preserving: the contempt for pettiness and love of hard work; the courage to be lonely in pursuing your goals; the respect for individuals in all their cussedness; and above all, the willingness to fight and die for a cause bigger than yourself. All of that is John Wayne, and it’s neither male nor female, conservative nor liberal. What it is, and always was, is American.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Pushed Through a Severe Injury to Ensure ‘The Train Robbers’ Premiered on Schedule

John Wayne is known around the world as one of the most iconic cowboys of all time. Decades after his death, John Wayne continues to be praised for his nearly 200 unforgettable appearances in film and television. And though his larger-than-life presence, good looks, and husky voice took him far in Hollywood, it was his commitment to his films that led to John Wayne playing such a large role in cinema history.

The Duke began his career in 1926. As time went on, the stoic superstar developed a reputation as a stunt man. Many of his Westerns involved action-heavy scenes, and the technology to make stunt work easier to fake didn’t yet exist. As such, many legendary John Wayne films were extremely physically demanding.

Hiring a stunt man was an option used by many in Hollywood. But The Duke refused. Instead, he insisted on doing his stunts himself. Though this was an admirable step to take, it led to many injuries for Wayne throughout his career.

The audience knew that the hero would win in the end, but reaching victory often involved getting punched, kicked, shot, and stabbed along the way. He was even blown up and crushed by a bulldozer (on separate occasions, of course).

John Wayne Filmed ‘The Train Robbers’ With Broken Ribs

Perhaps the most horrifying injury of John Wayne’s career occurred on the set of the 1973 Western The Train Robbers. In the film, Wayne plays the starring role of Lane, the leader of a group of cowboys hunting down a dastardly train robber.

According to the John Wayne biography entitled Duke by Ronald L. Davis, The Duke broke two ribs mere days before filming began on The Train Robbers. As Wayne was an irreplaceable star, the injury led to a rearranging of the film. Rather than focusing on high-speed chases and deadly battles between cowboys and outlaws, The Train Robbers honed in on dialogue and character building.

That said, it was still a Western, and every Western needs a certain amount of action. For The Duke, it was essential that “the action scenes looked believable”. Wayne was so committed to his scenes that he flat-out refused to work around his injury. “He wasn’t a crybaby,” his wife Pilar Wayne told The LA Times. “He could tolerate pain.”

And tolerate pain, he did. John Wayne pushed through the broken ribs, determined to keep the film as close to the original script as possible. While filming, he was clearly limited with his movements and he appeared somewhat ill on set.

On-screen, however, no one could tell the difference. The Duke still gave a fantastic performance. Three years later, his Hollywood career came to an end, but John Wayne will always be remembered as the tough-as-nails actor he truly was.

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John Wayne

Original Cast of John Wayne’s ‘The Cowboys’ to Celebrate Film’s 50th Anniversary With The Duke’s Family

The career of John Wayne is one of the most revered in all of American filmmaking regardless of genre. Even long after his death, his unmatched contributions to the Western film genre are still a thing of legend.

John Wayne: An American Experience, The Cowboy Channel, Stockyards Heritage, and Hotel Drover have partnered up with the members of the cast of The Cowboys and Wayne’s family. Together, they will host a celebratory festival in honor of the 50th anniversary of the fan-favorite film. The official John Wayne Instagram page announced the event by paying tribute to one of Wayne’s many iconic moments.


“In honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Cowboys, celebrate with members of the original cast & the Wayne family June 24, 25, & 26 in the Fort Worth Stockyards! For a list of events and tickets, head to JohnWayne.com”

The 1972 film is based on the book of the same name by William Dale Jennings. Wayne stars alongside Roscoe Lee Browne, Slim Pickens, Colleen Dewhurst, and Bruce Dern. The Cowboys tells the story of a down on his luck rancher being forced to hire a group of inexperienced cowboys to get his herd to market on time. It’s one of Wayne’s most enduring films with his performance often regarded as one of his best.

The Cowboys Still Holds A Special Place in Hearts of Film Fans

Fans of the film will no doubt be thrilled by the opportunity to hear directly from the people who worked and lived alongside Wayne during the making of the classic film. One member of the cast, A Martinez who played Cimarron, took to his own Instagram account to post a message about his experience shooting The Cowboys for its 50th anniversary.


“It was a thrill and an honor to be a part of this project,” said Martinez in his post. “A haunting, timeless theme, adapted from the novel by William Dale Jennings, brilliantly directed by Rydell. With gorgeous cinematography by Bob Surtees, an indelible score by John Williams –– and a great performance by John Wayne –– the power of #TheCowboys abides.”

The 3-day celebration includes outdoor screenings after sunset on the Livestock Exchange lawn all three nights. Fans will have meet and greet opportunities with 9 members of the cast. Then, A live televised film panel with a studio audience will film at The Cowboy Channel Studio Sunday night. In addition, there will be special installations and reception at John Wayne: An American Experience, a sprawling 10,000 square foot exhibit providing an intimate look at the life of The Duke.

Any fan of John Wayne who can make it to Fort Worth, Texas for this celebration of a beloved piece of Wayne’s filmography should purchase tickets as soon as possible. Relive the memories of this classic film alongside cast members and Wayne’s family with the special event.

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John Wayne

This John Wayne Western Almost Starred Elvis Presley

When you hear the names Elvis Presley and John Wayne, the word icon undoubtedly comes to mind. Although they were famous figures in their own right, they had more in common than you might think. For instance, they nearly starred alongside one another in one of Wayne’s many westerns.

As the undisputed King of rock ‘n’ roll, Presley became a worldwide viral sensation for his gyrating hips and rock-n-roll music. Yet, he also dipped his toes into the world of movies.

He had performed in various movies like King Creole and Blue Hawaii in the past. In addition, he had some Western movie experience when he starred in Love Me Tender. According to IMDb, the movie is a Western set during the end of the American Civil War.

Elvis plays the role of Clint Reno, the brother of a Confederate soldier who becomes involved in a train robbery. The movie was released in 1956, just as Elvis became a rising star. As a result, he grabbed the attention of another acting veteran.

Love Me Tender was the hitmaker’s first movie role. Little did he know, John Wayne was watching at home. As a result, Wayne decided he wanted to collaborate with the rising star.

Elvis Presley’s manager decides on True Grit role

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

As Smith described, anytime anyone wanted to collab with The King, it was “always carried through Colonel.” Presley was at the height of his fame around this time. According to Smith, “Colonel didn’t want him to play … second star with anybody else.” 

Sadly, Presley would miss out on the role of LeBoeuf. In addition, he wouldn’t get to join forces with one of the genre’s most beloved figures. Glen Campbell would instead take on the part. 

However, maybe the decision happened for a better reason. When the film was released in 1969, it was a critical moment for Presley’s career. In December of 1968, just before True Grit premiered, Presley embarked on his now-legendary “comeback special.” In 1969, he delivered almost 60 performances at the magnificent International Hotel in Las Vegas. 

During this whirlwind of a year, Presley proved the point of his manager: Elvis Presley would play second fiddle to nobody, even John Wayne. 

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