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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Favorite Movies of All Time

In 1977, legendary actor John Wayne gave movie fans a rare insight into his personal tastes when he revealed his top five favorite films. The True Grit actor named the films for The People’s Almanac Volume II, one of a series of books that collected random, often off-beat factoids about history and culture. The book’s authors and editors, David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, asked every living Oscar-winning actor at the time to provide their favorites, and Wayne was one of the respondents. His written response was auctioned off in 2011, giving us the chance to see his choices in his writing
Wayne finally won an Oscar in 1970 for Best Actor, for his performance in True Grit, a well-earned honor after a career than spanned six decades. It should be no surprise, then, that his favorite films would include some early classics from Hollywood’s golden age, although you’ll likely be surprised by his number one choice, as it is not the sort of film you would associate with Wayne.
In perhaps true John Wayne fashion, two of his favorite movies were his own films. However, his selection of those films, as you’ll see, was likely due to his fondness for John Ford, his close friend and collaborator who directed the two films. Film critics also happen to consider them classics in their own right, so we can perhaps understand why Wayne included them on his personal favorites list as well.
5The Quiet Man (1952)

John Wayne in The Quiet Man

Republic Pictures

The Quiet Man is not your typical John Wayne film, which may be why The Duke loves it enough to put it in his top five favorites. Some people may not care for westerns, and others may bristle at war films, but everyone can love The Quiet Man, a romantic comedy/drama from legendary director John Ford. Wayne’s film collaborations with Ford are among the finest films ever made, but this film broke from their usual fare of westerns and war films to make a light-hearted dramedy that retains its charm more than 70 years after its release.
Ford plays an American who returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, in an effort to escape his past. He falls in love with a feisty local woman, played to perfection by Maureen O’Hara. She and Wayne made five films together, becoming life-long friends in the process and an enduring on-screen duo, which is likely why this film made his favorites list. The film has become a traditional watch for St. Patrick’s Day, as many movie fans view it to celebrate Irish life and culture.
4The Searchers (1956)

John Wayne in the western movie The SearchersWarner Bros.

Arguably director John Ford’s best film, The Searchers is an exquisite tale about a man’s search for vengeance and justice. Wayne plays a Civil War veteran who sets out to find his niece, who has been kidnaped by Comanches who massacred his family. Although it has all the trappings of a western, the film never falls into the genre’s easy tropes, and the ending is iconic.
Amazingly, the film didn’t score a single Academy Award nomination, in a year that saw Around the World in 80 Days inexplicably beat out Giant and The Ten Commandments for Best Picture. Wayne considered this his favorite film role, and even named one of his sons Ethan in honor of it, so its inclusion on his favorites list makes sense.

3The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 1921Rex Ingram Productions

Some have confused Wayne’s selection of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as the 1962 version directed by Vincente Minnelli. In fact, Wayne preferred the 1921 silent version starring Rudolph Valentino, who plays a Frenchman who marries into a Spanish family torn apart by World War I. The film was the biggest box office hit of the year, and made Valentino a superstar.
The film itself, while an interesting watch, hasn’t aged well over time. Like many silent films, it’s heavy on the melodrama, but at two-and-a-half hours long, it is an exhausting watch and wears out its welcome quickly. The film incorporates some interesting religious symbolism to sell the idea of World War I as a Biblically apocalyptic event, a bit novel for the time.
According to biographer Scott Eyman, a 13-year-old Wayne was so obsessed with the film, he saw it twice a day for an entire week at the movie theater in Glendale, California, where the family lived. The film sparked a cultural sensation with Spanish culture and the tango, and it may have fostered young Wayne’s self-proclaimed fondness for Latin women. He would marry three times in his life, all to Latina women.
2Gone with the Wind (1939)

Annual Gone with the Wind Screening Canceled for Being Racially InsensitiveLoew’s, Inc.

Gone with the Wind isn’t the universally-praised epic it once was, as America comes to terms with the film’s problematic depiction of the Civil War and slavery. It’s impossible to defend the film’s romanticized view of slavery and the South, but it is possible to appreciate the film’s performances, technical achievements, and outstanding storytelling. To this day, it remains one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, despite being a cultural product of the times. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh among the most iconic romantic couples ever put on film.
At the time of its making, filmmakers assured civil rights activists that the film would not engage in demeaning black stereotypes, but Butterfly McQueen’s character did just that. Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy, however, becomes the conscience of the viewers in her role; she says exactly what the audience is thinking. Her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress was an important first step in Black actors gaining acceptance in Hollywood.
Wayne’s reputation has taken a hit over some controversial comments made during his lifetime, but his selection of Gone With The Wind as a favorite film should not cause anyone to make assumptions. Even today, critics recognize its greatness and importance in film history. Surprisingly, Wayne loved the film, even though he didn’t like Clark Gable at all. HBO Max offers Gone With The Wind to stream, but with disclaimer videos that provide context and discussion about the film.
1A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Robert Shaw as Henry VIII in A Man for all SeasonsColumbia Pictures

A Man for All Seasons is an interesting choice, and an unexpected one as Wayne’s top film. Based on the play by Robert Bolt (the writer of Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia), the film tells the story of an English nobleman Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) who refuses to bow to the King’s demand to accept his defiance of the Catholic Church, so he can divorce and remarry. Facing imprisonment and potential execution, More must decide whether his principles are worth losing everything.
The choice of the film as Wayne’s favorite is perhaps a glimpse into the man himself. Wayne’s conservative values were often at odds with a more liberal Hollywood, especially when the 1960s shifted American culture. His embrace of a film in which a principled character who faced persecution likely resonated with him in the mid-1970s.
The film won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Scofield), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The great Robert Shaw (Jaws) was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for his scenery-chewing role as King Henry VIII, but was not rewarded. The film’s only drawback is its deliberate pacing, which at times slows to the point of tedium. It’s an intriguing character study, however, and worth a watch if you have the time and attention.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

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