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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Favorite Films Of All Time (Including Two Of His Own)

Here are John Wayne’s Favorite Films of his own – which just happen to include two movies he starred in. Wayne had to work his way up to leading man status, and after many uncredited roles in 1920s movies, he spent much of the ’30s fronting low-budget, “poverty row” Westerns. It was 1939’s Stagecoach that changed his fortunes, with the film being both a major success and a landmark for the genre.
While Wayne is best known for Westerns – of which he made 80 – he appeared in many different types of movies during his heyday, including romantic dramas and war films. Of course, his screen persona rarely changed from film to film, as audiences often came to see a “John Wayne” movie first and foremost. His low-budget Westerns also saw him carefully craft his screen image, from his distinctive drawl, the way he walked and his innovative – for the time, at least – approach to screen fights.

Wayne was a star for over 30 years, but while he appeared in many classics, his controversial Playboy interview from 1971 came to haunt him. During this conversation, he openly expressed racist, homophobic and misogynist viewpoints, which caused an outcry shortly after its publication. It caused another in 2019 when the interview resurfaced. This has turned some cinephiles and viewers off the star, though Wayne – who was also known as “Duke” – work looms large from Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1977, The People’s Almanac (via Stars and Letters) sent out a poll to living Academy Award winners, asking for their top five choices for best movies and actors. Here are John Wayne’s favorite movies.
A Man For All Seasons (1966)

robert shaw in a man for all seasons

Wayne’s first choice is the historical drama A Man For All Seasons, starring Jaws‘ Robert Shaw and Orson Welles. The movie adapted the play of the same name and recounted the fate of Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England who refused King Henry VIII’s request for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be annulled. A Man For All Seasons was both a critical and commercial hit upon release and later won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Given his interest in history and men who hold true to their principles, it’s little surprise Wayne – who only made one sequel – was taken by the film.
Gone With The Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind movie

The next film on Wayne’s list is Gone With The Wind, the sweeping romantic epic from 1939. The story is set during the American Civil War and follows Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett and her marriage to Clark Gable’s Rhett. Despite being a troubled production the film was an enormous critical and commercial success, and in later years would regularly top lists of the greatest films ever made. Gone With The Wind is still held in high regard, though its depiction of slavery has come under fire in the decades since its release.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962)


Wayne’s third selection was The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, a remake of the classic silent film from the ’20s starring Rudolph Valentino. The remake was directed by Gigi’s Vincente Minnelli, with the story being an epic family drama set during World War 2. Lead Glenn Ford – co-star of Superman 1978 – was consideredly woefully miscast in the lead role, and the film received mixed reviews. The film was also a financial disaster for MGM, with the big budget production said to have lost the studio over $5 million at the box office. While it hasn’t been reappraised as a lost classic, the reception to the movie is warmer now than it was on its initial release, and it is recognized for being an ambitious – if flamed – melodrama.
The Searchers (1956)

Jeffery Hunter and John Wayne in The Searchers

One downside to John Wayne’s favorite film selection is that the star didn’t actually expand on the reasons he enjoyed a given film. At least with The Searchers, his fondness is a little easier to explain. The Searchers is a dark Western where Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a bigoted Civil War vet who teams with his nephew to find his niece, who was abducted by Native Americans. The Searchers – which was a big influence on Lucas’ Star Wars – was one of the first major Westerns to explore racism against Native Americans, and its style inspired future movies like Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Lawrence of Arabia.
The film is not only regarded as one of Wayne and Ford’s best movies but arguably one of the greatest Westerns ever made. The Searchers also has one of the most famous ending images in cinema, where – after completing his mission – Ethan chooses not to rejoin his family and is instead framed by a doorway as he retreats into the distance as the door closes on him. This is a visual that was later borrowed by Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather’s ending.
The Quiet Man (1952)

two main characters stand soaked in an archway in The Quiet Man

The final film on John Wayne’s list of favorite films is another Ford collaboration The Quiet Man. This follows Wayne’s retired boxer as he travels to Ireland after accidentally killing an opponent in the ring. The film was a change of pace for its star at the time, as it’s a romantic comedy instead of a Western or war drama. The Quiet Man has aged poorly in some regards, especially for playing into various comic stereotypes of the Irish. That said, it’s also considered one of Wayne’s best, and is also famed for its drawn-out fight scene; the latter would be homaged in the famous alley fight in John Carpenter’s They Live.
While the above topped John Wayne’s Favorite Films list, he’s also mentioned other favorites over the years. During a Q&A on Phil Donahue, Wayne – who only made one horror movie – also name-dropped Stagecoach as a favorite, stating he “loved” the movie for basically giving him a career. What’s interesting to note about the latter Western is despite the fact it’s more of an ensemble, Wayne’s Ringo Kid was the character that popped with audiences regardless. Wayne also name-checked the 1962 adventure Hatari!, which focused on game catchers in Africa. That film didn’t receive particularly strong reviews, but Wayne claimed to have enjoyed filming because it was essentially a three-month safari experience for “free.”

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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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