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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.

John Wayne

John Wayne’s Cause of Death and His Last Words

John Wayne is a legendary Western movie star who the world will always recognize for his contributions to the medium. However, his final words on his deathbed didn’t have anything to do with movies or his career. Rather, he used them to speak sentimental, heartfelt words aimed at his daughter, Aissa Wayne, who stayed at his bedside.

John Wayne’s cause of death was stomach cancer

John Wayne wearing a cowboy hat

John Wayne | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

According to, Wayne died on June 11, 1979, of stomach cancer at the age of 72. However, it wasn’t his first encounter with cancer, as he fought it for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the doctors reported that the actor was too weak to begin chemotherapy and experimental treatment, which the actor approved of.

Wayne coined the term “The Big C” for cancer in 1964. He ultimately needed to have his left lung and four ribs removed. Wayne seemed to recover at the time, despite regularly being short of breath. However, he didn’t stop his habit of smoking and chewing tobacco regularly, which certainly didn’t help with his situation.

John Wayne’s last words were to his daughter, Aissa Wayne

Outsider confirmed that Wayne was surrounded by his family during his stay in the hospital. He was never left alone, as the doctors tried to do all they could to strengthen his physical state. However, their efforts ultimately failed. Wayne spent his last days before his death in and out of consciousness.

Wayne’s name is generally associated with a tough sense of masculinity, but he also had a sentimental side of him. These stories particularly come from his family, including Wayne’s final words.

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, was at his bedside at the time of his death. She was holding her father’s hand and asked him if he knew who she was. He responded with his last words, “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

‘The Shootist’ was his final acting role

Wayne’s final movie role before his death was starring as J.B. Books in The Shootist. The film follows his character, who is an aging gunfighter who has cancer. He heads to Nevada and rents a room from the widowed Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). Many folks confront Books for various reasons involving his notoriety. However, Books doesn’t plan to die quietly but will go out with a bang.

Wayne surprised critics and audiences with his performance, as many folks previously believed that he simply played himself in all of his roles. However, he wouldn’t ultimately earn an Oscar nomination for his role.

Wayne earned his first two Oscar nominations for Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, it wouldn’t be until 1969’s True Grit that he would finally earn the golden statue. Many of his fans still believe that he deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his final work on The Shootist.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Miserable’ Because of ‘Venomous Remarks’ on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Western genre went through a series of changes over the years. However, John Wayne will always remain one of the most iconic depictions of the Western film genre with performances in big titles, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he didn’t have such an easy time on the set. Wayne had a “miserable” time filming because of John Ford‘s “venomous remarks.”

John Wayne played Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard shouting at assembly

L-R: John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance follows Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) as he returns to a small town for a funeral. The press questions his arrival, but they’re about to hear the story of his connection to a local man named Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The story brings audiences back in town when Tom saved Stoddard from Liberty Valance’s (Lee Marvin) crew of outlaws. However, Stoddard and Tom are the only two willing to stand up to him and his crew.

Wayne’s performance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is iconic. He once again delivers his Western charm along with his repeated use of the line “pilgrim.” As a result, popular culture continues to refer back to the legendary actor’s performance.

John Wayne was ‘miserable’ because of John Ford’s ‘venomous remarks’ on the set

Wayne worked with Ford on many films, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, the filmmaker often targeted Wayne with “venomous remarks,” verbally attacking him. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth detailed some of the comments that Ford made toward the actor, which really made him angry.

“But the most damage Ford did was to the friendship me and Duke Wayne might have had,” co-star Woody Strode said “He kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player, and because I had been a professional player, Ford kept saying to Duke, ‘Look at Woody. He’s a real football player.’”

However, the comments didn’t stop there. Ford brought up Wayne not serving in the military while on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As a result, he praised Stewart’s service. This is a particular weak spot for the actor, who deeply regretted not serving in the military when he had the chance.

Strode continued: “It’s like he’d needle him about whatever reasons he had for not enlisting in the war by asking Jimmy, ‘How many times did you risk your life over Germany, Jimmy?’ And Jimmy would kind of go, ‘Oh, shucks’ or whatever, and Ford would say to Duke, ‘How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?’ … What a miserable film to make.”

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ goes down as one of the best Westerns of all time

Ford never came forward with a specific reason for verbally attacking Wayne on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Perhaps it was to get a better performance out of the actor. However, it clearly left an impact on the cast and crew.

Fortunately, that didn’t negatively impact the finished product. Wayne fans often assert that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the best Western films of all time. It continues to impact filmmaking to this day. The film only earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but it remains a classic that many viewers rewatch.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Ready For a Fight’ With His ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ Co-Star

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Wayne‘s most iconic roles. However, he didn’t have the most enjoyable time behind-the-scenes. Wayne’s frequent collaborator, John Ford, gave him a difficult time. As a result, he was “ready for a fight” with co-star Woody Strode, who once explained the severity of the situation.

John Wayne plays it tough as Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance finds Wayne playing a local man named Tom Doniphon in a small Western town. Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) comes into town for his funeral, which confuses the press. However, the distinguished man tells the story of how Tom helped protect him against a crew of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

Moviegoers embraced Wayne’s signature dialogue delivery. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance includes one of Wayne’s most iconic words: “pilgrim.” He repeatedly calls Stewart’s Stoddard this, which was an insult within the time period. Nevertheless, Tom maintains Western masculinity as shown in both his narrative and the way the actor plays the part. The character is typically accompanied by his handyman, Pompey (Strode)

John Wayne was ‘ready for a fight’ with co-star Woody Strode

Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth chronicles the iconic actor’s career, including his work on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford repeatedly harrassed Wayne on the set with rude remarks that intentionally pushed his buttons. However, the actor took it out on Strode.

“This really pissed Wayne off but he would never take it out on Ford,” Strode said. “He ended up taking it out on me. We had one of the few outdoor scenes where we hightail it out to his ranch in a wagon. He’s driving and I’m kneeling in the back of the wagon. Wayne was riding those horses so fast that he couldn’t get them to stop. I reached up to grab the reins to help, and he swung and knocked me away.”

Strode continued: “When the horses finally stopped, Wayne fell out of the wagon and jumped off ready for a fight. I was in great shape in those days and Wayne was just getting a little too old and a little too out of shape for a fight. But if he’d started on me, I would have flattened him. Ford knew it, and he called out, ‘Woody, don’t hit him. We need him.’”

However, Wayne ultimately calmed down to allow them to continue filming. Nevertheless, Strode felt that “miserable” tension on the set as a result of Ford’s behavior.

“Wayne calmed down, and I don’t think it was because he was afraid of me,” Strode recalled. “Ford gave us a few hours’ break to cool off. Later Wayne said to me, ‘We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals.’ But I blame Ford for all that trouble. He rode Wayne so hard, I thought he was going to go over the edge. What a miserable film to make.”

James Stewart has top billing on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ultimately gives Stewart top billing over Wayne in all of the promotional materials. However, the film itself and the theatre marquees place Wayne’s name above his co-star. Some audiences contemplate which role is truly the main character of the story, as they both experience hardship and change.

However, neither actor would get an Oscar nomination for their performances in one of the greatest Western movies ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only earned a nomination for Best Costume Design, although it lost to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Nevertheless, the movie remains a vital part of cinema history.

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