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john wayne ... "the duke"

john wayne
(1907 - 1979)

"life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid"

biographystagecoach 1939 video only $13.99

film actor, born marion michael morrison, on may 26, 1907, in winterset, iowa, usa - also known as "the duke.”

he was raised amidst the budding glamour of early hollywood.  while attending the university of southern california on a football scholarship, wayne worked as a set laborer and assistant propman on the fox lot.  after a succession of small parts in low-budget, matinee-fodder westerns films and serials, he achieved stardom as the ringo kid in john ford’s 1939 classic stagecoach. the critically acclaimed film would garner 7 academy awards nominations and help catapult john wayne into stardom.

he went on to make over 150 films, typically starring as a tough but warm-hearted gunfighter or lawman.

in the coming decades, wayne's persona--both on and off the screen--became symbols of the american spirit.  he played rugged, honest, straight-shooting men--sometimes world-weary, but always willing to fight for their beliefs.john wayne biography - american legend (1998) video $13.99  

classics of the western genre include she wore a yellow ribbon (1949), the man who shot liberty vallance (1962), and true grit (1969, oscar). 

later films include urban cop thrillers such as mcq (1974) and brannigan (1975).  he also directed the alamo (1960) and the green berets (1968).  his final performance was in the shootist (1976), portraying a legendary gunfighter dying of cancer - a poignant film, as he fought against lung and stomach cancer himself, finally succumbing to the disease in 1979.  john wayne remains one of hollywood’s most enduring heroes.

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john ford, she wore a yellow ribbon (1949) 1:43 hours
directed by john ford (1895-1973)she wore a yellow ribbon (1949) - $13.99 video

literary source
the short stories "war party" and "the big hunt" by james warner bellah

the film caste

  • john wayne - capt. nathan brittles

  • joanne dru - olivia dandridge

  • john agar - lt. flint cohill

  • ben johnson - sgt. tyree

  • harry carey jr. - lt. ross pennell

  • victor mclaglan - sgt. quincannon

  • mildred natwick - mrs abby allshard

  • chief john bigtree - pony that walks

second in the cavalry trilogy, regarded by some critics as the best of the three because of its colour photography, location shots in monument valley and the outstanding performance of john wayne.

again set in 1876, the career officer brittles is serving out the last days of duty on the frontier of the south west during the indian wars before he is to be forcibly retired.  the action takes place after the massacre of general custer and the 7th cavalry at little big horn when the arapaho indians are becoming more assertive.  on his last patrol brittles has to escort 2 young ladies from the fort to a stagecoach station at sudrow's wells and protect them from the warring indians. because he is "handicapped" with the women he cannot help save a patrol and an outpost from attack nor stop a delivery of rifles to the indians by unscrupulous whites.the alamo: original uncut version (1960) - video

after his retirement, brittles returns to the fort and attempts to speak directly to his indian friend chief pony-that-walks only to find that he too has been replaced by younger leaders like the warrior red shirt.  to prevent another outbreak of war brittles disperses the indians' horses by driving them through the indian camp thus preventing them from attacking the fort.

things to note

  • the sense of sadness and loss as brittles serves out the last days of his commission. sense of nostalgia for greater days when the cavalry was larger and more active during the civil war. the sense of frustration that career officers felt when posted to frontier forts to fight a savage enemy.

  • the inscription on the watch the men give brittles when he leaves ("lest we forget" the motto on many war memorials) which he cannot read because of failing eyesight.

  • the opening statement that "custer is dead and around the bloody guidons of the seventh cavalry lie the two hundred and twelve officers and men he led" thus linking the film to the custer-like massacre and defeat of lt. col. thursday in the first film of the trilogy.

  • the theme of leadership, the need for experienced leaders to prevent younger "hot heads" from foolishly going to war.  the idea that 1,000 men like brittles made the usa. chief pony-that-walks tells brittles:

  • too late nathan. "young men do not listen to me. they listen to big medicine. yellow-haired custer dead. buffalo come back. bad sign. too late, nathan. you come with me. hunt buffalo together. smoke many pipes. we are too old for war." (sinclair, p. 145).

    to which brittles replies:  "yes, we are too old for war. but old men should stop wars."

the closing narration makes clear the role the military played in state-building:

from fort reno to fort apache, from sheridan to starke, they were all the same men in dirty-shirt blue, and only a cold page in the history books to mark their passing.  but wherever they rode, and whatever they fought for, that place became the united states.

ronald reagan:  "there is no one who more exemplifies the devotion to our country, its goodness, its industry and its strengths than john wayne."

john wayne's own words

sure i wave the american flag. do you know a better flag to wave? sure i love my country with all her faults. i'm not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be. i was proud when president nixon ordered the mining of haiphong harbor, which we should have done long ago, because i think we're helping a brave little country defend herself against communist invasion. that's what i tried to show in the green berets and i took a lot of abuse from the critics. 

we must always look to the future. tomorrow - the time that gives a man just one more chance - is one of the many things that i feel are wonderful in life. so's a good horse under you. or the only campfire for miles around. or a quiet night and a nice soft hunk of ground to sleep on. a mother meeting her first-born. the sound of a kid calling you dad for the first time. there's a lot of things great about life. but i think tomorrow is the most important thing. comes into us at midnight very clean. it's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. it hopes we've learned something from yesterday. 

perhaps you remember the scene from the alamo, when one of davy crockett's tenesseans said: "what are we doing here in texas fighting - it ain't our ox that's getting gored." crockett replied: "talkin' about whose ox gets gored, figure this: a fella gets in the habit of gorin' oxes, it whets his appetite. may gore yours next." unquote. and we don't want people like kosygin, mao tse-tung, or the like, "gorin' our oxes." 

proportionally, the vietnamese have lost twice as many fighting men in their battle for freedom as we lost in the second world war. . . . imagine the equivalent percentage of our leadership being murdered. that would be around 250,000, which would be enough to include every mayor, every governor, every senator, and every member of the house of representatives and their combined families. 

if it hadn't been for football and the fact i got my leg broke and had to go into the movies to eat, why, who knows, i mighta turned out to be a liberal democrat.  

i have found a certain type calls himself a liberal . . .now i always thought i was a liberal. i came up terribly surprised one time when i found out that i was a right-wing, conservative extremist, when i listened to everybody's point of view that i ever met, and then decided how i should feel. but this so-called new liberal group, jesus, they never listen to your point of view. 

if everything isn't black and white, i say why the hell not. 

when the road looks rough ahead, remember the "man upstairs" and the word hope. hang onto both and "tough it out." 

from the alamo:  "when i came down to texas, i was looking for something, i didn't know what. . . . had me some money, had me some medals; but none of it seemed a lifetime worth the pain of the mother that bore me. it's like i was empty. well, i'm not empty anymore. that's what's important. i feel useful in this old world - to hit a lick for what's wrong, or to say a word for what's right, even though you get walloped for saying that word. there's right and there's wrong, you gotta do one or the other. you do the one and you're living, you do the other and you may be walking around but you're as dead as a beaver hat." 

from the undefeated:" may you be in heaven, half-an-hour before the devil finds out you're dead. 

from the shootist:  "i won't be wronged. i won't be insulted, and i won't be laid a hand on. i don't do these things to other people, and i require the same from them."