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I’ve been wanting to add the Duke to this list of role models and people I admire for some time now.
I’m not the big western fanatic my older brother is, and even though I’ve seen my fair share over the years (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Big Valley, the brilliant Little Big Man, Cat Ballou, Young Guns, Silverado, Tombstone, Open Range, the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, and the History Channel's mini-series of the Hatfields and McCoys, to name a few), and I appreciate a good gunslinger tale from time to time, I have not seen a lot of the older westerns, and that includes the movies of John Wayne, who is most known for his westerns, though he has very rarely played a few other types from time to time, such as soldiers and cops in films like The Green Berets and Brannigan. Once upon a time, he even played Genghis Khan, in Howard Hughes’ The Conquerer from 1956, with a dismal 3.2 audience rating on the internet movie database. He wasn’t really the greatest actor. He never disappeared into his roles the way Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier were known to do back then, or that actors like Gary Oldman or Daniel Day Lewis manage to do these days, but then, fewer actors than you might think are able to do this with precision.
What he did do was exude realism, and dignity, and decency, and nobility, both onscreen and off. I’ve actually only seen John Wayne in a few movies: Rio Bravo, El Dorado, The Cowboys, and True Grit, and I’ve seen parts of The Quiet Man, and Rooster Cogburn, the sequel to True Grit. (Perhaps, after reading this, my brother will be nice enough to reply with other John Wayne movies that shouldn't be missed. What do you say, Scott?) And in each of these characters, and more, he displays bravery, morality, and courage under fire. In True Grit, he won an Oscar as Best Actor for playing an old, washed-up, one-eyed, drunken gunslinger, and still wound up the most noble character in the entire movie!
And then I recently came across a video on YouTube (linked here) in which he was a guest on Dean Martin’s variety show in 1966, and his words made me appreciate him all the more, especially in today’s day and age where people, not just actors, can be famous and idolized for being idiots, like Kim Kardashian, The Situation, and now, Miley Cyrus. When Martin asked about his new eight month old daughter at the time, and what John Wayne wanted for her, Wayne’s reply was what would be now be considered narrow-minded, but also ethical and elegant:
Well, ah, the same as any parent wants, I guess. I’d just like to stick around long enough to see she gets started right. I’d like her to know some of the values that we knew as kids; some of those values that too many people these days are thinking are old fashioned. Most of all, I want her to be grateful, as I am, every day in my life to live in these United States. I know it may sound corny, but the first thing my daughter’s learning from me is the Lord’s Prayer and some of the Psalms. And I really don’t care if she ever memorizes the Gettysburg Address, just so long as she understands it. And since little girls are seldom called upon to defend their country, she may never have to raise her hand for that oath, but I certainly want her to respect all those who do. I guess, um, that’s about what I want for my daughter, Dean.
If only our current president loved this country and the Lord as much as John Wayne did, but everything John Wayne stated in this little speech are things Obama and the liberals are always apologizing to the rest of the world for!
…and then we make such a big thing of Miley Cyrus “twerking”.
We need more people like John Wayne! And we need them badly!