Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Hero - John Wayne
'Oscar and I have a lot in common,' he said. 'We both came to Hollywood in 1928 and we're both a little weather beaten but we're still here. And plan to be around a whole lot longer.'
Two months later The Duke was dead. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour, the highest tribute that can be paid to an American and it was well deserved.
For all of Wayne' s controversial aspects and his often ultra right wing politics, to many people he was America, and to people all over the world John Wayne represented all that was great about the country.
Wayne was the one American actor who symbolized strength, bravery, patriotism and manliness.
Wayne's image as the ultimate American fighting for right was cultivated in the world war II movies, The Flying Tigers (1942) and The Fighting Seebees (1941). And in the aftermath of Hiroshima, when the American military might was most in need of justification in Back to Bataan and They Were Expendable. Later Wayne would portray America as glorious and righteous in the gung ho, The Sands of Iwo Jima. The simplistic nature of these movies has been criticized and with them Wayne himself - but Wayne firmly believed in the values he preached and even if his right wing politics were often hard to stomach there is no denying his importance as an actor.
This can not be denied and Wayne still stands as the ultimate action star. There are perhaps only two entertainers who truly represent the American Dream and John Wayne is one of them with Elvis Presley being the other. For both men were complex and often troubled personalities but in terms of stardom no stars ever burned brighter.
Though not all of Wayne's characters were idealised Americans - Ethan Edwards in the western masterpiece, The Searchers is portrayed by Wayne as a psychopath trapped in the darkness of his own mind and Tom Dunston in Red River is a spiteful, repulsive man. These men more represent the American Nightmare than the American Dream.
'I hope you die,' Marty Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) screams at Wayne's Ethan Edwards in The Searchers to which Wayne replies, 'That'll be the day.'
Wayne though did die but his image has endured and even the uncovering of the darker side of his personality has only increased his legendary image. Will we ever forget him?
That'll be the day!