Friday 23 January 2009


'Get off your horse and drink your milk.' My father always used to say that to me in his best John Wayne voice.I think it's a paraphrase from The Cowboys.

There are a great many actors who I think were better than John Wayne but I can think of only a few that I love without reservation - Clint Eastwood, Humphrey Bogart, James Stewert and John Wayne.

As a man Wayne was often vilified for his politics but as an actor he was America, or specifically frontier America.

Some of his performance were clunky but think of all the seamless classics he's been a part of, most of them as the lead.

RED RIVER, THE SEARCHERS, THE QUIET MAN, THE SHOOTIST, TRUE GRIT, FORT APACHE, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, RIO BRAVO, RIO GRANDE, HONDO, SANDS OF IWO JIMA, SON'S OF KATIE ELDER, STAGECOACH - the list could go on and on......the thing with Wayne is that even his lesser movies are watchable.

Wayne was also the first singing cowboy - he may have been dubbed but he made several B movies as a signing cowboy. The hilarious video below shows him as Singing Sandy.


The Searchers is for many people, myself included, the best western ever. And even doubters would have to admit WAYNE's performance as the racist Ethan Edwards is a wonderful highly nuanced piece of acting. He should have got the Oscar for this and this oversight was probably the reason Wayne eventually got the award for True Grit.

True Grit is a great movie but hardly the classic The Searchers is - Red River also contains a similarly brilliant performance as does Wayne's part in the feel good classic, The Quiet Man.

Perhaps the only other western actor that comes close is Clint Eastwood.

So next time there's a John Wayne movie playing settle back and watch a true American icon at work.

Now - 'Get off your horse and drink your milk.'

This Post is Dedicated to The Duke - loved by generations.



I liked the performances by Richard Berton and Clint Eastwood, especially when they were together in 'Where Eagles Dare'. That picture is still in my memory, along with the unforgettable Cleopatra.

Naval Langa

Another Interesting Blog

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Ahh Richard Burton, a Welshman like myself sir.

Barrie said...

We love the same cowboys. :)

Anonymous said...

The Searchers is excellent indeed. I think it would be in the top five all time greats.

Jo Walpole said...

It's funny because I wouldn't even mention John Wayne as being one of my favourite actors and yet several of his films are my favourites and my western collection is dominated by them. FYI (tee hee, private joke) my favs are The Cowboys, Sons of Katie Elder, Eldorado, Cahill, Red River, Big Jake, Rio Bravo and True Grit in no particular order. I've probably missed some but that's the thing about JW films, you don't realise you like them until you sit down on a rainy Sunday afternoon and 'have' to watch one 'because it's on'. I'm told I write my westerns like old JW films so I suppose that's a sub-conscious compliment to him.

Anonymous said...

Jo, Certainly in NZ it's difficult to build up any DVD western collection without finding it dominated by JW movies. I think it's another case of the lazy marketing people exploiting a selling "name", regardless of whether it's the name's best or worst. That said, some of the movies mentioned here are among my fav, too, though I wouldn't want any of my books to be seen as inspired by some of the terrible 1930s B-movies with their singing cowboys! The only time I've been conscious of being inspired by an actor was when I wrote A Gunfight Too Many (the BHW Hale is actually reprinting!). Sheriff Sam Hammond -- conscious of his years, sometimes wondering just why he'd become a lawman in the first place, contemplating retirement and complete with an impressive mustache -- is, of course, consciously modeled on Sam Elliott (free online excerpt at

Jo Walpole said...

Chap - no, even I'd take offence at my writing being compared to a very early, singing B movie. LOL Still, horses for courses.

wiggle said...

I like those old 1930's B's.

Anonymous said...

Hope my B-movies comment didn't offend Wiggle or anyone else. It wasn't intended that way. They're fine as nostalgia, or unintentional humor, but not for promotion as great movies of all time, which is the way they're usually packaged. And I'd have to stand by my comment that they would be terrible as templates for fiction aimed at a twenty-first century audience.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Chap I agree - can you imagine trying to have to write the scene where the grim faced gunfighter sits down and serenades his horse!

Barbara Martin said...

For western stars, you've named my favourites as well. I also liked Stagecoach, the 1939 version with John Wayne.

By the time John Wayne got his oscar for True Grit, he was comfortable in his western roles. He also rode his own Quarter Horses bred on his ranch in California.

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