In more than 200 films made over 50 years, John Wayne saddled up to become the greatest figure of one of America's greatest native art forms, the western.
The movies he starred in rode the range from out-of-the-money sagebrush quickies to such classics as Stagecoach and Red River. He won an Oscar as best actor for another western, True Grit, in 1969. Yet some of the best films he made told stories far from the wilds of the West, such as The Quiet Man and "The Long Voyage Home."
In the last decades of his career, Mr. Wayne became something of an American folk figure, hero to some, villain to others, for his outspoken views. He was politically conservative and, although he scorned politics as a way of life for himself, he enthusiastically supported Richard M. Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Spiro T. Agnew, Ronald Reagan and others who, he felt, fought for his concept of Americanism and anti-Communism.
But it was for millions of moviegoers who saw him only on the big screen that John Wayne really existed. He had not created the western with its clear-cut conflict between good and bad, right and wrong, but it was impossible to mention the word "western" without thinking of "the Duke," as he was called.
As the years passed, Mr. Wayne was recognized as some sort of American natural resource, and his various critics, political and film, looked on him with more respect. Abbie Hoffman, the radical of the 1960's paid tribute to Mr. Wayne's singularity. Reviewing The Cowboys, made in 1972, Vincent Canby, film critic of The New York Times, who did not particularly care for it, wrote, "Wayne is, of course, marvelously indestructible, and he has become an almost perfect father figure."
But years before he became anything close to a father figure, Mr. Wayne had become a symbolic male figure, a man of impregnable virility and the embodiment of simplistic, laconic virtues, packaged in a well-built 6-foot-4-inch, 225- pound frame.
He had a handsome and hearty face, with crinkles around eyes that were too lidded to express much emotion but gave the impression of a man of action, an outdoor man who chafed at a settled life. He was laconic on screen. And when he shambled into view, one could sense the arrival of coiled vigor awaiting only provocation to be sprung. His demeanor and his roles were those of a man who did not look for trouble but was relentless in tackling it when it affronted him. This screen presence emerged particularly under the ministrations of John Ford and Howard Hawks, the directors.
Between his first starring role in The Big Trail in 1930, and his last one, as the most celebrated gunslinger in the West who finds he is dying of cancer in The Shootist, in 1976, Mr. Wayne shot his way through generations of film fans with little change in style or personality. He had consciously adapted his posture for that first movie and retained it. He was sometimes inseparable from it in the flesh. June 12, 1979: By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Audio Interview with Scott Eyman, Author of: John Wayne:Life and Legend
John Wayne - All Star Party (1976)
Barbara Walters Interview - Wayne's Last Interview (1979)
Duke A Love Story: Interview with Pat Stacy, Dukes Secretary and Final Love (1983)
The Back Story of the Wild Goose.
NOTE: John Wayne Exhibit will be dedicated during Lone Pine 2017 film Festival