Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Birthday John Wayne!

As much as I love movies and stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, much to my surprise, I've not written once about John Wayne. Shame on me, but I make amends on his birthday. Below is the scene that made Wayne the recognizable face that is known all over the world. Yet, he received second billing to Claire Trevor. But as they say, the rest is history. There aren't many people whose image is bigger than the human being, but John Wayne is. He is as big if not bigger than Superman and Mickey Mouse.

But what many people may not be familiar with is that aside from "The Big Trail" which was a huge flop then is that for almost 15 years, he was basically a struggling B-movie actor who worked in about 100 movies until "Stagecoach". Then from 1940 until he retired in 1976, he made another 100 movies or so almost always as the star or co-star. He certainly had a tremendous work ethic. It probably didn't leave much time for anything else. In particular I enjoyed his brief role in "Baby Face" where Barbara Stanwyck had his way with him. Just trying to get my head around Wayne wearing a suit and tie, working the 9-5 grind as a banker in the Big Apple takes a leap of imagination. He certainly belongs out west. It disappoints me that Barbara and John never made another movie together. She could have been the sidekick of sorts that Maureen O'Hara would later fulfill. I also would have liked to have seen Wayne and Clint Eastwood in a movie. I read once that Eastwood once commented that he pitched a story idea to Wayne once, but Wayne rejected him out of hand because he felt Eastwood's movies were too violent.

Plenty has been said about Wayne's life and career and I won't need to add anything more. I do however find Wayne's career following a similar trajectory that was going on in national and international affairs. He goes from being an upstart who took on whatever job he could get, finally broke through after earning his stripes, stayed on top for a long time and ended it in a proper fashion with "The Shootist". That is just the way he would have wanted it.

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