One of my most favorite John Wayne movies is 'The Big Trail' It was his first and he was outstanding from the start
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One of my most favorite John Wayne movies is 'The Big Trail' It was his first and he was outstanding from the start
November 1978 — Williamsburg Virginia
John Wayne and Perry Como were in Williamsburg Virginia doing a Christmas Special for television. My singing group "The Sweet Adelines" got to sing for and meet Perry Como. We were supposed to sing for John Wayne too, but he had an emergency back home . We sang "You Light Up My Life" because these two men sure lit up a lot of lives, and we will always remember John Wayne for his "All American Spirit" and the Great Movies he gave to us! He was one of my favorite movie stars! Peggy Woodward.
1979 — Iowa
John Wayne is an All-American Hero ! My Personal favorite. . . "Courage is not the lack of Fear, but being afraid and saddling-up anyway !" John Wayne (added by Barbara Ennis Connolly)
Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom
John Wayne's enduring status as an iconic American was formally recognized by the United States Congress on May 26, 1979, when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Hollywood figures and American leaders from across the political spectrum, including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Mike Frankovich, Katharine Hepburn, General and Mrs. Omar Bradley, Gregory Peck, Robert Stack, James Arness, and Kirk Douglas, testified to Congress of the merit and deservedness of this award. Most notable was the testimony of Robert Aldrich, then president of the Directors Guild of America: "It is important for you to know that I am a registered Democrat and, to my knowledge, share none of the political views espoused by Duke. However, whether he is ill disposed or healthy, John Wayne is far beyond the normal political sharp shooting in this community. Because of his courage, his dignity, his integrity, and because of his talents as an actor, his strength as a leader, his warmth as a human being throughout his illustrious career, he is entitled to a unique spot in our hearts and minds. In this industry, we often judge people, sometimes unfairly, by asking whether they have paid their dues. John Wayne has paid his dues over and over, and I'm proud to consider him a friend and am very much in favor of my Government recognizing in some important fashion the contribution that Mr. Wayne has made."
Maureen O'Hara, Wayne's close friend, initiated the petition for the medal and requested the words that would be placed onto the medal: "It is my great honor to be here. I beg you to strike a medal for Duke, to order the President to strike it. And I feel that the medal should say just one thing, 'John Wayne, American.'" The medal crafted by the United States Mint has on one side John Wayne riding on horseback, and the other side has a portrait of Wayne with the words, "John Wayne, American." This Congressional Gold Medal was presented to the family of John Wayne in a ceremony held on March 6, 1980, at the United States Capitol. Copies were made and sold in large numbers to the public.
On June 9, 1980, Wayne was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter (at whose inaugural ball Wayne had appeared "as a member of the loyal opposition", as Wayne described it in his speech to the gathering). Thus Wayne received the two highest civilian decorations awarded by the United States government.
Awarded by the President of the United States Type Medal Awarded for "An especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." Status Active Statistics Established 1945 First awarded 1946 Distinct
recipients more than 20,000 distinct medals Precedence Next (lower) Presidential Citizens Medal
Ribbon bar of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a decoration.
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 a 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.
By the early 1960's, 161 of his films had grossed $350 million, and he had been paid as much as $666,000 to make a movie--although in his early days on screen, his salary ran to no more than two or three figures a week.
It was rarely a simple matter to find a unanimous opinion on Mr. Wayne, whether it had to do with his acting or his politics. Film critics were lavish in praise of him in some roles and shrugged wearily as they candled his less notable efforts; one critic, apparently overexposed to westerns, angered him by commenting, "It never Waynes, but it pours."
Mr. Wayne was co-director and star of "The Green Berets," a 1968 film that supported the United States action in Vietnam. The movie was assailed by many major critics on all grounds, political and esthetic, but the public apparently did not mind; in only six months, it had earned $1 million above its production cost of $7 million.
Won Growing Respect
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.
Overcame Great Odds
Appearances were not altogether deceiving. Mr. Wayne loved adventure and the outdoors. He did believe that things were either right or wrong, and he came back against great odds. In 1964, a malignant tumor was removed from his chest and left lung, and within several months he was on location making another movie.
More recently, he found himself the target of much hate mail from the right wing, whose political idol he had been, after he supported President Carter's espousal of the Panama Canal treaties. He did not mind. Although his basic views had not moderated, his tolerance, it seemed, had. He had even shown up at a function to congratulate Jane Fonda, who was to the left what he was to the right, on winning a screen award.
Mr. Wayne made his last public appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony in April, where he drew an emotional standing ovation when he strode out on stage to present the Oscar for best picture.
He was recently presented with a special Congressional medal of the kind given to such national figures as the Wright Brothers.
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.
Watched Movies Being Made
"When I started, I knew I was no actor and I went to work on this Wayne thing," he once recalled. "It was as deliberate a projection as you'll ever see. I figured I needed a gimmick, so I dreamed up the drawl, the squint and a way of moving meant to suggest that I wasn't looking for trouble but would just as soon throw a bottle at your head as not. I practiced in front of a mirror."
His entrance into films was as fortuitous as any made by a young fellow who grew up near the Hollywood badlands. But the Wayne saga actually started much farther east, in the small town of Winterset, Iowa, where he was born May 26, 1907, and was named Marion Michael Morrison.
His father, Clyde L. Morrison, had a drugstore, but when Marion was 6 years old, his father, because of ill health, moved the family to Southern California and became a homesteader with an 80-acre farm. Not long after, the family settled in Glendale, where Mr. Morrison again went opened a pharmacy. His store was in the same building as a theater, and young Marion, who rose at 4 A.M. to deliver newspapers and then, after school and football practice, delivered orders from the store, went to the movies four or five times a week, free.
Even earlier, when he was 7, he had learned about horses and played cowboy. In Glendale, he saw movies being made at the Triangle Studios, where they often shot outdoor scenes. The link between horse and camera was yet to be forged, but the influences were there from the beginning. Along the way he had acquired the nickname "Duke." It came from an Airedale terrier he had had, he used to say as he debunked press releases that tried to explain the moniker as some sort of rubbed-off nobility.
Came to Ford's Attention
He worked as truck driver, fruit picker, soda jerk and ice hauler and was an honor student and a member of an outstanding football team at high school. His athletic talents brought him a football scholarship at the University of Southern California, but in his second year he broke an ankle and dropped out.
While he was still at school, he got a job, as other football players did, as a scenery mover at Fox Films. John Ford was attracted to the youth's hulking physique and made him a "fourth-assistant prop boy." When Mr. Ford was making a submarine film on location in the channel off Catalina Island, the regular stuntmen refused to go into the water because of rough seas. Mr. Ford asked the prop boy if he would. He did, immediately, and became part of the Ford team.
In an early film, Republic Pictures gave him a screen credit as Michael Burn and, in another, as Duke Morrison. When Raoul Walsh cast him as the star of "The Big Trail," his expensive, $2 million western, the director thought that Marion was too sissified a name for a western hero, and "John Wayne" was born.
Rode in 40 Westerns
The movie was a flop. It had been shot as a talking picture on 72-millimeter film, a "superwestern" designed for large screens that required projection equipment that few movie houses were equipped with.
After two nonwesterns, Mr. Wayne retreated into short-order horse operas. Between 1933 and 1939, he made more than 40 westerns, all Grade B or C undertakings, interspersed with several that took him off the range but not into any particular recognition.
Then, like a good guy riding in to relieve the oppressed, his old benefactor, Mr. Ford, came along to cast Mr. Wayne as the Ringo Kid in the Oscar-winning "Stagecoach," the 1939 movie that took westerns from the Saturday afternoon for-kids-only category and attracted the attention of more intellectual film critics. It was a turning point also for Mr. Wayne.
His next major role found him in a milieu far from the cactus sets. He played a simple Swedish lad in the crew of a freighter in "The Long Voyage Home," Mr. Ford's 1940 film based on the sea plays of Eugene O'Neill.
Mr. Wayne's work from that point reads like a bill of lading of popular Hollywood wares. He starred with Marlene Dietrich in three films: "Seven Sinners" (1940), "Pittsburgh" (1943) and "The Spoilers" (1942). Others included Cecil B. De Mille's "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942), as well as a slew of World War II movies that embraced Mr. Ford's "They Were Expendable" in 1945.
Later came "Fort Apache" and "Red River," in 1948, and "Three Godfathers" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," both in 1949. In 1952, Mr. Wayne showed off to best effect as the young Irish-American returned to Ireland in Mr. Ford's "The Quiet Man." It was a much-acclaimed film and is still a frequent feature on television.Invested in 'The Alamo'
By the late 1940's, Mr. Wayne had already been transformed from a dashing young adventurer to an older one, no less dashing, but in a somewhat more restrained tempo. In "Red River," directed by Mr. Hawks, Mr. Wayne portrayed a ruthless cattle baron, not altogether a good guy, but one with some depth to him. In this instance, Montgomery Clift, the co-star, represented the forces for good.
Mr. Wayne invested $1.2 million in 1960 to make "The Alamo," about the fight between the Americans--the good guys--and the Mexicans--the bad guys. He played Davy Crockett. The picture was very dear to his heart because, he said, "We wanted to re-create a moment in history that will show this generation of Americans what their country still stands for. . .what some of their forebears went through to win what they had to have or die--liberty and freedom."
He was bitterly disappointed when the film failed. However, he quickly went on to other work: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Hatari" and "The Longest Day," all in 1962; "How the West Was Won" in 1963, and "El Dorado" in 1967, another film directed by Mr. Hawks.
In 1969, Mr. Wayne was almost universally hailed when he starred in "True Grit," directed by Henry Hathaway. Mr. Wayne played a disreputable, one-eyed, drunken, fat old man who was a Federal Marshal called Rooster Cogburn. In 1970, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him an Oscar for his portrayal.
The success of "True Grit" led to "Rooster Cogburn," in 1975, in which he co-starred with Katherine Hepburn in her first western.
Mr. Wayne starred in his first television special, "Swing Out, Sweet Land," a paean of patriotism, in 1970, and later became well-known for various television appearances. He never made a television series and had deep reservations about the medium's approach to the western.
"Television has a tendency to reach a little," he observed, referring to television westerns' propensities for psychological insights. "In their westerns, they are getting away from the simplicity and the fact that those men were fighting the elements and the rawness of nature and didn't have time for this couch-work."
His anti-Communist sentiments led Mr. Wayne to help found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in 1944, and he was its president for two terms.
The organization, which eventually disbanded, was accused of having given the names of suspected Communists in the film industry to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, although Mr. Wayne said later that he had never been party to any such thing.
Once, interviewed about civil rights, he said: "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to the point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people."
He said that when he was in school, he was a "socialist," but not for long. He said that he was a rebel, but not one like the youngsters of the late 60's.
"Mine is a rebellion against the monotony of life," he said. "The rebellion in these kids-- particularly the S.D.S.'ers and those groups--seems to be a kind of dissension by rote."
In his later years, Mr. Wayne, who had invested in oil and also in a shrimp business in Panama, among other things, became more financially conservative than he had been. He had not kept a very tight hand on his money earlier, and at one point realized he was not as well off as he had thought.
However, he was not impoverished. He lived with his third wife, Pilar Palette Wayne, who was born in Peru, in an 11-room, seven-bathroom, $175,000 house in Newport Beach, Calif., where he had a 135-foot yacht. He owned cattle ranches in Stanfield and Springerville, Ariz.
Mr. Wayne's first two marriages, to Josephine Saenz and Esperanzo Bauer, also Latin Americans, ended in divorces. He had seven children from his marriages, and more than 15 grandchildren.
John Ford and John Wayne — a friendship and professional collaboration that spanned 50 years, changed each others’ lives, changed the movies, and in the process, changed the way America saw itself. It was a relationship that reflected all the elements and all the paradoxes of 20th century America — generosity of spirit, abuse of power, a sense of loyalty, and a restless nationalism that didn’t quite know what to do with itself.
Ford had been a successful director for over a decade when he met Marion Morrison, at the time a young USC student working a summer job on the Fox lot as an assistant property man. He saw something in Morrison and gave the “kid” a few walk-ons in his films. Within two years Morrison had changed his name to John Wayne and Ford, very pleased with the young man’s work, recommended him to Raoul Walsh, another director on the lot.
Walsh was about to start one of the biggest films Fox had produced to date, THE BIG TRAIL, and the director gave Wayne the lead. The film ultimately flopped and Wayne’s career was quickly relegated to grade C westerns on poverty row. This was a situation many felt Ford could have stepped in to remedy, but over the next decade all the struggling young actor heard was that “Pappy was keeping an eye out for a script that would best suit the Duke,” his affectionate nickname for Wayne.
As Wayne’s career stalled Ford’s roared ahead; he was now one of the biggest directors in Hollywood. But the two men stayed friends — as long as it was clear who was boss.
During these years, Ford (contrary to popular myth, which portrays him as a simple-minded, flag-waving conservative,) gained a reputation inside Hollywood political circles as a staunch Roosevelt Democrat. Wayne on the other hand had virtually no political opinions — his focus was on his career and family. The bond between the two men was largely the result of long cruises to Mexico and the Pacific Island chains on Ford’s yacht “Araner.” These jaunts, where Ford was accompanied by Wayne, Henry Fonda, Ward Bond, and others looked like nothing more than drunken pleasure trips, and for Wayne and the others that’s what they were. Unbeknownst to his passengers however, director Ford was spying. Since the mid-thirties Ford had been covertly photographing shorelines and shipping lanes for the American military in preparation for a war many in the War Department felt was inevitable.
It was after one of these voyages in 1938 that Ford teasingly asked Wayne to read the script of his next picture. Could Duke give him “some advice on what young actor might play the role of the Ringo Kid?”
The script was STAGECOACH and Ford, after finally giving the part to the hungry actor, proceeded to taunt and belittle him throughout weeks of filming. Whether it was Ford’s infamously sadistic personality or a clever ploy to have the other actors support Wayne, the end result brought forth the persona that would come to be known as The Duke. The picture would make John Wayne a star overnight and bring the Western back to the forefront of American cinema.
Wayne would never forget it — not that there was any danger of Ford letting him.
When the war started almost two years later, Ford was already in uniform and had finished five pictures in the year and a half since STAGECOACH. Amongst them were YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THE LONG VOYAGE HOME, and HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY. But for Ford these were just movies. The war would be the greatest adventure of his life — a call to arms by the country he loved that had given him everything. It also set up a conflict between Wayne and Ford that would ultimately push Wayne into politics in a major way.
John Wayne was thirty-one-years old, married, and supporting three children when the war began. His newfound stardom was a realization of a dream he was not in a hurry to relinquish to a uniform. Throughout the war, Ford urged the young actor “to get in it,” and each time Wayne would beg off until he finished “just one more picture.” Ford was disappointed to say the least, and he let Wayne know it. Wayne was growing richer as other men died. As the war continued, Ford’s strong disappointment fueled a growing conflict between the men and fostered a sense of guilt within Wayne. Wayne’s decision to stay out of the service would haunt him for the rest of his life.
In the years following the war, Ford’s films grew increasingly nostalgic as his disillusionment with post-war America grew. Injustice, racism, and greed seemed to be replacing the values he felt he and others had fought for. On the other hand, as Ford grew more introspective, Wayne saw the world open up in front of him with each new movie triumph. As their perspectives changed so did their relationship.
Between the end of the war in 1945 and Ford’s death in 1972, the two men made twelve films together. Those films helped define how we saw ourselves, or put another way, how John Ford wished us to be as Americans. From, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, through the cavalry series — FORT APACHE, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, and RIO GRANDE — Ford made U.S. history both poetic and heroic. He also made John Wayne the personification of that history as well as the American male. Wayne the actor and star brought a reluctant power to those roles. That reluctant power was Ford’s principal and cherished idea of America’s greatness.
Being a symbol of America was a responsibility that ate away at Wayne. It was that sense of responsibility combined with his continuing guilt over not serving during the war that drove Wayne deeply into politics.
As the Cold War heated up and the Iron Curtain fell, Wayne began to merge his personal commitment to defending America with his screen persona. And from behind the camera, Ford’s vision of his country and his part in how it saw itself was shifting. With THE SEARCHERS, THE HORSE SOLDIERS, and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Ford would use the iconic image he’d helped Wayne create to cast light into the shadows of the country he loved. While Ford’s perspective may have grown darker, his love of America, its people and its landscape, never dimmed.
The growing difference of political opinion between the two men can be seen in two events. In late 1948, John Wayne became president of The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Including the actors Ward Bond and Adolphe Menjou, producers like Metro’s James McGuiness, and director Sam Wood, the organization saw its principle goal as hunting down subversive elements within the American film industry.
While Wayne was lending his star power to the anti-Communist forces, Ford was standing up at a historic Directors Guild meeting to stop the red hunters, led by C.B. DeMille, from firing the president of the Guild, Joe Mankiewicz, who they had come to view as dangerous. Ford famously rose after several hours of debate amongst the various factions and introduced himself humbly and ironically, “My name is John Ford and I make Westerns.” By the time he finished saying what he thought of DeMille for his sneak attack on Mankiewicz the tide had turned and DeMille and his followers had to do the resigning.
For the two friends politics became a topic that was left out of their conversations.
By the time the fifties ended John Wayne was the biggest star in the Western world. For Ford, who was pushing into his sixties, it was another story. His pictures were not the successes they once were and he found himself increasingly reliant on Wayne to get films done.
The politics, their careers, and the changing dynamics of their relationship would become clear on THE ALAMO.
THE ALAMO was John Wayne’s “vision of America’s greatness” — a simpler, more heroic America. He had been trying to get it made with himself as the director for years. Now at the height of his fame he was able to finally secure financing as long as he also starred. Under great pressure to prove himself he began production. He was barely a third of the way through when Ford showed up in Texas to “lend a hand.” Wayne was beside himself, he couldn’t just turn his mentor away. Finally Duke’s cameraman suggested they give Ford a second unit to shoot pick-up shots far away from the first unit. So Wayne, out of his own pocket, financed Ford to shoot a second unit. Very little was used in the finished film, but the rumors that Ford had to “save” Wayne were humiliating for the star.
By now it must have been clear to Ford that the son, so to speak, had surpassed the father. While THE ALAMO was hardly a huge success, it was now Wayne who wielded the power in the industry.
In later years as Ford struggled to get pictures made Wayne was always there for him, even on LIBERTY VALANCE, when the Duke had serious reservations about his part. If Pappy wanted him, that was it, the Duke showed up.