John Wayne: Here’s How The Duke Tried to Separate Himself as Western Icon From Actors Before Him

by Samantha Whidden

He’s known as a legend in the Western film genre, but John Wayne always tried to separate himself as a Western Icon from actors before him.

In a quote from the John Wayne estate, the actor states that he made up his mind that he was going to play a ‘real man’ to the best of his ability. “I felt many of the western stars of the twenties and thirties were too godda— perfect,” he says. 

The Duke made his first appearance as a leading man in the 1930 film The Big Trail. Although the film failed, he went on play in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939 and became widely known in the Western genre due to his performances in True Grit, The Quiet Man, Rio Bravo, and The Longest Day. 

John Wayne Talks ‘True Grit’ Success & Acting Career in 1969 Interview 

During a 1969 interview with Roger Ebert, John Wayne discusses his True Grit success.

“Whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance,” Wayne states. He also says he’d be pleased to win one, but he imagines that the award means more to the public than the actors.

“There are a lot of standbys who don’t have tone. That comedian… what the hell is his name? Gary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business.”

John Wayne says that he’s happy that Henry Hathaway was getting some credit after he was receiving “thankless jobs” at Fox. “They’d give him the problem pictures with three stars whose contracts all expired in six weeks. Henry was known as a craftsman, but his stature as a director wasn’t recognized.”

John Wayne also reflects about being nominated for Sands of Iwo Jima but not winning.

“Maybe this time they’ll review the picture instead of me and the war,” he says. John then declares that the “little clique back there in the East” took great personal satisfaction in reviewing his politics instead of his films. 

“They’ve drawn up a caricature of me,” John Wayne explains. “Which doesn’t bother me. Their opinions don’t matter to the people who go to movies.”

John Wayne ended up winning the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actor- Drama at the Golden Globes for his True Grit performance. 

John Calls Julie Andrews Refreshing & a Wonderful Performer 

Also during his interview with Egbert, John Wayne talks about Sound of Music star Julie Andrews. “Take that girl, Julie Andrews, a refreshing, openhearted girl, a wonderful performer.”

John also mentions Andrews’ struggle while being silent film actress Theda Bara, which wasn’t her image at all.

“They went along with her, and the picture fell on its face. A Goldwyn would have told her, ‘Look, dear, you can’t change your sweet and lovely image.”

John Wayne further explains that he is very conscious that people criticize Hollywood. “Yet we’ve created a form, the Western, that can be understood in every country. The good guys against the bad guys. You take action, a scene, and scenery, and cut them together, and you never miss,” Wayne adds.