John Wayne said in 1976 that he always believed in America and always would.
The Duke was on The Phil Donahue Show when the topic came up. A woman in the crowd asked if he was optimistic about America’s future.
“I’ll always be optimistic about the future right up to when we stumble and fall down,” John Wayne replied.
1976 was a turbulent time in America. We were only two years out from President Richard Nixon resigning amid the Watergate Scandal. And our position as a superpower on the world stage seemed to rest on a knife’s edge. And John Wayne was one of our biggest exports for decades. His films were America to many people overseas who’d never visited the United States. He represented us to the rest of the world.
John Wayne was an outspoken patriot and had been throughout his career.
He even released a spoken word album of poetry called America, Why I Love Her that was nominated for a Grammy. You can hear him perform the titular track, written by John Mitchum — brother of Robert Mitchum, here.
Donahue Presses John Wayne on Violence in Movies
Earlier in the interview, Phil Donahue asked John Wayne if he felt films were too simplistic in how they resolve conflicts. A shootout is much easier than a treaty or following the Constitution, he opined. And he was curious if Wayne heard from fans asking him if violence was a just solution.
“People write me letters to tell me that that’s the way it should be done, and I write back and say ‘well why don’t you guys talk (to each other) once in a while,'” he said.
John Wayne pushed back on violence in his movies. He framed it more as Westerns by their nature, are more about man’s want to survive and not to kill. But there are occasions when he must act with a “quick, cold violent reaction.”
“I’m naturally, due to the fact that I have been in westerns, which is our folklore in which men were fighting against the elements,” he said. “Very few of them had any trouble where they had to go lie down on the couch they were too busy staying alive, and naturally you’d get the impression of quick cold violent reaction.”
But he did agree that movie violence had become pervasive. Saying some directors used violence for the shock value rather than as part of the story.
“I hate the way they’ve raided pictures because, before, I depended on a man’s capabilities, his good taste, and how far he gambled to make a risque picture,” Wayne said, “and his peers would only give him the seal if they felt that it was worthy of the name motion picture.”