John Wayne Once Praised Westerns as a Genre ‘That Can Be Understood in Every Country’

by Halle Ames

The iconic Hollywood cowboy, John Wayne, once praised his genre of expertise as being one “that can be understood in every county.”

I once spoke to a Russian man, and when I mentioned Texas, he thought every person was a John Wayne lookalike from Stagecoach.

He would be wrong.

Similar to a superhero movie or a princess movie, it’s pretty simple to guess how it will play out. Superman saves the day. The girl gets the guys, blah blah blah.

John Wayne, America’s Cowboy

John Wayne applauded the Western genre that they had created and perfected. In a 1969 interview with Roger Ebert, he explains that, unlike other genres, they do not have to change to still be quality movies.

“But you know,” he said, “I’m 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. No nuances. And the horse is the best vehicle of action in our medium. You take action, a scene, and scenery, and cut them together, and you never miss. Action, scene, scenery.”

Unlike the image and presence of gangsters or just about any other genre, cowboys are American. Born and raised, baby. John Wayne notes that this is one of the best parts of Westerns. You take justice into your own hands.

“But when you think about the Western…ones I’ve made, for example. Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers, a picture named Hondo had a little depth to it… it’s an American art form. It represents what this country is about. In True Grit, for example, that scene where Rooster shoots the rat. That was a kind of reference to today’s problems. Oh, not that True Grit has a message or anything. But that scene was about less accommodation and more justice.”

Downfall of Movie Quality

As for other types of movies and actors, John Wayne says that film quality has gone down because of this heightened over-sexualization.

“Now the goddamned stock manipulators have taken over. They don’t know a goddamned thing about making movies. They make something dirty, and it makes money, and they say, ‘Jesus, let’s make one a little dirtier. Maybe it’ll make more money.’ And now even the bankers are getting their noses into it.”

Wayne noted one actress, in particular, that was seen as innocent and sweet until she too became succumbed to the new image for women in movies.

“Take that girl, Julie Andrews, a refreshing, openhearted girl, a wonderful performer. Her stint was Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. But she wanted to be a Theda Bara. And 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 kept his macho, cowboy images despite any critics or changing times. The Duke died in 1979, still the charmed, famed Hollywood icon he was throughout the 50s and 60s.