John Wayne’s Son Ethan Lists Quintessential Qualities of a Duke Movie

by John Jamison

John Wayne’s kids are the first to admit that there is more high-quality content across the film and television industries today than ever. However, these days, it seems that our “heroes” are more complex than they were when Duke was making movies. Audiences have gravitated toward the flawed protagonist, like mob boss Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos” or Walter White in “Breaking Bad.” Rest assured, this anti-hero concept was not a staple of John Wayne-led movies. Yet, the Western icon’s body of work endures.

The John Wayne Gritcast has given Duke fans some incredible insight into the legendary actor’s life via conversation between Ethan, Patrick, and Marisa Wayne. In the first episode released at the end of September, the three Wayne kids talked about everything from what Wayne was like as a dad to how it felt to be celebrated by fans because of their dad’s success.

One of the topics they discussed narrowed in on what keeps Duke movies and the legacy of John Wayne himself relevant in today’s day and age.

“The films are still viable today. The people love ’em. You get adventure, you get a pearl of wisdom, you get humor, and you get compassion. Right? In all his movies. So he’s got that film legacy,” said Ethan Wayne.

John Wayne Tended to Play Role Model-Type Characters in His Movies

Ethan and his siblings compared the staples of a classic John Wayne movie like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” or “Rio Bravo” to the moral complexity of contemporary TV and film.

“We’ve got the best productions of all time happening right now. We’ve got “Ozark,” “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad.” Name a show. They’re really good. But they’re not really people you can look up to. They’re not really aspirational people. They’re making bad decisions to try to keep going, as opposed to John Wayne, who would make good decisions,” Ethan Wayne continued on the podcast.

Of course, John Wayne wasn’t a one-note “aspirational” figure in every single role he ever played. The 1948 classic “Red River” saw his character become a bit of a tyrant leading a cattle drive to Missouri. In large part, though, John Wayne’s characters espoused the same heroic qualities.

The Duke’s Legacy Extends Far Beyond His Film Career Alone

John Wayne passed away after a long battle with stomach cancer in 1979. As a result of his diagnosis and eventual death, he and his estate have committed significant resources to cancer research.

“We made a deal to use our dad’s name to raise money and create awareness about cancer research. Never in our wildest imaginations, [did we think] that we would be sitting here, 40 years later, and his name still has resonance, and it still has meaning,” said Patrick Wayne.

The name has tremendous meaning to countless people who have benefitted from that cancer research.