For 46 years, the late, great John Wayne starred in movies. And he did it well. Given that amount of time, some projects were bound to be better than others. And it’s more complex than whether or not the movies turned out to be good. That’s not to say John Wayne wanted to make anything less than great movies. But the experiences working on them were important to him as well.
According to IMDb, the Duke has 180 acting credits to his name across a prolific career. Those credits run the gamut from TV appearances to Oscar-winning performances. And naturally, they weren’t all made the same. In a 1976 interview with Phil Donahue, John Wayne talked about which movies were his favorites.
“Well, you like different pictures for different reasons,” he said. “I loved “Stagecoach,” naturally, because I stepped on that stagecoach and it’s carried me a long way. I like “Hatari!” which was a picture we made in Africa because I had a three-month safari free. I mean rich men don’t get that, you know. And “The Quiet Man,” because I got to work with all the Abbey Players and some forebears of my own family.”
There’s a clear theme to Wayne’s choices. He didn’t cite a movie as a favorite in any instance because of how well it performed commercially or critically. He clearly put a premium on the experiences that specific movies provided him.
John Wayne in ‘Stagecoach’
The first movie that John Wayne mentioned in his interview also happens to be one of the first major Western films ever made. The 1939 John Ford film was monumental for another reason, though. It is credited with launching John Wayne’s career into stardom.
As the Ringo Kid, Wayne set the standard for many of his iconic Western roles in the future. You can watch the young Duke in one of his earliest movies below.
The movie that Wayne worked on in Africa was a departure from his traditional Western setting. “Hatari!” is a 1962 film directed by Howard Hawks. Wayne played a character named Sean Mercer, who runs a trapping business in East Africa.
Exciting as the subject matter is for audiences to watch, Wayne himself got to live it. He got an all-expenses-paid African safari, and by the time it was over, he had a major motion picture to show for it. Nothing wrong with that.
‘The Quiet Man’
In 1952, “The Quiet Man” once again saw Wayne go international. This time he linked back up with director John Ford.
The Duke played Sean Thornton, an Irish-American boxer who returned to Ireland to escape his demons. While there, he fell in love with Maureen O’Hara’s Mary Kate Danaher. But he met resistance at the hands of her brother, Will.