John Wayne passed away in 1979. However, he is still one of the world’s most iconic actors. Think about it. If you put a photo of the Duke in a lineup of other actors from his era, more people would probably be able to name him than anyone else. Have you ever wondered why that is? After all, he was there for the Golden Age of Hollywood. Wayne was just one of many stellar on-screen talents. But, something about him gave him staying power above many others.
It could be that John Wayne’s movies get handed down from one generation to the next. Even little ones can sit down and enjoy one of his many films alongside their older relatives. There’s a good chance that many of the Duke’s current fans got their love of his films from their parents or grandparents. Those fans will most likely introduce the next generation to his movies. That’s because the Duke never made anything that wouldn’t be family-friendly. His estate posted a quote that breaks this down along with a great photo of the Duke on horseback earlier today.
The picture is great. However, the quote really speaks to John Wayne’s character. “I don’t want ever to appear in a film that would embarrass a viewer. A man can take his wife, mother, and his daughter to one of my movies and never be ashamed or embarrassed for going.”
John Wayne Chose His Roles Carefully
John Wayne didn’t just show up for a paycheck. He took roles that he could identify with. He once said, “In my acting, I have to identify with something in the character. The big tough boy on the side of right — that’s me,” about the roles he chose. At the same time, he wanted to make sure that he was in movies that he could be proud of.
Furthermore, John Wayne wasn’t just concerned about moviegoers being embarrassed by his films. He also believed that cinema was a reflection of and an influence on the nation. So, he chose movies that reflected that belief.
For instance, gangster movies rubbed the Duke the wrong way. More specifically, he was against movies in which the gangsters were the good guys. The concept of the antihero was antithetical to everything that John Wayne believed about cinema in general. He worried that if a movie made a bad guy out to be a hero, it could negatively impact youngsters or the country as a whole. That’s why Wayne hardly ever played a villain in his many years of acting.
So, yes, John Wayne was a terrific actor. He brought subtlety as well as some of himself to each role. However, his character helped to guide him when choosing his roles. He wanted to be in movies that were wholesome and fostered the knowledge of right and wrong. Maybe we’ll never fully understand what made John Wayne so memorable. However, these two points are a solid start.