John Wayne died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.
I was late in coming to understand how great he really was. Back then his acting style seemed corny to me and I didn’t care for his politics. I still don’t care for his politics, but they’re a lot better than what Conservatism has morphed into in the last 30 years. As for the acting, I get it now. He was a personality and an icon as much as an actor. That’s how it was done back then and there aren’t many who did it better than Wayne.
In a terrific remembrance of the actor culled from assorted interviews and encounters over the years, Roger Ebert describes him as follows:
“Why did he become, and remain, not only a star but an icon? He was uncommonly attractive in face and presence. He was utterly without affectation. He was at home. He could talk to anyone. You couldn’t catch him acting. He was lucky to start early, in the mid-1920s, and become at ease on camera even before his first speaking role. He sounded how he looked. He was a small-town Iowa boy, a college football player. He worked with great directors. He listened to them. He wasn’t a sex symbol. He didn’t perform, he embodied. You liked him.”
Read Ebert’s excellent piece. I defy you not to like the man too.
Here’s a great quote of Wayne talking in 1976 about the way it used to be (if only he’d lived to see how right he was):
“All the real motion picture people have always made family pictures. But the downbeats and the so-called intelligentsia got in when the government stupidly split up the production companies and the theaters. The old giants–Mayer, Thalberg, even Harry Cohn, despite the fact that personally I couldn’t stand him–were good for this industry. 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.”
Marion Michael Morrison,
AKA John Wayne,
AKA The Duke:
May 25, 1907 – June 11, 1979