What is it that first draws it to the western? Or for that matter is it the story, the folklore, the actors perhaps or just the plain and simple thought that life was truly better then?For me it is a combination of all of those reasons and so much more. But the real question is what draws us to the John Wayne style especially? Now some may argue that Clint Eastwood would be the better western star, but to me there is only one true western star and that would be John Wayne. Just the life and times of John Wayne lead to the western genera being and defining his own mold. Born in the mid-west at the turn of the century in a small town then moved to a town in California were his favorite movie actors included Tom Mix and Harry Carrey played football but during the summer months got a job at a studio as a prop mover for extra cash. Discovered by John Ford over a football move of all things. First movie under the name John Wayne “The Big Trail” 1930, about heading west set in the early pioneer days during the 1840’s. Last movie “The Shootist” set in 1910 about the end of the legend, a time when the west was already formed.There are so many westerns and non westerns that he made in between his huge career. He made real life stories as well, David Crockett, in “The Alamo” 1960 General William Tecumseh Sherman in “How the West Was Won “1962, Townsend Harris, in the 1958 movie The Barbarian and the Geisha. That is just a few of the real life heroes that he has portrayed on film.
When we were younger how many of us wished he had thrown “Duke” his rife in “Rio Bravo” 1959 instead of Ricky Nelson? Or for that matter wished we had been so lucky as to have gotten advise on women like Fabian in “North to Alaska” 1960? Or even Ron Howard in “The Shootist” 1976 a shooting lesson plus what it means to be a man? Or even like Kim Darby in “True Grit “1969 a young kid who hires a drunk marshal to avenge our fathers murder? Once again the list could and would go on from minor roles, to huge fame. Diving into the dust of the road in “Stagecoach” 1939? Turning over our gun to fall in love “Angel and the Badman”1947.
To me the western as we know it would not be close to where it is now without John Wayne building a bridge for others to follow. Including Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, and a few others of the older genera. And even to the few others who are younger Russel Crow and Christian Bale in “3:10 to Yuma ” 2007, is the western dead? By no means it is still alive but the western has lost a huge bridge when Duke died 1979.