Duke as a cop?

When we think of John Wayne what type of images come to mind? For some it may come as a western hero such as a sheriff or a cavalry officer. Still others may picture him as a military hero, perhaps as a General or Sargent Stryker. Still others may picture him as the lone gunfighter trying to defend the west not so much with the gun but more so with words and words to believe in, while he did use his gun when need be. But there was a different side about him, some saw him as the private eye in Big Jim Mclain or as a Cop in MCQ and Brannigan.

That is the side that I am going to talk about the side so seldom seen but so much liked and loved.  “Big Jim Mclain” 1952-U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii, How often do we get to see Duke in this type of  role? Granted there were roles that he played that were not western or military ., he was a good dramatic actor the trouble was the scripts were not coming his way. This film also stared James Arness before he got his big break for Gunsmoke. But what is it about this film that sparks the fan drawn inside of me? I think for me it showed his political side, a side he showed in latter films a little more but not so much in the older ones.  But still never the less a great film that should be seen a few times to even enjoy this classic of a film.

McQ -1974 The first of two actual cop movies that he had ever made. Police Lieutenant Lon McQ investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements of the police department dealing in confiscated drugs. Reasons why this film was not as a good as others, he realized that he wanted to connect with the younger generation of americans the post Vietnam War generation. While they remembered him from the westerns he also wanted to compete with the likes of Clint eastWood , aka “Dirty Harry” or even Steve McQueen in “Bullitt “. At the time of filming he was 66 years old, a bit to old for the part. And it was directed by John Sturges,  (also directed non westerns also )so you have an over the hill western star being directed by a infamous Western director making a film both out of there comfort zones. While I know numerous fans of Duke that prefer this to some of his westerns I for one can not get a grip on it . Perhaps I need to see it again.

The last cop film that he made was “Brannigan”—1975 Jim Brannigan is sent to London to bring back an American mobster who is being held for extradition but when he arrives he has been kidnapped which was set up by his lawyer. Brannigan in his American Irish way brings American law to the people of Scotland Yard in order to recapture this mobster with both A price tag on his head and a stuffy old London cop to contend with. While the premise of the film sounds great and stars Duke, and Richard Attenborough and the first of all of Dukes films to filmed to London the film did not turn out as well as any was hoping for . Same idea through as McQ he was 67 playing the part of a character who was supposed to be in his late 50’s. But once again this film did not turn out to be the hit that they were hoping for either. Wayne himself said he would not have made the film if he had known McQ was only going to be a moderate success.

But still in some minds all 3 of these films are classic one of a kind and pure amazing.


Birthplace of an American hero

Picture with me if you will the year 1907, in a small rural farming town of Winterset Iowa. Forty Two minuets  from the capital city of Des Moines Iowa, the population of Winterset was at that time around 3,039 residents  in the town.But who would have ever guessed that the living legend larger then life american hero would come from such small  upbringing?He was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, the son of Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison.

His father Clyde was a pharmacist who worked on the south side of Wintersets town square. In his youth, Clyde attended nearby Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. John Wayne described his father as “the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.”Wayne’s mother Mary was of Irish descent, and Duke said “she was a tiny, vivacious red-headed bundle of energy.”Step back in time and picture the life of a young midwestern boy and his family near the turn of the century. This modest four-room home has been restored to reflect its appearance in 1907, the year of Duke’s birth. An impressive collection of John Wayne memorabilia includes unique items such as the eye patch worn in the movie True Grit, a hat worn in Rio Lobo, and a prop suitcase used in the film Stagecoach. Hundreds of rare photographs of Duke are on display as well as letters from such notable stars within there own right most of which were friends of Dukes’s including  Lucille Ball, Gene Autry, Maureen O’Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and George Burns.

Since its opening, the childhood home of John Wayne has been visited by over one million people, including many celebrities and dignitaries. On November 3, 1984, President Ronald Reagan commented that” the John Wayne Birthplace is an inspiring tribute to a good friend and a great American.” But in reality it is much more then that. It is a chance to see a glimpse in Duke’s life that we the fans have maybe only heard about or even read about in fan magazines or even in books.But why would the writer of this blog be advertising  the birthplace to already a huge Duke Fan Base? most of which  may already know or even some of us have visited before? For the chance to revisit the birthplace look at in a new light, a way that we have or may not have noticed.  I for one try and visit there at least once a year if I can and each time a tear swells up in my eyes as I picture young Marion running around the front lawn.