Fan Favorite Friday: The True Grit of John Wayne

John_Wayne_portraitMarion Mitchell Morrison, better known as John Wayne, appeared in more than 170 films from 1926 to 1976, so please forgive us if we neglect to mention a personal favorite during this week’s Fan Favorite Friday.

And, remember, you can borrow any and all of these movies from Mentor Public Library.

1. Where to begin with Wayne, a man who has portrayed so many iconic characters in so many classic films? Sure, all of those characters seemed to share a common diction and disposition, but Wayne wasn’t an actor—at least, not in the way Gregory Peck was or Paul Giamatti is.

Even when Wayne was alive, he was a legend; and, when he appeared on the silver screen, he wasn’t so much acting as he was building a legend.

So where to begin is a matter of personal preference and we prefer to begin with Rio Bravo. So how good was Wayne in Rio Bravo?

Good enough that he made us believe Ricky Nelson was tough.

So good that I don’t even need to invoke Dean Martin when discussing how good this film is.

“So good, he feels he doesn’t need to prove it…”

2. Wayne was nominated for three Oscars, two as an actor. His only win was for his performance in True Grit where he played a U.S. Marshal out for revenge. His only other acting nomination: The Sands of Iwo Jima.

3. Wayne’s most associated with the western genre, but he seemed to reserve his best work for war films. The Green Berets is excellent; another personal favorite is They Were Expendable, which you can stream for free on Hoopla.)

4. Bet you didn’t know that Wayne could sing. OK, maybe he’s no Judy Garland, but he did play in Singin’ Sandy Saunders in one of his lesser known flicks, Riders of Destiny. (You can watch it as part of the John Wayne ultimate collection.)

5. When you think of Wayne, you probably think of westerns and war films, but he had comedic chops too. He was great as himself in the fifth season of I Love Lucy. (Lucy tries to steal his hand prints from in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.)

6. One word: Hondo.

7. Wayne—much like Clint Eastwood, who perfected the John Wayne prototype—could be a surprisingly compelling romantic lead. In this regard, he was best when paired with Maureen O’Hara; and they were at their best in The Quiet Man.

8. Wayne’s performance in Red River was so good that John Ford, the director behind Stagecoach and several other Wayne westerns, admitted that even he didn’t know Wayne could act like that. If you don’t know much about Wayne, Red River is a great place to start.

9. Wayne saved one of his best for last. The Shootist is not a film the young Wayne could have made. It took a wizened actor and man to play an aging gunfighter who dying of cancer. And, yes, you could this was just Wayne playing himself once more; but Wayne’s performance is strong yet subtle. And any great artist will tell you that subtlety comes last, if it comes at all.

10. John Wayne is a fascinating man and his been the subject of dozens of biographies. We have tenthat’s right, ten—of them at Mentor Library. Feel free to check them out. Even if you’re a Wayne aficionado, you main learn things you never knew that you never knew.

Come back each week for a new Fan Favorite Friday.

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