Like many of us – for good or ill – a lot of what I know comes from watching television.
Occasionally I learn something nice. On a recent episode of "Antiques Roadshow" there was this fellow who told of how his father was a crew member for many John Wayne movies. He said that on every movie, Wayne would give each member of the cast and crew a coffee mug on which was painted the name of the film, a scene from the film and an individual greeting, such as, "To Joe, from Duke."
And then, there are those days when I kind of feel at loose ends. So, I turn on the TV, always first to channel 50.2 in hopes the movie station is showing a John Wayne film. Channel 50.2 airs a lot of Wayne movies. And when I light on one of those films I can feel my spirits go up and my blood pressure go down.
All this for an actor who died on June 11, 1979.
Though John Wayne has been dead for 38 years, he always is near the top of any poll of favorite actors. I'm not smart enough, or educated enough, to explain John Wayne's enduring popularity.
I know he was a fine actor. I know he made some great films. I know he made some mediocre movies in which he was the only thing worth watching. And I know his political views cast him in the role of satan to many young people in 1960s. There was just something else about him that I leave to scholars, something about archetypes and symbolism and the American frontier myth and reality.
Why am I writing about John Wayne?
Perhaps it's the proximity of Father's Day. I'd be willing to bet that most fathers – yours, too – enjoy John Wayne movies. Maybe you could watch one together.
John Wayne made more than 200 films, so there are a lot to choose from. As a card-carrying John Wayne admirer, I can recommend some of my favorite Wayne films:
"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
"True Grit," for which Wayne received a well-deserved Oscar.
Just found out "True Grit" is starting on channel 50.2.
Paul Sassone - Pioneer Press
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