John Wayne became a movie star due to his signature acting style that connected with audiences around the world. He came to represent the U.S. itself, using the film medium to instill what he considered to be positive messaging that the whole family could enjoy. Wayne also had specific ideas for what he considered a “real man” to be, which he brought to every character.
Wayne was a movie star with an expansive filmography largely consisting of Westerns and war films. It all started with filmmaker Raoul Walsh seeing something special enough in him to cast him in the leading role of 1930’s The Big Trail. The film was a massive box-office disappointment, but it gave him further experience that he would take with him to other projects.
The actor’s most famous collaboration was with director John Ford. Together, they made titles including Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Quiet Man, and The Searchers.
However, Wayne also worked with other big directors, such as Howard Hawks. They turned out feature films, such as Red River, El Dorado, and Rio Bravo.
The official John Wayne Facebook page shared some words from the movie star that he lived by when it came to selecting characters to play. He wanted them to all have a sense of masculinity that he upheld.
“I want to play a real man in all my films, and I define manhood simply: men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either,” Wayne said.
This quote was reflected in the characters that he played, with True Grit‘s Rooster Cogburn being one of the most famous. The eyepatch-wearing U.S. marshal is a different kind of hero than many of his previous roles, holding an additional rough edge.
These values are also seen in Ethan Edwards from The Searchers, Tom Doniphon from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Col. Davy Crockett from The Alamo.
Wayne’s iconic movie characters had a roughness to them that made them compelling, but many of them had a reason for their missions. Additionally, none of them backed down from a fight, willing to stand up for what they believed in.
Wayne brought his movie role selection into his real life. He thoroughly believed in his idea of fairness and that men should have a certain emotional strength to them. This was also imbued in his family life, where he upheld these lessons in raising his sons. He had seven children over the course of his life, including Michael, Mary, Patrick, Melinda, Aissa, Ethan, and Marisa.
For example, Wayne’s son, Ethan, wasn’t allowed to cry. That isn’t to say that he was never sensitive to his children, but he certainly wanted to teach his sons to be tough and have the confidence not to allow others to walk all over them.
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