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Memorializing the Deadly Myth of John Wayne

Posted on May 26, 2007

Hey, gunslinger:  John Wayne donned military gear in “Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949), but he was missing in action on the real war front.

Ed Rampell and Luis I. Reyes

This Memorial Day is the centennial of John Wayne, born May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa. The 2007 Harris poll of America’s favorite movie stars places the Duke at No. 3. A remarkable ranking, considering Wayne’s last picture was 1976’s “The Shootist” and he died 28 years ago.

Wayne, who didn’t win an Oscar until late in a six-decades-long career, is Hollywood’s most underrated actor. He was arguably a better actor than the fellow Midwesterner and two-time Oscar winner to whom he is often compared, Marlon Brando, the Method actor who played antisocial misfits in films ranging from the 1954 biker flick “The Wild One” to 1973’s sexually charged “Last Tango in Paris,” which critic Pauline Kael called “the movie breakthrough” that “altered the face of an art form.” If Wayne portrayed the strong, silent type in films such as 1952’s “A Quiet Man,” Brando was known for bellowing “Stella!” in 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

In private life, Brando was a troubled, angry loner, much like the characters he often portrayed. Wayne’s motion picture persona is associated with cowboys and soldiers. In fact, he was neither.

Wayne was full of contradictions. Although the star of countless Westerns such as John Ford’s 1939 “Stagecoach” and 1953’s “Hondo” owned a ranch, the Duke “didn’t particularly like horses and preferred suits and tuxedos to chaps, jeans and boots,” according to his son, Michael Wayne. The prototypical cowpoke also favored the sea over the prairie.

While many of his contemporaries, including Henry Fonda, Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan, served in the armed forces during World War II, the lead in such wartime sagas as 1945’s “They Were Expendable,” 1948’s “Fort Apache” and 1968’s “The Green Berets” did not. Wayne was not only missing in action during the 1940s’ liberation of the Philippines and Europe, he wasn’t a cavalry officer, a Vietnam commando or a Leatherneck—flying or otherwise—for he was never in the military.

According to Gary Wills’ book “John Wayne’s America,” the man who portrayed the archetypal, battle-hardened Marine, Sgt. Stryker, in 1949’s “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” actually avoided the draft during WWII. Wills contends that the Duke did not reply to letters from the Selective Service system, and applied for deferments. Apparently, Wayne—who had sought stardom during years of B-pictures following Raoul Walsh’s 1930 frontier drama “The Big Trail”—got his big break during the struggle against fascism when many Hollywood action heroes like Tyrone Power enlisted and shipped out overseas.

With much of the competition away in the Pacific and European theaters, Wayne was able to storm movie theaters to solidify his stardom. While Jimmy Stewart and his fellow celebrity servicemen were real action heroes, Wayne was a “Lights! Cameras! Action!” hero who merely played the part in the safety of Tinseltown’s home front and back lot.

Director John Ford discovered Wayne when he was on USC’s football team, and with his rugged physique, the 6-foot-4-inch Duke was identified with American machismo.

Wayne was a vocal conservative, and his critics contend that the onscreen “Injun killer” was racist off-screen. In an infamous 1971 Playboy magazine interview, the Duke made insensitive comments about blacks and said this about America’s indigenous people: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Although he often was paired on screen with Irish redhead Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s three marriages were all to Latinas. According to San Antonio-born actress Karen Kramer, who’d worked with Duke in 1954’s “The High and the Mighty,” while Wayne was shooting “The Alamo” near her hometown, he asked Kramer to accompany third wife Pilar when she shopped there. “She was Hispanic, you know,” Kramer said in an interview. “Texas was very reactionary and Duke was afraid she’d be maligned” unless the blond actress rode shotgun for Mrs. Wayne.

A virulent anti-communist, Wayne was president of the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and cheered the Hollywood blacklist during the House Un-American Activities Committee’s purge of entertainment industry leftists. He starred in Red Menace movies such as 1955’s China-set “Blood Alley” and 1952’s “Big Jim McLain,” based on the case of the Hawaii 7, wherein suspected communists, including longshoreman union leader Jack Hall, were charged with advocating the overthrow of the American government. Wayne plays two-fisted federal agent Jim McLain (his name bears the same initials as Sen. Joe McCarthy’s) who busts Honolulu’s commies.

Nevertheless, Wayne reportedly considered himself a socialist during his freshman year at college, and voted for Roosevelt during the Depression. Some of his best pictures employed left-wing talents who were victimized by HUAC’s witch hunters.  “Back to Bataan” (1945) was directed by Edward Dmytryk, who would become one of the Hollywood Ten in 1947, and co-written by blacklistee Ben Barzman. According to Barzman’s wife, Norma, at a 1945 New Year’s Eve party, Duke “put his arms around Ben and embraced him with fervor. ‘You goddamned communist!’ he accused, lovingly. Ben hugged him back. ‘You goddamned Fascist!’ ”

In the crowning irony of the conservative’s career, Wayne finally struck Oscar gold for playing Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s “True Grit”—written for the screen by ex-communist Marguerite Roberts, blacklisted in 1952 for refusing to inform on leftists.

At the height of the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev visited America and asked to meet Wayne, who met the Soviet premier at President Eisenhower’s request. (Wayne also met with Emperor Hirohito during the WWII leader’s 1975 state visit to America.)

An outspoken hawk during the Vietnam War, Wayne co-directed and starred in the Pentagon-subsidized propaganda picture “The Green Berets.” Duke denounced antiwar protesters, reportedly saying: “As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t bother me a bit to pull the trigger on one of  ‘em.”

Wayne was, in reality, a draft dodger. America’s archetypal soldier was in fact a chicken hawk. He was a cheerleader and champion of militaristic patriotism and combat he had never experienced. Wayne had “other priorities” during WWII—achieving superstardom (and saving his neck) was more important than defeating fascism. Much like Vice President Dick Cheney, who sought numerous deferments during the Vietnam War, Wayne was the quintessential war wimp. 

According to Pilar Wayne, her husband “would become a ‘superpatriot’ for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home” during WWII. Like Wayne, the current crop of GOP chicken hawks are great actors, overcompensating for their previous patriotic failings (draft dodging, etc.) by sounding the jingoistic battle cry for a new generation of working-class sons and daughters to go to war.  Or, as George W. Bush did in a priceless moment of Hollywood flourish, dressing up in a flight suit to declare a failing and deadly war in Iraq a “mission accomplished.”

Wayne convinced us through make-believe that he was Davy Crockett, the Ringo Kid, a Flying Tiger or D-day parachutist Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort in 1962’s “The Longest Day.” Pretending is the essence of acting, and that’s why Wayne was a better actor than Brando, who usually played versions of himself. Wayne, on the other hand, created imaginary characters fabricated out of whole cloth.

Unfortunately, in an America manipulated by the military-industrial-entertainment complex, as Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” put it: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” But these lies and fantasies have consequences in real life for those mistakenly buying into them. Veteran Ron Kovic, who was portrayed by Tom Cruise in Oliver Stone’s 1989 “Born on the Fourth of July,” declared after he was paralyzed from the waist down in Vietnam: “I gave my dead dick for John Wayne.” It’s interesting that Wayne’s last public appearance was when he presented the best picture Oscar in 1979 to Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter,” a Vietnam film that raised questions about honor and patriotism.

The greatest incongruity in Wayne’s world of incongruities is that the militaristic hooey he broadcast may have killed the Cold Warrior.  “The Conqueror”—released in 1956 and starring Wayne as Genghis Khan—was shot on location 100 miles downwind of Nevada’s nuclear testing sites. An unusually high percentage of cast and crew members eventually died of cancer, including Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Dick Powell and Wayne himself, who exited stage right on June 11, 1979, of stomach cancer. In 1980, People magazine published a story about “The Conqueror’s” cancer victims, and quoted a Pentagon Defense Nuclear Agency scientist’s reaction: “Please, God, don’t let us have killed John Wayne.”

Screenwriter Oscar Millard originally wanted Brando—who supported civil rights, the Black Panthers and the antiwar movement and had declined his 1973 “Godfather” Oscar to protest Hollywood’s abusive depiction of Indians in Westerns, many of them starring Wayne—to play Genghis Khan.

On the 100th anniversary of the Duke’s birth, Americans need to distinguish between myth and deadly realities. We must re-examine America’s love affair with settling disputes through gunplay, and question people and institutions that demand that the young sacrifice their minds and bodies in tribute to these actors (of the stage and political theater) and the violence they celebrate.

Maybe then, when the truth and not the legend is printed, we can agree with the 1960s’ prototypical protester, Abbie Hoffman, who reportedly quipped after Wayne’s death: “Even cavemen felt a little admiration for the dinosaurs that were trying to gobble them up.”

Luis I. Reyes and Ed Rampell co-authored “Made In Paradise, Hollywood’s Films of Hawaii and the South Seas” and “Pearl Harbor in the Movies.” Reyes co-wrote “Hispanics in Hollywood, A Celebration of 100 Years in Film and Television.” Rampell wrote “Progressive Hollywood: A People’s Film History of the United States.”

More links:

Click here to listen to a poem read by Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic.

Follow this link to view a photo essay of Kovic by Zuade Kaufman.

Editor’s Note:  Ron Kovic recently relayed the story of his one near encounter with John Wayne, when Kovic was serving his first tour of duty, to Truthdig:

“John Wayne visited my battalion area during my first tour of duty.  I did not go down to meet with him or hear him that day, but later that evening those that went down [to see him] said that there had been sniper fire, and that everyone—including John Wayne—had ducked for cover, had scattered.  I was not there to witness it; I was in my tent.  I realized at that moment that he was a human being, not a cinematic god, just like me.  He was as vulnerable as I was.  I didn’t feel let down, because one of the reasons why I had joined the Marine Corps, and one reason why many of my generation went to war, was because of the romanticized version of war.

I remember feeling empathy as I sat in my tent long ago.  I remember feeling for John Wayne and realizing he was just a human being, and he was dealing with the same reality as the rest of us—life and death—and he was just trying to get home.”


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By red5, April 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I remember what my grandfather said about WWII- “You just didn’t know anyone who wasn’t in it.”  ‘Cept for RealMan(tm) Wayne, that is.

Always fascinating that those that are the biggest cheerleaders for war haven’t ever actually been in one.  Too bad these same folks aren’t wise enough to feel ashamed by that.

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By RICHARD A MONACO, June 3, 2010 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


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By Bruce Wayne, June 3, 2010 at 6:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This just goes to show that,like assholes, everyone
has a different opinion, no matter what the subject
is. Whether it is an actor or a sports figure, not
everyone will agree on the subject matter.

There are a lot of left wing Bush haters on here, no
surprise as to their opinions.

If you have not walked the walk, then shut the hell
up, your opinion matters as much as a rats. This
website is for a bunch of crybabies who did not
suckle on their moms teat. Grow up and leave dead men
to the God who created all of us. You can neither
prove nor disprove your diatribe.

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By Angantyr, April 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am a Marxist but think John Wayne is actually an underrated actor and like his films. Each to their own…

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By richard monaco, May 25, 2009 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When in Hollywood many years ago, I stepped in John

Wayne’s concrete foot prints.I wear size 8 they fit.I realize he wore high heel boots,6 foot 3in. I’am 5ft 7in. Oh well!

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By chris, January 16, 2008 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

what is the name of the actor who shot John wayne in the sands of iwo jima?

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By frank Giaimo, September 26, 2007 at 7:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am just another vet of the US Army retired after 20 yrs If I could I would like to ask Patrick Wayne if he knew why his father didn’t fight in WWI I don’t feel that John Wayne was a coward there was too much salt in hime that his being afraid doesn’t fit his life style but I guess we will never know the real truth that is between John Wayne and his God I would just like to ease the feelings in my heart which still revere John Wayne as an American Hero

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By ardee, September 23, 2007 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

Hey Duke, you sad example of what is wrong with our nation. It is abysmal unthinking lock step jerks like you that have diminished the greatness of our nation. Congratulations.
While you slept through your high school classes the teacher explained the nature of freedom of speech and opinion, and how that made our country distinctive and truly special.
It is not the various opinions of our citizenry that is the problem it is you who simply cannot understand the rights of others to hold such opinions.
Democracy requires work in order to flourish, you require a remedial high school education to even begin to understand its nuances.

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By The Duke, September 22, 2007 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Brando was a sissy ass faggot!
Wayne would have kicked that short,fat queers ass all over the place.

If you don’t like John Wayne than you do NOT like THE USA!!!!!

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By The Duke, September 22, 2007 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a bunch of garbage! John Wayne did NOT dodge the draft. He simply didn’t go for a varity of reasons ...ONE that he was a FATHER of more than one 3 kids. I was in 2 wars. You bunch bitching crybaby liberals who don’t know shit about being a real American need to know it is people that stand BY this country that keep it FREE!

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By J. Lewd, June 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Courtesy of “Repo Man”:

Miller: John Wayne was a fag.
All: The hell he was.
Miller: He was, too, you boys. I installed two-way mirrors in his pad in Brentwood, and he come to the door in a dress.

P.S.—What’s with all the serial killers named “John Wayne”?

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By jane, June 1, 2007 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

From a favorite song—-“john wayne was a thespian”—- He loved movie making and may not have been, like most right wingers, a deep thinker. Most of them think of patriotism as flag waving and gun waving. I think he was a good man who stood by his friends and family but not a deep thinker.  Another thought on his draft deferments during WWII. Did his wife and family have other support, friends and relatives, if he went off to war. As he was married to a latina in the more racist time, he might have been worried to leave her.  As far as his racist, anti Indian remarks, he was a product of his time. Many men of his age talks of native americans and Japanese as less than human because that was taught to them at an early age.  I respect the Duke because his movies and he himself seemed to treat women with respect in his movies and that was not that common in that era.

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By Jacks, May 31, 2007 at 4:52 am Link to this comment

What the hell’s wrong with you?  There’s nothing wrong with being a girl, you bigoted fool.  They’re human beings, goddammit.  It’s like attacking someone for breathing, as women (and girls) are not only natural to our species but necessary.  I suggest you start addressing your extreme sensitivity to the female gender, as you seem to find them offensive.
And for those of you who cry, “But everyone does it.”  Tough.  The status quo ain’t worth a shit of an excuse.

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By Luis I. Reyes, May 30, 2007 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Biographies on Wayne were researched and yes he did have legitimate deferments, but he chose not to serve in order to further his career goals. He kept on making one film after another, making excuses and saying he was going to join but never did.

It caused a temporary rift, with his mentor Director John Ford. Ford, ten years older than him served in the Navy photographic unit and urged Wayne to join, Fonda, Gable, Stewart, Tyrone Power, Gene Autry, Heston, Douglas, Lancaster, Marvin and Reagan did serve in WWII whether overseas or making training films in Hollywood, they all served one way or another.

Wayne only made three war films during the war, Flying Tigers, Fighting Seabees and They were Expendable which was released toward the end of the war in the Pacific, if not just soon afterward. So his image as action war hero did not actually solidify until 1949’s Sands Of Iwo Jima.

So at best he was a draft dodger.

The comments made to him by General MacArthur were bestowed on Wayne many years after the war and to his credit Wayne did go on a morale boosting trip to the Pacific during the war to visit troops as he
did later in Vietnam.

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By gibson, May 30, 2007 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think some of you may have missed the point the author seems to be making about Wayne being a better actor than Brando. I read it as: since Wayne was a chicken-hawk draft dodger who nevertheless convinced the entire country that he was the embodiment of the American war hero, he must have been a great actor to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes so well.

In any case, Hunter S. Thompson wrote a GREAT essay about Wayne years ago which was re-printed in Fear & Loathing in America recently.

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By endz, May 30, 2007 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Wayne was a man”, BUT HE WALKED LIKE A GIRL.

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By Skruff, May 29, 2007 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

According to my father (1941-1946) the age was less important than two other items.

first was a war related need met by what the person was doing on the home front? The indespensable employee rule.

Did the person have a family which needed his support.

Both of these classifications would have kept Wayne from the draft, BUT would not have kept him from enlisting. 

Age was less important. My mothers Uncle Charlie reupped at age 47. He served out his time directing the refitting of ships at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

But more to the point, I remember going to the John Wayne flicks (two for a quater) at the old RKO Keith’s in White Plains.  Gallery full of the 9 to 14 crowd many of whom later marched for justice in Selma, Birmingham, and Little Rock, and still later against the War in Vietnam.

John didn’t do me any damage.. I still voted for George McGovern, Jerry Brown, and Mike Dukakis.

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By lilchick, May 29, 2007 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
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John Wayne was 34 in 1941. He could have still went into combat as the draft in those days got men 18-45.
Clark Gable for example was born in 1901. Gable joined the Air Force in 1942 following Carole Lombard’s death(his wife). Gable was 41 yrs old at the time of Lombard’s death.
As for the reason(s) Wayne didn’t go into combat during WWII, only he and G-D know that.

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By keith, May 29, 2007 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have read that although Reagan loved to tell the stories of being at the liberation of the death camps at the end of WWII, his handlers would wince in pain—knowing the truth was he had never left Hollywood.
  It’s amazing that commenters here think Wayne at 34 was too old for WWII.  Wasn’t it very common for that age men to fight in WWII?

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By ardee, May 29, 2007 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

A well written piece at any rate. I believe it misses the point however, especially with this:

Grow up.  Our current mess and even Vietnam was hardly Wayne’s fault.  His image and projected male macho bullshit is hardly as dangerous as Bush’s.  And I would think that Wayne would react to the treatment of American veterans by this administration much the way Bruce Willis—the modern day Wayne-has”
Wayne’s acting is open to criticism as is any such and his political stance opens him up to criticisms from the left as much as did Jane Fonda’s position during the Viet Nam conflict open her up to such from the right. Today the right maligns the acting community as “Hollywood Liberals” as if being a movie star bans you from having an opinion. I do not deny Wayne his opinions but I reserve the right to comment upon them. Now you seem to imply that Wayne’s publically stated positions on politics should be ignored. I think not. Plus your belief that Wayne would have objected to the sorry treatment received by our returning veterans is simply whole cloth, you do not know nor do I what he might have thought.

Much ado about nothing….

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By hadrian, May 29, 2007 at 3:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

it’s a shame he didnt make more films like “the quiet man”

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By Jaye, May 29, 2007 at 12:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comparing Wayne the actor to Bush the president—how odd.  We expect actors to wear costumes but not presidents. No president ever wore a military uniform while in that office.  It is not done because it violates the notion of a civilian head of the military.

Wayne was an actor who had children during WWII and wasn’t going to be drafted because of that.  He was valuable to the war effort by making movies.  Some actors did serve—Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable.  But Wayne was making war movies that were considered invaluable stateside.

If he was born in 1907 he would have been a little old for combat.  If anyone was “seduced” by that horrid film—The Green Berets—they knew little of the conflict and probably would have been seduced by the local recruiting office, too.  But many weren’t seduced but simply drafted.

He was just a guy.  But even those who thought he was a terrible actor have got to realize that they contribute to the larger than life myth.  He wasn’t dishing the same propaganda in WWII as in Vietnam.  And to compare the two wars is ignorant. 

He did a film, Liberty Valance, and that film is about the difference between myth and reality.  Watch it. It is about the tragedy of men who are real but are seen in mythic terms.  He couldn’t make more “art films” because critics didn’t buy him in those roles but he actually did those films earlier and wasn’t bad.  Once the larger than life persona took over, serious acting was over. 

How Brando would have liked to be taken more seriously, too.  He became a parody and that wasn’t his choice, either.

Interesting that we lefties often bemoan the loss of our own rights to our political views and we are quick to deny the conservatives theirs.  He had his own work and politics and that is what we are supposed to be all about.  The rights of the individual. 

Brando’s On the Waterfront was directed by a man who was criticized for naming names.  The movie is essentially about that.  Brando did not abandon that friendship although he did not agree with that politics.

Grow up.  Our current mess and even Vietnam was hardly Wayne’s fault.  His image and projected male macho bullshit is hardly as dangerous as Bush’s.  And I would think that Wayne would react to the treatment of American veterans by this administration much the way Bruce Willis—the modern day Wayne-has.

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By Art Durand aka Whitebear, May 29, 2007 at 12:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

On John Wayne and the ‘Injuns’:
From John Trudell’s song/poem ‘Indians are Jesus’:
“They lie to us then lie to themselves
About lying to us,
About lying to us.”
“They” being the pistol packin’, infected blanket totin’, baby killin’, woman rapin’ squatters glorified for far too long on the silver screen.
Making John Wayne into a hero is just more of the same. We get used to it but we are never fooled. Never.

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By William Wilgus, May 28, 2007 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If the authors of this article had read any of the biographies of John Wayne, they would have learned that he was told he’d be more valuable to the nation making war movies than serving in the armed forces.  Although his age made him eligible for all of the WWI Drafts, being born in 1907 made him a bit old to serve in the military as a draftee or enlistee.

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By seananomie, May 28, 2007 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think John Wayne was basically a B actor who sold his image for government propaganda.  He is to war what the Marlboro Man is to cigarettes.  I’d like to quote from a song that I think says it all.  This is from ‘John Wayne Was a Nazi’ by MDC:

John Wayne slaughtered our Indian brothers
Burned their villages and raped their mothers
Now he has given them the white man’s lord
Live by this, or die by the sword

Late show Indian or Mexican dies
Klan propaganda legitimized
Hypocrite coward never fought a real fight
When I see John I’m ashamed to be white

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By straight_talk_11, May 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

“I guess our world is so much improved since Wayne’s death that we couldn’t we find a suitable living target.”

Skruff, I love the enlightened, ironic sarcasm of this conjecture! Nice to run across you here. Why blame the puppets? America needs to wake up and challenge the puppeteers!

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By Rich, May 28, 2007 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would hope to read some of these factoids before seeing any more of his army movies.

“Duke the Dodger”, God rest his soul… and all the youngsters who would like to emmulate his ficticous entertainment immage in reality.

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By Skruff, May 28, 2007 at 10:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ron Reagan was in the ad department of the military, he never went overseas during the war even to entertain troops. He got his army pay to make propaganda films. 

Walt Disney betrayed his friends, was a shill for Joe McCarthy, did nothing during WW II but make movies and haul in the wealth.

Richard Nixon, Bobby Kennedy, and Sam Goldwyn also fed Joe Macarthy’s hate machine.

John Wayne, at the end of his life said “Hell, I’m only an actor.”

Damn shame we’re reduced to beating the shit outta a dead guy. I guess our world is so much improved since Wayne’s death that we couldn’t we find a suitable living target.

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By Inherit The Wind, May 28, 2007 at 6:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s curious to see how the Duke was the first really prominent Right Wing chickenhawk.

In contrast, that notorious “commie”, Woody Guthrie, volunteered and served in the Navy. Guthrie was as passionate a patriot as America has ever had, while being a vehement critic of our injustices as well.  He put his life on the line for it too.

“This land I’ll defend with my life if need be, for my Pastures of Plenty must always be free!”

Pete Seeger served in the Army as well from 1942 to 1945.

We see this same thing again, with John Kerry, Max Cleland, Bob Kerrey, Charlie Wrangel, John Murtha, Daniel Inouye and many more liberal Democrats having actually served in the military in war and becoming vehemently anti-war.  I guess actually being there and doing it, hearing the screams, sometimes your own, see the destroyed bodies, smelling the smell of blood, urine, bowel, vomit, sweat, gunpowder and fear makes a person realize there’s nothing noble in war.

It’s very easy to consign other men and women to that horror when you are nothing but a chickenhawk, as George Bush and his pals all are.  Not many on the GOP side other than John McCain have actually experienced what they demand and order others to face.


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By RodneyWelch, May 28, 2007 at 4:46 am Link to this comment

Freedomfinder—John Wayne was not dying when he won the Oscar.

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By Freedomfinder, May 28, 2007 at 1:54 am Link to this comment

His “Green Beret” movie was such a fraud that more than likely sent more impressionable young men off to their deaths!!!

John Wayne was no hero by any standard and a B actor to boot.The only reason he got an Oscar was he was dying…karma is a bitch!

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By G. Anderson, May 27, 2007 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

John Wayne was a man. Nothing more. It is the weakness, and learned helplessness of the masses, that makes them turn men like John Wayne into symbols.

It is a safe way to project all your feelings, all your emotions into someone, so you don’t have to risk living your own life in the real world. It is so much safer to live through someone else. 

Mr. Wayne’s opinions and political views, are no more important than your next door neighbors, and should be valued alike.

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By ardee, May 27, 2007 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

#73230 by Gabir on 5/27 at 11:06 am
(27 comments total)

Gabir I sincerely hope you didnt hurt yourself by stretching the point of the article to such overblown conclusion.

As the authors pointed out, the birthday of John Wayne coincided with this Memorial Day weekend, and, as Wayne had definitive opinions about politics and war and justice and such, it was not at all unfitting to writethis on this day.

I wonder in what way you leaped to such a conclusion as that of this piece somehow dishonoring our troops or besmirching the reasons for this holiday. Should everyone limit their contributions to solemn paeons to our armed forces and speak only to those who have served or fallen? Should we carry this absurdity to its logical (not) conclusion and on Christmas only talk about Jesus and mangers? What would be fitting discourse on Arbor Day then?

I hope you didnt cause yourself serious damage to ligament or tendon in leaping from such a high place, because then you would be unable to visit the cemeteries wherein our fallen soldiers reside. I myself am unable, this Memorial Day weekend, to do what I usually do this day, visit old and dear friends in Washington DC and read their names, one by one, upon that black wall.

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By DennisD, May 27, 2007 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment
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Marlon and the Duke. As actors they spoke the words of others and took direction for every move they made in front of a camera. They’d be perfect politicians. As human beings, they are imperfect as are we all and blaming either and not taking responsibility for ones own actions is ludicrous. The real heroes are the dead and maimed. Have the respect not to compare them to Hollywood creations. What a ridiculous column to post on Memorial Day.

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By Gabir, May 27, 2007 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

Another TruthDig exclusive story !!!!!!!!!! Instead of honoring our fallen soldiers , which is what Memorial Day is all about , Robert Scheer and Co. , in sophomoric fashion present this “profile” of John Wayne . Yes , let’s place the weight of all wars since World War II squarely on Mr. Wayne’s shoulders . A D- actor in B to D+ movies is the major cause of all ills military ! Yes , every person who watched John Wayne movies joined the military or became a cowboy . Every boy who watched Tarzan went out and swung from tree to tree with his monkey on one shoulder , and later married a woman named Jane . Every person who watched Superman found a tall structure to jump from , hands extended in front of them , believing they could fly . Mr. Wayne a better actor than Marlon Brando ???????? John Wayne was in reality not an actor and was more a singular personality who appeared in different costume and genres . It is more a reflection on this country than on John Wayne that he rose to hero status in this nation .
    Yes editors of TruthDig , forget the sacrifices of our Veterans and their families on this long weekend . You have more important things to do .
    May God Bless all our fallen comrades and the troops deployed in Iraq . May God Bless all the Iraqi citizens and soldiers whose lives have been taken in this illegal and useless war . May God have mercy on the countless CRIMINALS , past and present in the worst administration in American History for their countless sins against humanity and nature .

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By Big Guy, May 27, 2007 at 11:40 am Link to this comment
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My Father join the Navy when he turned 17 in 1942. He saw quite a bit of action in World War II. He hated most “war movies” and didn’t like John Wayne Movies in general. When I was growing up in the 60’s we lived in Orange County California where John Wayne aka Marion Morrison also lived. My Father ate out for lunch often when working. Several times he ran into Wayne at restaurants. The one thing that impressed my Dad was that Wayne avoided the “big star treatment” and insisted on waiting his turn to be seated at restaurants. I asked my Dad what he thought of Wayne not serving in the Military during World War II. His answer was “are you kidding? he was TOO OLD FOR COMBAT!

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By Bill Blackolive, May 27, 2007 at 10:53 am Link to this comment
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John Wayne movies bore many of us.  This is the comics.  Brando is another dimension. Only some of the white folks be they some kind of majority in the US could take John Wayne seriously.  Why bother with John Wayne is the problem. If John Wayne has had influence on white US people, they are in great danger.

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By RAE, May 27, 2007 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

Hi Tom…

“Again, thanks for pointing it out to me.

Tom “

I was sure hoping that was what you meant. I am in awe of your contribution and bravery. I know I could not have done what you did - I cannot get my head around killing anything - I even take spiders I find in the house, outside and let them go!

I realize that when a “Hitler” or “Idi Amin” gets loose in the world that someone has to use force to get rid of them. That takes killing and dying. That doesn’t make the whole business “right” - just necessary.

But to do what the USA has done since the end WWII, - the actual INVASION and BOMBING of the people of more than TWENTY sovereign nations - is nothing short of criminal. Often the US went in, at least in part, to establish a democratic government respectful of human rights. China (45-56), Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Congo, Peru, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Sudan, Arghanistan, Yugoslavia… and more. NOT ONE of these countries today has both a democratic government AND respect for human rights to any significant degree.

Tens of thousands of lives lost, families ruined, TRILLIONS of dollars wasted. What fools.

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By Inherit The Wind, May 27, 2007 at 9:16 am Link to this comment
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John Wayne was an actor. Nothing more. He wasn’t a politician, he wasn’t a government official.  He had his views and he aired them. So?

How different is he than Charlton Heston or Vanessa Redgrave?

Did you like his movies? Did he entertain you?

Me? I think some of his movies were great, some were OK, and some were goose-bump-inducing horrors (The Green Berets is first on that list of abortions).

Yeah, his range was limited. What else is new? Henry Fonda only once played a truly bad guy (in Once Upon A Time In The West), but even then he played essentially the same character.  He was still a joy to watch on the screen.

So John Wayne was an actor, now dead nearly 30 years. If someone wants to make and icon of him, that’s not my problem.

After all, we made a president out of an actor whose “talent” made The Duke look like John Barrymore or Laurence Olivier.

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By namvet67, May 27, 2007 at 8:49 am Link to this comment
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Thanks for your words and for the welcome home. Strange as it sounds but Vietnam is my home now. I’ve been living and working here (teaching English) for close to twenty years. I’m sure that we took similar paths to reach our understanding of our participation in the war. Just as I wouldn’t trade my Vietnam experience for anything, I also wouldn’t trade my post-Vietnam experience either. The biggest mistake in my life was not joining the Marines. My biggest mistake was in staying quiet for twenty years after I returned from Vietnam. I’m encouraged when I see vets speak up about their feelings about war in our society. After all, we do have the credibility to talk.
Hoa binh

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By Hammo, May 27, 2007 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

Learning about the impact of films and the media on our thinking and actions, and the roles of so-called “chicken hawks” all around us is important, especially now.

The psychology involved with warmongers, racists and similar people can be complex, but worth looking into.

For example, take a look at:

“Chicken hawks are real and dangerous”

-  -  -

“Eastwood, Spielberg: One More Iwo Jima Film”

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By tlstrieg, May 27, 2007 at 6:48 am Link to this comment


Excellent post.  And you are absolutely right about the fact that we learned nothing from Vietnam.  For years I the one good thing that I hoped and prayed had come out of our experience in Vietnam is that this country had learned it’s lesson about engaging in wars of choice.  Sadly, even that fantasy has been taken away.

Welcome home, Brother.


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By James Yell, May 27, 2007 at 6:32 am Link to this comment
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Well I was prepared to dislike this article, but must say I agree with most of it. Yes, John Wayne was a posturing being a hero and in fact there are signs that he was a “hero in his own mind” and like most of the current military enthusists in the Bush/Cheney government he did nothing but play at being a soldier.

In his defense though, you have to be a little dim in the head to believe the concept of the giant, macho man bestride the little people portrayed on the not so silver screen. I enjoyed watching John Wayne all my life, although I never confused his acting with reality, at lest not since I was 8 years old. In many ways John Wayne was a descent man of the type.

I am more alarmed at the politicians who should know better, but are selling the mach-crapo mystic to another generation.

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By namvet67, May 27, 2007 at 4:11 am Link to this comment
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I wasn’t seduced by John Wayne. I got nabbed by Jack Webb in “The D.I.”. I enlisted in the Marines at 17 in July of 1966 and was in Vietnam on Christmas Day. For the next 11 months I humped the jungle mountains around Da Nang and Hue, learning the facts of life. I somehow survived and today I feel like Tom said above. But I would like to add that the real loss we suffered in Vietnam is that we didn’t learn (as a country) from our mistakes. Vietnam was a civil war and we should have learned not to get in the middle of one. But still we are in Iraq? Vietnam taught us that the local people can’t be militarily forced into following our orders. But this is what we are trying to do in Baghdad. There are lots more lessons not learned. They could be if America took the time to debrief its veterans.
John Wayne never had to grieve loss of a cause, because he always won. We all learn how to cope with individual loss, but the Vietnam vet can also tell you about loss of cause. It’s an important part of the equation when considering war. Why are you fighting?
Hoa binh

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By THOMAS BILLIS, May 27, 2007 at 12:13 am Link to this comment
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Oh please an overgrown baboon with the acting talents of a chimpanzee who was able to con the American people that he stood for something they actually beleived in.Playing the same role for a hundred years does not make you a great actor.
Please ship me whatever the person who compared John Wayne to Marlon Brando is drinking.That is like comparing Ronald Reagan to the chimp he acted with.Hands down the chimp wins the acting debate.
Anybody who went to war because of the Big Coward is dumber than dirt.
I am so sick of people romanticizing these paper tigers who represent nothing of what this country stands for.We have glorified war to the point if their are no real enemies we invent them so we can we have these glorious memorial days.Screw John Wayne and everything that bigoted draft dodger stood for and that goes for his protege our current President.

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By Josh, May 27, 2007 at 12:03 am Link to this comment
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This Memorial Day support the troops by staying home. That’s right. Don’t travel. Don’t use gasoline. Every time you fill up at the pump, you are supporting the worldwide Jihad against the West. So if you plan on being honest with your yellow ribbon magnet on your H2, don’t take it out of the driveway this weekend.

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By JT, May 26, 2007 at 11:30 pm Link to this comment
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I was to assume from the 7+ books that I have read about John Wayne that he was trying to join the Navy (which is what he wanted to before being turned down by the naval academy before going to USC) but when Republic/RKO pictures caught wind of it they put a stop to it because he was their hottest actor at the time and did not want to lose him so they used his old football injury from USC and that he was married with quite a few children as a way out. Unless I was reading 7+ other books about some actor from Winterset Iowa

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By tlstrieg, May 26, 2007 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment


Thanks for pointing out my very poor choice of words.  You are right, if I were at peace with killing and dying in Vietnam, or any other time, except natural causes at the age of say 100, I would be a very sick puppy.

The point I was trying to make is that it has taken the better part of forty years for me to make peace with myself - to forgive myself, if you will - for the killing that I did in Vietnam, and to get to the point that I can deal with the loss of so many fine young men who were my friends, and who were killed in Vietnam.  Although, I’ll never completely get over it all.  I still grieve for them as I do for all the young Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who died in that useless war.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Vietnam, and the friends I lost.  They are forever young, just as they were when they died so needlessly.

I could go on for much longer, but I hope you understand what I mean.  And you’re correct to say that no one in his right mind could ever be at peace with the violence of war.

Again, thanks for pointing it out to me.


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By RAE, May 26, 2007 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment

Tom wrote: “Now, forty years later, I am finally at peace, more or less, with all the dying and killing in Vietnam. But it’s been a long, hard journey.”

I read this two or three times just to make sure I understood what I was reading.

I find it incredible that someone who has actually experienced the insanity of war, who has lost friends, who has himself been a traumatized victim for decades, could utter such astonishing words.

Tom, if you’re “at peace” with “all the dying and killing,” you’re still VERY, VERY ILL.

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By vet240, May 26, 2007 at 7:56 pm Link to this comment
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John Wayne was not a hero in any way. His portrayal of a bigger than life hero no doubt led many young men on a Niave journey of self-discovery of the truth about life in the military and indeed in war.
Wayne certainly knew which side to be on. He picked the “Ins” side, thereby always covering his own personal needs. He certainly doen’t deserve to be called a hero. He was a draft-dodger.

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By Robert Ham, May 26, 2007 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment
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You guys are taking acting too seriously. John Wayne was a great actor and star, but you are blaming him for everything under the universe. Judge the art, not your personal feelings re politics.  Roman Polanski is a great artist, yet he’s also a child rapist who cannot enter the USA because he will be arrested for this.  Is he not still a great artist.  Most Americans, whether many of you like it or not, love John Wayne.  So, get over it.

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By wagonjak, May 26, 2007 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment
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I hated the Duke’s politics, but whenever I watch even some of his worst roles in movies he had a physical presence that was mesmerizing to me (and I hate to admit, still is).

I saw one of his war movies recently where he is the heroic Admiral leading his ships into battle with the evil japs, and even when I know I shouldn’t, I still got sucked in.

Shame on me!

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By Margaret Currey, May 26, 2007 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment
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John Wayne did his best playing a cowboy and because of his size he looked the part of a hero, that he did not go to war does not mean that he cannot portray a hero, after all he did what actors do.

Brando was of course a better actor, but I would not say he was the best.

Judy Garland was good because she could cry on command and put a lot of heart into her songs, but she was also a good acress as well as being able to dance, she was so good, but her life was really messed up.

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By RodneyWelch, May 26, 2007 at 6:40 pm Link to this comment

John Wayne played the same role over and over; Brando didn’t. The “surly” Brando of “On the Waterfront” was also the repressed soldier in “Reflections in a Golden Eye,” the kindly paternal mob boss in “The Godfather,” the bereaved lover in “Last Tango” and the demented Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”—totally different roles with very little in common. Some may say these roles all require a certain type of brooding actor, but there are many shades of brooding, and there aren’t many Brando “types” who could have pulled them all off.

You will not find this kind of range in John Wayne.

One thing both had in common, though: you believed them, and that’s what made them stars and occasionally made them great. You didn’t see them act—unlike, say, Johnny Depp.

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By rage, May 26, 2007 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment
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First of all, Reagan served in the US Army Air Corp, the parent of the current Air Force, on a Blind waiver. The pidgeon could not see, or so the waiver claimed. It was enough to keep him in Hollywood making all those crappy d-rate films and out of the real combat theatres. The blinded Gipper seemed to have confused his actual very lame service record with the scripts from all the propaganda films he starred in during that era while stationed in California. Ronny Baby went down in infamy when it was hinted that he dumped his first wife, the talented actress Jane Wyman, because her career was actually going somewhere his was not - to the silver screen for months at a time. He took up with the one actress of child-rearing age whose career was further down the toilet plumbing than his own when he married Nancy. He was considered only marginal, upstaged in an entire slew of films by Dumya’s first cousin Bonzo the Chimp. Quiet as it’s kept, AMC’s attempt to run Reagan Marathons is the primary reason the network had to go commerical. Now Sponsors absolutely forbid such bufoonery, preferring to keep viewers over patriotic nostalgia.

I can never for the life of me understand how Reagan managed to get his talent-free butt listed in the upper ranks of Hollywood screen heroes. Until his Presidency, one had a hard time seeing his movies on UHF stations that required one to stand on one foot facing due east wearing a tinfoil helmet while holding the left rabbit ear of the Zenith some time after stupid o’clock.  Back in the day, PBS still ran a lot of old flix, preceeded by movie history documentaries, that politely berated Reagan’s acting as challenged and dull when they were at their kindest. Then they would show Bedtime for Bonzo, or Hellcats of the Navy, and one would completely understand why this rascal had to join the ranks of ugly folks in politics, or, as I prefer to call it, that Hollywood for the socially repulsive where he was a magically perfect fit.

Though often lumped with John Wayne, Hank Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Glen Ford, Clark Gable, or the BRANDO, yes, Reagan’s entertainment contribution was nowhere close to any of theirs. Reagan had that Hollywood look of a glammorous male lead without the added pleasure of stimulating magnetism that made his acting worth your quarter to see. I would like to say it was the roles he drew, or the scripts written for him. But, that brain-addled clown worked with some of the best writers of his day at a time when writers were still compelled to come up with original thoughts. The guy proved to be the dud more than the dude. In the end, Ronny was only really successful at the parts written for him by Bush41, granting that tyrant a full 12-year reign of terror as President until Clinton.

The John Wayne mystique served it’s purpose as a shameless politically pandered promulgation that defined American manhood for generations. When the Duke got on the tube and declared that he had whipped the ass of the Big C when his cancer went into temporary remission, every European American Republican male between the ages of 18 and 75 wrenched his pipe in victory and brotherhood. The Duke was the tall, broad shouldered, barrel chested, strapping, potent, kick-ass-take-names he-man this bunch all wanted to be - PERIOD, and to hell with growing up. He was tough, suave, cool, fair, honest, guiet, a little sensitive to the feelings of others, and got women in every film he made. These men and their kids all looked up to this icon of virulent American manhood. And, their wives screamed Duke’s name when they fantasized while making love to them. Duke was the end-all to be-all. It didn’t matter that he was the same chararacter in every movie. He was the character everyone back then wanted to see in every movie. These days, that same demographic all want to be Jack Bauer.

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By Douglas Chalmers, May 26, 2007 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment

Still trying to emulate John Wayne - U.S. Soldiers Killing Unarmed Iraqi Civilians….... Hard day at the local store! Buying groceries was never so risky in the “f#ckin’ ” USA!!!

“You beaut! ....get that f#cker off! (rocket launcher) ......I let that f#cker off, dude ......he got thirty rounds!” “Cease fire, cease fire!” “Waa-hoooo!” “...(Laughing) ...we f#cked those people ......all that sh!t down there!” “You see those two people .....I f#cking ripped through them!”  “I shot that dude in the white car ......and it ran into the f#ckin’ building! ....... (Laughing)...more, more ......did you get that on recorder - or what?” “1/5 Marines in Ramadi. Taking sniper and small arms fire from buldings across street and down “flanndawg”. Marine squad split up on two   roofs…...” (so they say!?!?).  Comments posted by “Tyer82” at pp. 2,3,4,5,6,12,13,14,15,16,17,20.  Click on View comments or Make Comment at bottom left of main page to start….....

“I shot the video! The white car had 4-5 males with 3 AK’s and 1 RPG left on the floor board. The other cars were trying to make their way up the street to the house at the end so they could become a get away car. We had proir knowledge of their arrival from a relay from the “eye in the sky”. Notice how no chicks, kids or spectators are there! So get ****ed you hajji lover.”

“If you look at who posted the video and my name they are the same. It was Aug 22 2005. I was there, I was the Corpsman who video taped it. Also when we went to the parket after the fight there were 3 males I shot 2 alive and I refused to treat them. I also Shot the male in the white durka durka in the street. The whole video is about 25-35 minutes long, it shows all the “clean up” part and our brass checking to ensure we didnt do anything illegal. So I tried to place the good parts in. And the yelling is cause we are having a good time. Killing “bad guys” is ******* awsome, what a reward to look through your ACOG and see your rounds impact flesh. **** yeah!” Posted Mar-13-2007 by “Tyer82”

According to the video - the 1/5 Marines in Ramadi, Iraq: “No unarmed people were hurt during shooting (of the video?)” - BULLSH!T!!! Such disgraceful hypocrisy….... this is how negative karma is made…... Once were warriors, now no longer men….....

1st Battalion 5th Marines (1/5) is an infantry battalion in the United States Marine Corps based out of Camp Pendleton, California consisting of approximately 800 Marines and Sailors. They fall under the command of the 5th Marine Regiment and the 1st Marine Division.

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By jeff douglass, May 26, 2007 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment
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Exhaustive studies have shown that John Wayne was the bravest man in history against blanks.

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By Louise, May 26, 2007 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment
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“owned a ranch - didn’t particularly like horses
- missing in action
- hero who merely played the part
- was a vocal conservative
- was in fact a chicken hawk.
He was a cheerleader and champion of militaristic patriotism and combat he had never experienced.
- the quintessential war wimp. 
sounding the jingoistic battle cry for a new generation of working-class sons and daughters to go to war.”

“We must re-examine America’s love affair with settling disputes through gunplay, and question people and institutions that demand that the young sacrifice their minds and bodies in tribute to these actors (of the stage and political theater) and the violence they celebrate.”

What-er-ya talkin’ about?
Bush is a lousy performer, wouldn’t call him an actor!

Oh! Silly me, duh ...
Look at the picture!
This “tribute” is to John Wayne!

Darn speed reading. Slow down and read it again.

Hmm, Wayne was a decent performer, but I wouldn’t call him a better actor than Marlon Brando. When the Hollywood players finally recognized him with an Oscar, it was kinda like the classic “attendance” Award.

What made his films memorable were the scripts, the supporting cast, the fabulous scenery and music and costumes, his dependability and self discipline and the fact that he never faked a Texas drawl.

Who knows, if Bush had dropped that “wannabee a Texan” drawl, grown another six inches and been willing to settle for world-wide fame instead of world-wide control, maybe he could have been another John Wayne.

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By Eric McBain, May 26, 2007 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment
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While in AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) in ‘66 we had an Sergeant who would yell at anyone who failed function as a part of our platoon: ” you play John Wayne in country boy, and you will be a f***king dead John Wayne”. Or ” Don’t be a f**king John Wayne troop”.

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By gradioc, May 26, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Another case of holding historic figures to the standards of our day rather than theirs. John Wayne was born in 1907 and pretty much reflected the politics of his generation his whole life. He flirted with socialism as a young man in the ‘30’s and, seeing Stalin for the monster he was, became a virulent anti-communist. Millions of other Americans walked that same path. Damn him for not being extraordinary. How dare he not be a visionary. Wayne, in many ways, was an average American. His biggest sin was in making those opinions seem reasonable even when those of us who disagreed thought them monstrous, as in Vietnam. I find it hard to condemn someone for being born when and where they were. Get up off John Wayne.

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By R.T.Thaddeus, May 26, 2007 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment
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I dispute your contention that Wayne was better than Brando.  “Brando played characters essentially like himself.”  Wayne was always Wayne too.  He was wooden, with no range and his films were derivative.  Brando was far better.  As to Ronald Reagan serving in the Military during WWII, not really.  He made training films but he never left Hollywood and his service wasn’t really considered “service” in the sense that Jimmy Stewart’s was.  Stewart actually flew bombing missions.  And Lee Marvin, who appeared in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” was not only a better actor than Wayne but saw a lot of combat during WWII and ironically gets gunned down by the big draft dodging right wing creep.

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By Chris Darrouzet, May 26, 2007 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment
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Because there are so few agreed upon standards by which to evaluate actors and their performances, you authors of this report are ble to declare that Wayne was “arguably” a better actor than Brando. Such daring!  Such BS. I agree with the other commentators that watching Wayne now is among the mosts booring things one can do. I grew up watching his movies on tv and going to his later movies.  Compared to Brando, Wayne was a caricature of an actor. Watching Brando in most of his roles is as mesmerizing as ever. To each their own — though you guys have some nuts promoting this idea.  I concur with the Academy who judged Brando to be the far better actor, giving Wayne his award for contributions to the film industry over years. Wayne is as boring in True Grit now as the rest of his films

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By Ken Mitchell, May 26, 2007 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment
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I beg to differ about Brando, he was a better actor than Wayne. You’re right about Wayne having as much service time as Cheney. Buck buck buck.

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By ardee, May 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

Both Wayne and Brando played themselves, over and over. Not that this detracts from their performances but compare them to an actor like Johnny Depp whose every role is different to the extreme. Gilbert Grape is a very different person than is Depp’s reprise of Ichabod Crane or Captain Jack Sparrow for that matter. I couldnt see anyone else making Edward Scissorhands real, can you?

Wayne’s politics or Brando’s, two polar opposites, mirror the fractious nature of our divided electorate and the times in which they both lived as well. John McCain himself noted that those who push for war the hardest are generally those who have never fought in one.

There is something inherently wrong with a culture that bestows some false measure of intellectual superiority or automatic rightness in the opinion of some public figure. They are just folks who, especially in Wayne’s case, were in the right place at the right time. Wayne happened to be in the bed of a famous movie actress, as were several members of his football team, supposedly at the same time. This doesnt make him a prophet of the right course of action any more than churning out movies made Ron Reagan fit for public office. It is the fault of our electorate that they gain such cachet.

Unless and until we think for ourselves we will always be led by the nose, and usually down the wrong roads.

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By writeon, May 26, 2007 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment
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In an alternative universe, I think it would have been great to see John Wayne and Rita Heyworth in their young and beautiful prime; doing Last Tango in Paris!

John Wayne was a very successful actor, and having carefully created his persona it’s debatable whether joining the army was really the best place for Wayne to make a contribution to the war effort.

Wayne was, and still is, an American Hero God, in the classsic Greek sense. America still has a love-hate relationship to Wayne the american icon. Wayne was a far more complex character than than many of us realize. He was a good actor and his crowning achievement was the role he played called John Wayne. Strangely, one of his greatest acting skills was portraying doubt, awarkwardness and lack of understanding. He wasn’t all brawn and bravery. At the heart of many of his toughguy roles, there’s something else underneath the surface; a strange, dark, hollowness. Perhaps his best film is The Searchers where he almost plays himself playing John Wayne! Then there is the cavalry trilogy. Three really great performances. Sure he’s a hero, but at the heart of the hero there’s this unerving hollowness.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, May 26, 2007 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

Why would anyone care about anything/anybody Hollywood?  Take me back to the Chris Hedges BS.

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By KenDen, May 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment

Wow, I never heard anyone compare Wayne and Brando before.  And I think that many would argue otherwise that Wayne was the better actor.  It is hard to imagine him doing On the Waterfront.  Brando was a nut case, but so are many artists.

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By Dale Headley, May 26, 2007 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
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It is typical of many Republicans to lionize cowardly racists such as John Wayne and “chickenhawks” like Dick Cheney, both of whom did everything possible to avoid serving their country, while demeaning the contributions of true American heroes like Ron Kovic, Max Clelland, and John Murtha.  Ronald Reagan managed to get assigned to a unit that had no chance in Hell of ever having to fight outside of a studio sound stage.  John Kerry actually risked his life, repeatedly, in the festerng jungles of Vietnam.  So, which one is branded as a “traitor” by those who never stood up to face an enemy with a gun?  Not the kindly old “B” movie actor.  To most Republicans, it’s not what you DO, actually; it’s what you SAY that is important.  It is instructive that John McCain, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole, three among the few Republicans who were truly heroic soldiers, have never accused Democrats who served of being anything but patriots.  It’s easy to sacrifice the lives of other men, as long as yours isn’t at risk; right, Rush Limbaugh?  And what about George W. Bush?  How come there is not a single record or eyewitness account that places him in Alabama serving in the national guard for a period of several months, hmmmm?  Can you say, “desertion”?

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By Tom, May 26, 2007 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment
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As the son of a WWII and Korean war veteran, I was raised on John Wayne movies, as well as the rest of the war glorifying tripe produced by Hollywood back in the 40s and 50s.  Then in 1966 I graduated from college, was commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the Army (Field Artillery) and received orders for Vietnam - all in one day.  I thought I was going to save the world from Communist aggression just like my father’s generation saved the world from Nazi and Japanese aggression.  It wasn’t until I lost my first friend in Vietnam - followed by many more - that I realized that war is not a John Wayne movie.

After years of denial, I slowly began to deal with the reality of Vietnam, just as those young soldiers who are now serving in combat zones will eventually have to deal with their war time experiences.  Too bad that those who sent us and them to war did not have first hand knowledge of what combat is really like. 

Now, forty years later, I am finally at peace, more or less, with all the dying and killing in Vietnam. But it’s been a long, hard journey.


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By P. T., May 26, 2007 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment

I can’t bear to watch John Wayne movies.  He’s just too corny!

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