Sunday, May 27, 2007
John Wayne is America's hero
100 years ago, a boy was born who would change this country forever. Growing up in a small Iowa town as Marion Robert Morrison, the man we now know as John Wayne had no idea of what he would mean to this country and it's people some day. Much is said of the wonderful influence of his characters and films on the movie going world. He is an insurmountable figure in that industry and I feel that goes without saying. From "the Ringo Kid" to "Rooster Cogburn" his on-screen persona's are spoken of in fond remembrance. As we approached the week of his 100th birthday, I was thinking of his portrayals as well, but in a different light. Sure he has influenced actors and such with his attitude on screen, but what about the influence on America?
Growing up, I saw a lot of John Wayne movies thanks to my mother's father. He would get excited and jab me in the ribs with his elbow saying, "Watch this! Watch this!" with all the excitement of a school boy. (J.C. had his share of those moments as well.) I grew older and understood his excitement, but I also grew to understand something else about Mr. Wayne. As the greatest on-screen hero we've ever seen, the Duke had no super powers. He couldn't fly and he wore no special outfit. He was a man like the rest of us, but there was something special in the characters he portrayed. As a matter of fact, that's what he had: Character. We don't dwell on it too much, but it's his character that has made him a hero to many. When you watch Superman or the Hulk, you don't look at Christopher Reeve of Lou Ferrigno as super-human. They are just seen as actors. When you think of John Elder from 'The Sons of Katie Elder' you think , "He wouldn't have been such a tough character if John Wayne wouldn't have played him." This is the same for all of Mr. Wayne's characters throughout his movie career. John Wayne is the common denominator in the hero value of all of his on-screen persona's. He portrayed the best in all of us. Honesty, integrity, patriotism, toughness and tenacity among other things.
These are things that we as individuals can realistically achieve. I feel that is what draws us to his characters. He has character and we want it. Most of us are honest and patriotic, but in reality do we have all of the admirable traits? John Wayne's characters did and it endears him to us. As a country, we like to think of ourselves as being like him: tough and lasting while commanding respect. He is the greatest example of what we should be. He sets the bar for admirable persona. He inspires us to be strong. He inspires us to be true and he inspires us to be tough. John Wayne the man was just a man, but John Wayne as Ringo Kid or G.W. McLintock was who we want to be. He's true to his word and always fair. I feel that even though there are so many wonderful people in this country, we don't have enough John Wayne. He stands for what's good in this country. He stands for what's good in all of us as well as what we all want to become. That's what makes John Wayne the hero of the American people. We close with this great clip of the Duke havin' fun while singing a duet with the late great Dean Martin.
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
Sorry doesn't cut it, dude.