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What Do John Wayne Western Movies Tell Us?
Are the western movies just another form of entertainment? Specifically John Wayne movies. Was there any deep meaning behind any of them? Who are we to try to find a hidden agenda or deep meaning between a movie and the life of the actor in those movie roles?
Just because the man himself was conservative, staunchly patriotic, unafraid to express his opinions and truthful to a fault does not necessarily mean that would be reflected in his movie roles. Or would it? I say it does and I will outline one or two of his films and link parallels to his real life.
Rio Bravo was a film about a sheriff with a drinking problem (Dean Martin) and landowner with a brother who killed someone. Here comes the Duke back into town to "help" his down and out friend. Along the way he picks up a stray (Ricky Nelson) as well as a very young Angie Dickinson (as the heartthrob). What strikes me over and over about this movie is the fact that the character John Wayne plays is trying to help his friend as well as save the town. It was this type of script that personified Wayne’s films. They are didactic, they tell a moral tale. In Rio Bravo isn't the moral issue about alcohol? Or is it about camaraderie, having the courage to stand up to bullies as well as the courage to stare down your own demons?
My husband would disagree. He feels John Wayne is and will always be a American Icon true, He agrees with me that he would take only the roles he felt were honest, moral movie roles but still says "You think too hard about all that Boo; it's only a movie!" He then pointed out that the last scene in Rio Bravo they all have a shot of whiskey together. There went my proof about subliminal suggestion! That would really be a good one too, eh?
But look at the Searchers, without a doubt one of the deepest scene roles he undertook. The Searchers is about two very volatile issues.
A good man in love with his brother’s wife. That same good man is also battling his personal demon of prejudice against the Indians. That prejudice is fueled to a boiling point by the killing of his brother and most of his family during an Apache raid. The same brother whose wife John Wayne’s character loves.
Only two survive the raid. Debbie, who is little more than a toddler and her older sister. John Wayne’s character is the main one who is steadfast in his quest to find his niece, little Debbie. Throughout the entire movie, however, John Wayne continually repeats that once he finds the girl, he intends to kill her himself. His logic is that Little Debbie has been tainted; she’s a squaw now and not fit to return home.
In the end what happens? Well, except for the tiny part at the start where they kiss and you are sure there will be bloodshed when the husband walks back into the house there is no further mention, not even a dream about! Debbie’s’ mom, it’s always the same thing: must rescue little Debbie and must kill little Debbie when he rescues her! Talk about mixed up! And isn’t that exactly what the world is concerning prejudice? Very mixed up indeed
Of course John Wayne doesn't do that. Of course he finds little Debbie’s, all grown now but still the same little girl inside. He takes her back home, you think everything will be fine and then he leaves, quietly shutting the door behind him.
Is this a movie about quilt? Prejudice? Revenge? Is John Wayne living his life inside the movie or vice versa? He did have affairs, he did voice controversial views about the way all people should educate themselves and live their lives to their full potential.
My beloved Hubby has always had John Wayne as his role model. His life guides are my husband’s; always keep your word, try never to intentionally insult someone and always do the right thing. I think that if we attempted to live our lives as a John Wayne role we wouldn't get it half wrong. I believe if all of us, throughout this world were to live our lives by John Wayne’s life guides, the world and ourselves, would be a much better place.