John Wayne – A True American

President Ronald Reagan once said, “There is no one who more exemplifies the devotion to our country, its goodness, its industry, and its strengths than John Wayne.” This was evident in regards to an issue that was important to both President Reagan and Wayne – Communism.

In the late 1940s, many Hollywood actors, writers and producers testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), including Ronald Reagan.

The encouraged Congress to intervene in what they saw as the growing presence of Communists in the motion picture industry. Many of of the members of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals were in favor of “blacklisting” or barring members of the Communist Party from jobs in the motion-picture industry both on-screen and behind the scenes. These included conservatives such as Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Wayne’s friend, and often co-star, Ward Bond.

John Wayne, however, was not in favor of blacklisting. He believed in maintaining the American ideals in film, which is quite apparent when watching any of his movies, but he felt that denying a person the right to work based on their political orientation was wrong. This too, being an American and John Wayne ideal: a person needs to work to earn success.  Wayne also believed that any member of the Communist party that broke with the party and apologized should be welcomed back into American society. When Larry Parks admitted to being a member of the party and expressed his deep regret over the association, Wayne defended his position and and said, “We should give him friendship and help him find employment again in our industry.” So while anti-Communist, Wayne’s American work ethic and soft-spot for those who made personal mistakes showed some of the “goodness” that President Reagan spoke about.

Wayne didn’t really have political ambitions for himself, but was highly motivated to serve the country he loved and help those in need. Director John Farrow, who worked with Wayne on the movie Hondo summed it up when he described Duke’s politics as, “he felt protective of his country and its way of life.”  His movies exemplified this, and is one of the reasons people still enjoy them and admire the Duke today.  According to fellow actor and not yet President, Ronald Reagan, “John Wayne represented the true American spirit.”  And many of his peers, liberal and conservative, recognized Wayne as a fair minded individual who was not a reactionary, but a balanced, understanding man. The Duke’s fans saw him the same way, as a true American, a symbol of when men proved their worth not with words but with action.

Thanks to Howard Kazanjian and Chris Enss and their book The Young Duke: The Early Life of John Wayne for research for this post.

Alain Burrese is an author and speaker.  His books include the Tough Guy Wisdom series. Tough Guy Wisdom: John Wayne vols. 1 and 2 will be released in 2013.



  1. Robert Moran says:

    Because Ward Bond was blackballed and couldn’t work, John Wayne insisted that his friend be hired for many of Wayne’s movies.

  2. That’s what this country needs right now. John Wayne ” A true American”. The Duke has been gone 34 years, his spirit is still with us. Too bad government officials don’t act n think the way the Duke did.

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