John Wayne Westerns: Crossovers from Cinema to Literature

How witty would a man be if at least one book of quotes from him can be compiled? Extremely witty, many could guess. But then, how can globally renowned author Gore Vidal refer to such a clever man as “one powerful inarticulate brute of a man”? Of course Gore Vidal can always do that because firstly, the book is fiction (i.e., Myra Breckinridge). Secondly, the reference was made to the man’s reel life persona, not his off-screen qualities.

Wondering who this tongue-tied beast of a man is? It is the witty cultural icon John Wayne. Welcome to the world of John Wayne crossovers. John Wayne was a real great actor that he was able to effectively project an intrinsic quality on screen which was the exact opposite of his real-life nature.

The Duke sure is the subject of this article about how he and his memorable Western genre films made dozens of crossovers in American literature. You are reading it right. It is plural because there is more than one such intersection. Here are some crossovers of John Wayne and his Western films on novels, and short stories:

• In the 2011 novel Thawed Out and Fed Up, author Ryan Brown, one of the characters, Duke, delivered John Wayne’s immortal line: “Come on, we’re burning daylight” from the 1972 film The Cowboys. The Western term “burning daylight” means wasting time. After the release of the movie, the “burning daylight” phrase became associated with John Wayne. However, William Dales Jennings was the author of the novel where the movie was adapted and the term was explained under the Western Glossary at the end of the original novel.

• In the 1999 mystery McNally’s Dilemma, author Lawrence Sander made references to two of the Duke’s patriotic films: The Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. The allusion was made through the protagonist and narrator Archy McNally, a private investigator.

• All but one of the chapters of the 1997 fiction novel John Wayne: A Novel by author Dan Barden mentioned either John Wayne or part of Wayne’s Western movie title. There are chapters where the complete John Wayne movie titles were cited. True Grit, where the Duke played the role of an eye-patch-wearing aged Marshall, was among the movies alluded to.

• The novel also features a number of facts from Wayne’s life and career, including his relationship with actress Marlene Dietrich.

• In the 1995 mystery God Bless John Wayne, author Kinky Friedman cited John Wayne’s movie where the Duke plays the Texan private investigator Kent Perkins. Another Wayne Western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was also referenced in the mystery novel.

• In the 1992 short story, The Ghost of John Wayne, author Ray Gonzales made a number of allusions to the Duke and his blockbuster movie The Alamo.

• In the 1983 short story The Day the Cisco Kid shot John Wayne, author Nash Candelaria renamed his antagonist Denver as John Wayne. The story also referenced Wayne’s epic film The Searchers.

Except for occasional Western blockbusters, the genre may be presently at lull in the cinema. However, Western movie fans can always relive the heyday of the Westerns through the Duke’s crossovers. John Wayne sure lives forever in the Western World!


  1. Phyllis says:

    John Wayne was an almost immortal actor, who put His Heart and Soul in HIS movies. HE WAS THE ULTIMATE HERO. I WAS RAISED THAT WAY

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