Our Changing World Needs ‘The Duke!’

“I was wrong you haven’t changed, have you Jacob McAndles?”

“Not one bit!”

So goes a poignant exchange between Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in the early part of “Big Jake.”  McAndles returns home after nearly 10 years to take part in the rescue effort to recover his kidnapped grandson.  Martha McAndles learns quickly that her estranged husband is the same gruff, hard man she once knew!

I watched this movie for the umpteenth time the other night and those three simple words uttered by The Duke echoed in my mind.  Three, three-letter words on a script: But somewhere in the past 40 years since “Big Jake” was filmed, I would argue these words have became more a statement of hope and comfort in a world gone crazy.  It’s no news flash that we are not living in the same world of the 1970s.  The headlines are pocked with stories of corruption, hate, tragedy and unrest.   And to make matters worse, I see that AMC will not be running “Christmas with the Duke” this year.  At a time when we need him more than ever, The Duke has disappeared.

Stick with me a minute and I’ll lead you across what may seem to be a ramshackle bridge between John Wayne movies and a world filled with tragic events.   Let me start with a simple question.

Why are we still so drawn to John Wayne movies every time they hit the small screen?  Hollywood continues to churn out hundreds of movies a year, yet so many people continue to hold an attraction for an actor whose last movie hit the silver screen nearly 40 years ago.  Maybe it’s because, as a country, we still have a love affair with westerns.   That’s possible, but I would argue, even as a huge Wayne fan, that there are many great westerns with stronger stories and deeper characters than most of Wayne’s work.  (“Unforgiven” and the mini-series “Lonesome Dove” immediately come to mind). 

Perhaps it’s because you just can’t see John Wayne movies everywhere, so we tune in to make sure we don’t miss one.  Yeah, that’s probably not it either.  If you’re a true fan like I am, there are few films they could show that don’t already have a hallowed place on your DVD rack.

No, I would contend one of the big reasons we continue to turn on and tune in is that John Wayne and his films bring stability and consistency to a world gone crazy.  Duke is the Gibraltar-esque presence in a world where the waves of insanity continue to crash the shore.  The darkness of mass shootings, heroes who have fallen from grace and a continual search for something or someone to look to that brings order and sense back into our world.

Wayne films, especially his westerns take us back to simpler times.  Sure, there were struggles and hard times, but overall, it was easier to make sense of life.  The line between right and wrong was more clearly defined, even in movies like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” where Tom Doniphon guns down Valance, but only after the law has failed repeatedly to bring him to justice.  Our attraction may also be that we still want to believe in the ideals of America depicted in those movies, not the America we live in today, with its confused sense of integrity and justice.

And there was an additional element of consistency that The Duke gave us.  Some argue his characters were merely thinly disguised sketches of the man himself.   Even if that is true, there was an element of truth and consistency in every character he portrayed.  Even men like Doniphon, Cole Thorton (“Eldorado”), and J.B. Books (“The Shootist”) were men of integrity.  Doniphon stood up for the underdog and against the outlaw.  Thorton sided with his friend and sheriff against the greedy Bart Jason.  Even Books, a hired gun on his way out, did his part to ensure the young Gillam Rogers did not follow down the same path he had traveled.

In life, Wayne wasn’t without flaws.  But even those flaws were consistent with the public image the world came to know and much of what we saw portrayed on the screen.  I contend there is no one in Hollywood today that measures up in the same way.

So why can’t we get enough of The Duke?  I think there is a part of our subconscious that wants to relive the values we see Wayne exemplify in his films, values that are so drastically lacking in our world today.  This year,  we’ll all have to break into personal movie vault for our fix on Christmas Day.  Here’s hoping AMC sees what it is depriving America of and brings “Christmas with the Duke” back next year!

Until then, take comfort in knowing The Duke hasn’t changed!

“Not one bit!”

Comments

  1. john watson says:

    JOHN WAYNE IS THE ICON OF NOT ONLY HOLLYWOOD BUT THE ICON OF AMERICAN PEOPLE, YES, BY GOD I SAID AMERICAN PEOPLE…HE WOULD TURN OVER FACE DOWN IN HIS GRAVE IF HE AS AN AMERICAN KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH OUR NATION TODAY..HE WOULD SEE THAT WE HAVE HIM FOR ANOTHER FOUR YEARS TRYING TO TAKE AWAY EACH AND EVERYONE OF THE RIGHTS THAT OUR FOREFATHERS HAD WRITTEN THAT GAVE US CERTAIN RIGHTS TO INDIVIDUALS THAT TELLS US WE CAN SMOKE IF WE SO DESIRE AND BEAR ARMS IF WE HAVE THEM AND ITS NOT THE GUNS THAT KILL PEOPLE LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN AND SUCH… ITS PEOPLE THAT KILL BY JUST THE PULLING OF A TRIGGER ..WE NEED SOMEONE IN OUR NATION THAT HAS ENOUGH GUTS ABOUT AND THE FORTITUDE ABOUT THEM TO START STANDING WITH THE PEOPLE AND NOT ON THEM..PEOPLE LIKE OUR JOHN WAYNE WOULD BE AND COULD BE JUST THAT KIND OF MAN. IF WE HAD ANYMORE JUST LIKE HIM..BUT THEY ARE ALL SO SCARED OF WHAT THE PRESIDENT THAT EVEN TELLS THEM WHAT RIGHTS THEY HAVE AND WHICH THEY DONT AND IT IS PURE OBNOXIOUS IS WHAT IT IS AND SICKENING TO EACH AND EVERYONE HERE IN THIS NATION..JOHN WAYNE WAS AND STILL EVEN IN DEATH. THE KIND OF MAN THAT EACH MAN AND WOMAN WHO LOVED AND ADMIRED “THE DUKE” JOHN WAYNE SHOULD STRIVE TO BE INSTEAD OF BEING FIRST CLASS IDIOTS,, AND YES I SAID IDIOTS …. AS OLD TATER SALAD , RON WHITE SAYS CONSTANTLY,,,, THERE ARE MILLIONS OF THINGS IN THIS WORLD YOU CAN FIX,,, BUT THERES ONE DAMNED THING YOU WILL NEVER EVER FIX,,, AND THAt IS “STUPID”………. THIS IS JOHN WATSON,,…..”GOOD DAY”

  2. torie herrera says:

    My mom loved John Wayne and my sister does these days. She has a room with all kinds of pictures and things of him. John was a great man not only in movies but in real life. Bigger than life… He was loved and still today cuz he is an icon.

  3. Jo DeMarc says:

    The man was a true icon. My father used to have the recording “America: why I love her” done by Mr. Wayne. I had it after Dad passed & lost it during Hurricane Opal. I HAVE found it online to listen to.
    Hey, Duke… we need some old-fashioned advice, please!

  4. Ann Montgomery says:

    I loved watching John Wayne growing up as a child and still as an adult my oldest son loves to watch him as well he is also a wonderful father figure that every man needs to learn from by watching his movies thanks John Wayne you are loved and missed but never forgotten

  5. dorotha d says:

    I knew a lady whose husband worked as a teamster on MANY of John Waynes movies…he said John was the same off screen as on, he was a MANS MAN,which to me is a good thing. He loved this country and was NOT afraid to say so, now all we have a is bunch of wusses trash talking AMERICA and acting like they KNOW more than we do….IT IS WAY TO BAD THERE ARENT MORE MEN LIKE jOHN WAYNE….

  6. alansykes says:

    Love the man and the values he portrayed in his movies.Thank you John for being you!

  7. Renee says:

    They sure don’t make ‘em like the Duke any more! Most of Hollywood these days is made up of guys who need computer animations to help them look bad ass, but the Duke sure didn’t need that kind of help! He walked into a room and it was like instant bad ass, you just never messed with the Duke! He stood tall! He walked softly! And when he spoke, you listened! Best damned actor there ever was and ever will be! A legend in his time and even still today, ain’t no one in Tinsel Town can hold a candle to the Duke! The Good Lord broke the mold when He made the Duke! One of a kind! We are all blessed and better off for having been blessed to watch his movies! God bless him!

  8. David Floyd says:

    I grew up watching John Wayne movies not only his westerns but is war movies and is cop movies as well. To me he was the best of the best no matter what part he played. I grew up wanting to be just like the Duke he was my hero and way of life. He always played the part like he was liveing it. But his words were said with meaning and feeling when he said something he meant it. John Wayne was and still is my hero.

  9. Betty says:

    My late father was a real man like John Wayne and in fact actually resembled him. The Duke and my Dad have been the criteria by which I have judged men even into old age. Needless to say, few have come close and I was privileged to love and be loved by only one many years ago. That is just a testament to how magnificent John Wayne was, and how one fan misses his being on this Earth. Love you, Duke!

  10. mike says:

    The real reason is spoken of in the Bible……The end of times where the Devil runs rampant……This is exactly where we are now in life……John Wayne films just like old time music was a ploy by the devil to get our attention to films and music then little by little they have changed to what we see and hear now……..DEVILISH LED RAMPAGE

  11. D Kauffman says:

    There are no such heroes today – but we have many who stand in harm’s way every day to protect those few rights we still have…The society of today needs to be a little more gentler and loving to friends and those we hold dear – in our family, we have such a man who like the Duke is quiet, loving, fair and respectful of those he holds dear..his life’s idol has been John Wayne since the day I met him, and many of the practices in his private life are modeled after John Wayne. I hope I live long enough to see the world become the society we remember from the 50′s and 60′s — never locked our doors – leave on vacation for as long as two weeks – neighbors would come in and be sure things were all right – we could come home and find everything fine just as we left it..never hesitated to give that young person hitchhiking on the side of the road a ride to the nearest town – it was a much happier and less stressful time for the human race…and we actually could feel without being wrong that our government was there for us without having to look over our shoulder – maybe some feel the society and government intervention in our lives is necessary for our own safety and well being – it makes me sad to have to admit that maybe they are somewhat right – but we are paying for it every day with the interference in our privacy….let us pray for the return to peace and love of mankind…

  12. Steve says:

    another good line that people need to think about from that movie is the exchange right before that with his son. he says, ” since you haven’t learned to respect your elders it’s time you learned to respect your betters.” people now adays don’t respect their elders and don’t take the time to find out that they are there betters cause they have been there and learned many of the lessons people now adays have to learn over.

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