Empowering words from the movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” But what a truer statement than that was the life of John Wayne. He was one of the first actors in Hollywood to start his own production company, called “Wayne-Fellows” productions latter turned to “Batjac”. He was only nominated twice for an academy award, won once in 1969.
Wayne is the only actor to appear in every edition of the annual Harris Poll of Most Popular Film Actors, and the only deceased actor to appear on the list after his death. Wayne has been in the top ten in this poll for 19 consecutive years, starting 15 years after his death in 1979, has been featured on two stamps. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter.
In 1998, Wayne was posthumously awarded the Naval Heritage Award by the U S Navy Memorial Foundation for his support of the U S Navy and military during his film career. Shortly before he passed he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Those who showed up in support of this award included Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas and Gen Omar Bradly. He received the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1966 for his achievement in films. He made a TV special called Swing Out Sweet Land showing how America came about on TV. Which featured on this program Dean Martin, Red Skeleton, Bing Crosby and a few others. His myth was almost as huge as He was. His love for America was evident as well.
He made a very controversial film in 1968 called “The Green Berets” at the request of President Johnson who was trying to get support to as why we were fighting over there… The film ends with a very touching scene where Kirby, in a touching moment, walks over to the boy and tells him the sad news. Hamchuck asks plaintively, “what will happen to me now?” Kirby places Petersen’s green beret on him and says, “you let me worry about that, Green Beret. You’re what this thing’s all about.” The two walk holding hands along the beach into the sunset.
The Searchers continues to be widely regarded as perhaps Wayne’s finest and most complex performance. In 2006, Premiere Magazine ran an industry poll in which Wayne’s portrayal of Ethan Edwards was rated the 87th greatest performance in film history. Between 1926 and 1976, Wayne starred in over 170 motion pictures, and became one of America’s biggest box office stars. What more can truly be said of this larger and life American? 7 children and more than 20 great grandchildren (married 3 times). Words could go on and on to fill page after page of his accomplishments but the quote still remains the same “When the legend becomes fact print the legend.”
Who would have ever thought that growing up in America made it possible for a poor boy from the Midwest to achieve wealth and fame and happiness?’ There have been many examples of the American Dream in our history, but few rival the remarkable story of this ex-paper carrier, ex-delivery boy, ex-football player, ex-prop man and USC dropout who became one of the iconic figures of the 20th century.
Long live the Duke!