Columnist Calls for Taking John Wayne’s Name Off Orange County Airport

It turns out, The Duke wasn't all that woke.


Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the LA Times, argues “It’s time to take John Wayne’s name off the Orange County airport.” Why? Because the Duke said some rather retrograde things in a 1971 interview with Playboy.

Most people familiar with the life story of John Wayne are aware that the late movie star was a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger — after all, he was still making a movie glorifying America’s conduct of the Vietnam War (“The Green Berets,” 1968) well after the country had begun to get sick of the conflict.

But the resurrection of a 1971 interview Wayne gave to Playboy magazine has underscored the sheer crudeness of the actor’s feelings about gay people, black people, Native Americans, young people and liberals.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible or immoral to enjoy Westerns and war movies starring John Wayne; that’s a personal choice. But it certainly undermines any justification for his name and image to adorn a civic facility.

The quotations are indeed cringe-worthy:

Gay people:

Wayne: Movies were once made for the whole family. Now, with the kind of junk the studios are cranking out. … I’m quite sure that within two or three years, Americans will be completely fed up with these perverted films.

PLAYBOY: What kind of films do you consider perverted?

WAYNE: Oh, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy — that kind of thing. Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?

Black people:

WAYNE: With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.

PLAYBOY: Are you equipped to judge which blacks are irresponsible and which of their leaders inexperienced?

WAYNE: It’s not my judgment. The academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically. But some blacks have tried to force the issue and enter college when they haven’t passed the tests and don’t have the requisite background. … But if they aren’t academically ready for that step, I don’t think they should be allowed in. Otherwise, the academic society is brought down to the lowest common denominator. … What good would it do to register anybody in a class of higher algebra or calculus if they haven’t learned to count? There has to be a standard. …

I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There’s no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren’t Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can’t always be that way. There isn’t necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven’t trained themselves for that type of work.

Native Americans:

PLAYBOY: For years American Indians have played an important — if subordinate — role in your Westerns. Do you feel any empathy with them?

WAYNE: I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.

[…]

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about the government grant for a university and cultural center that these Indians [then encamped on Alcatraz Island] have demanded as “reparations”?

WAYNE: What happened between their forefathers and our forefathers is so far back — right, wrong or indifferent — that I don’t see why we owe them anything. I don’t know why the government should give them something that it wouldn’t give me.

PLAYBOY: Do you think they’ve had the same advantages and opportunities that you’ve had?

WAYNE: I’m not gonna give you one of those I-was-a-poor-boy-and-I-pulled-myself-upby-my-bootstraps stories, but I’ve gone without a meal or two in my life, and I still don’t expect the government to turn over any of its territory to me. Hard times aren’t something I can blame my fellow citizens for. Years ago, I didn’t have all the opportunities, either. But you can’t whine and bellyache ’cause somebody else got a good break and you didn’t, like these Indians are. We’ll all be on a reservation soon if the socialists keep subsidizing groups like them with our tax money.

There’s more but one gets the point. Hiltzik responds to the most obvious defense:

Some of Wayne’s defenders have stepped forward to say it’s unfair to condemn an elderly man’s memory for a 48-year-old interview conducted during a very different era. In a statement issued Wednesday to Fox News, Wayne’s family says, “It’s unfair to judge someone on something that was written that he said nearly 50 years ago when the person is no longer here to respond.”

But that won’t wash. Wayne was a few weeks shy of his 64th birthday when the interview appeared in print. It was 1971, so the civil rights revolution had been going on for years; Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated three years before.

Wayne wasn’t expressing the tenor of the times — he was reacting to the advances being won by African Americans through demonstrations and legislation. His words already were retrograde when they were uttered. Wayne wasn’t an old conservative who hadn’t yet been “woke”; he had seen the future, and it put him into a racist rage.

Now, I think Hiltzik overstates how “retrograde” these views were in 1971. They surely weren’t unusual for an almost-64-year-old Republican—although perhaps they were for one who’d spent his adult life in Hollywood.

“Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy” were highly controversial; hell, the latter was given an “X” rating (and won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture). Homosexual themes, especially gay sex, was still sufficiently taboo that “Brokeback Mountain” faced a considerable backlash with its 2005 release—more than three decades after Wayne’s remarks. It’s also worth noting that, as loathesome as those views are now, 1971 was two years before the American Psychological Association ruled that “homosexuality by itself does not necessarily constitute a psychiatric disorder” and removed it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The use of the term “white supremacy” was especially unfortunate but the basic policy prescription Wayne was advocating—treating blacks equally but without making any sort of provisions for the consequences of centuries of past discrimination—was fairly mainstream well after 1971.

Wayne’s assessment of our treatment of Native Americans is literally laughable—and sadly at odds with a much more sensitive treatment in the films he was making at the time. One presumes it comes down to his sense that he earned everything he got the hard way.

Do I think these utterances, made almost half a century ago by a man who’s been dead nearly 40 years, were sufficiently heinous that he ought be stripped of honors earned in his lifetime? No.

At the same time, it’s not obvious why a public airport is named after him to begin with. He was an incredibly popular entertainer for a very long time. While he made a lot of bad movies, he made a lot that remain quite enjoyable to this day. But he wasn’t an especially generous contributor to the public weal. While he played the hero in a lot of war movies, he famously sat out World War II—refusing to sidetrack a film career that had just gotten in high gear—at a time when actors of his age and stature were making great sacrifices for the war effort. I don’t know that he was a great philanthropist or otherwise contributed aside from the entertainment value of the films, for which he was handsomely compensated. And, as Hiltzik notes, while a great deal of money for cancer research has been raised in his name, that was started by his heirs after his own death from the Big C.

I don’t think it’s necessary to continually re-assess the dead based on our current social mores. But it may be that we ought to regularly review the names of public facilities for contemporary relevance. Lots of bridges, roads, courthouses, airports, and the like are named after long-dead people whose achievements no longer seem particularly interesting. The value in keeping those names likely dies off with their immediate families.

UPDATE: I’ve amended the original text by 1) including the second part of Wayne’s quotes on blacks, which I had originally clipped for the sake of brevity, to provide further context and 2) noting the fact that homosexuality was still listed as a mental disorder by mental health professionals at the time of Wayne’s remarks.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, LGBT Rights, Popular Culture, Race and Politics, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dougast says:

    Rename everything with numbers like New York’s public schools… PS12, PS13… Airport 22, Courthouse 48…. Problem solved.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    FFS…that’s almost 50 years ago.
    Hemingway had some pretty antiquated views, as well.
    I mean, it’s not like Florack or some of these other fuq’s who are still alive and insist on remaining ignorant.
    Hmmm…I wonder what Copernicus thought about similar things? Should we discount his body of knowledge?

    BTW…anyone names anything after Dennison, I’m not responsible for anything that might happen to said structure.

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  3. SKI says:

    The use of the term “white supremacy” was especially unfortunate but the basic policy prescription Wayne was advocating—treating blacks equally but without making any sort of provisions for the consequences of centuries of past discrimination—was fairly mainstream well after 1971.

    You seem to be confusing what he said about Native Americans (no reparations) with what he said about blacks. He was incredibly racist calling them uneducated and irresponsible as a people.

    I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.

    That kind of view sounds like it was more from 1871, not 1971.

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  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    Honestly, I always thought it was odd that an airport would be named after John Wayne. I also think, given where that airport is located, that it was a deliberate political statement to name it after him. That’s in Orange County, which has been solidly red from the salad days of The Duke right up to the most recent election, which displayed a rather marked shift in color to a fairly blue purple.

    So, if the community thinks that the political statement that was made by naming the airport after Wayne no longer fits them, then they should change it.

    I still think he made a bunch of great movies, and I firmly believe that the work has a life of its own, apart from the artist. This doesn’t change that.

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  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @SKI:

    That kind of view sounds like it was more from 1871, not 1971.

    Sure…but he was already in his mid-sixties.
    I’m not excusing racism…but I don’t see how we judge him by anything but the era he grew up in…unfortunate as that was.

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  6. James Pearce says:

    At the same time, it’s not obvious why a public airport is named after him to begin with. He was an incredibly popular entertainer for a very long time.

    That strikes me as sufficient reason to name an airport after him. Better than naming it after some politician.

    Denver’s old airport used to be named after a dude who was actually in the Klan. The neighborhood where it sat still is. If you didn’t know that….can you really be injured by it?

    Give it enough time and the place names become divorced from who they’re named after. It’s just a placename with no context. Unless, of course, you want to dredge up 50 year old interviews to get mad about.

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  7. drj says:

    Lots of bridges, roads, courthouses, airports, and the like are named after long-dead people whose achievements no longer seem particularly interesting. The value in keeping those names likely dies off with their immediate families.

    Still, most of these people did something worthwhile while – I assume – dedicating themselves to public service. Let them have their roads and bridges, I’d say.

    But John Wayne? What did he ever do for the common good? Where’s the sacrifice? Also, he was an icon allright, but to my knowledge he wasn’t an innovator or someone who otherwise left a permanent mark on the movie industry.

    So I think these are rather different situations.

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  8. Modulo Myself says:

    I imagine John Wayne has another ten years to be remembered. The western has not aged well as a genre. There are The Searchers or The Red River, but they’ve been transported into film-nerd territory. The rest of his stuff is sentimental and unsophisticated. He never ended up in a Nicholas Ray film showing a disturbing side of himself. No, it was just the same guy, over and over and over.

  9. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I’m not excusing racism…but I don’t see how we judge him by anything but the era he grew up in…unfortunate as that was.

    In almost every era there have been people who can see outside the field permitted by the blinders of their culture and times.

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  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Modulo Myself: Watch The Shootist some time.

  11. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself: What about Big Jim MacLaine?

    He was plenty disturbing in that role, and it was definitely a part of himself that he was showing.

    And, as @Jay L Gischer mentions, The Shootist is an unabashedly great movie.

    As far as the airport goes, I hope some of the locals just refer to it as Old, White, Racist Airport. Ok, given what a complete phony John Wayne was, John Wayne Airport should be a bus station…

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  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The western has not aged well as a genre.

    And Wayne’s westerns in particular have faired poorly. I’d rather watch Jeff Bridge’s Rooster Cogburn than Wayne’s. I’d rather watch High Noon than Rio Bravo.

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  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I read the full article. Well written.

    I read some of the comments. Scorching, as you can imagine.

    Draft Dodgers. Common traits, I guess.

  14. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Gustopher: I agree the movie plot was good and well written but the casting not so much. The Shootist was Wayne’s final bow but casting Ron Howard, who was too old for the part of the boy and Lauren Bacall as his mother!!! A better cast would have been Maureen O’Hara as a grandmother and some young child actor as the grandson which would not have been much of a plot change.

  15. al Ameda says:

    This … our renaming obsession … while sometimes called for and a practical necessity … is a world without end.

    How about we rename the ‘United States of America’ to ‘States of America’? After all, we’re not really united.

  16. the Q says:

    Wayne born in 1907. Civil war ended 42 years before he was born and he is supposed to be an enlightened BLM member?

    Lets say for argument’s sake, that 20 years from now, scientists do find that IQ is hereditary. Does that generation then take down all statues of today’s leaders who reject that premise? What if they do find that men make better mathematicians genetically? Do we take down all statues of feminist leaders? Erase them from history books? This PC crazy schite has to stop.

    Was Wayne a fool? Yes. Was he conservative? Yes. Did he live in the heart of the OC on Lido Island? Yes. Does that mean, “take down that statue”? In DTLA is a statue of Gen. Pershing. A square is named after him. Same with Jack London in Oakland…both engaged in racist behaviors? Do we take them down too? This stuff is akin to Mao’s cultural revolution. Or the moronic ISIS desecrating antiquities.

    MLK was against gay marriage (he was a frickin Reverend), do we take down his DC memorial?

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  17. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “I’d rather watch High Noon than Rio Bravo.”

    Then there is simply no point in talking to you…

  18. grumpy realist says:

    Leave John Wayne’s name associated with the airport, but make sure it’s his REAL name: the Marion Mitchell Morrison Airport.

    For someone who traded on a bad-ass cowboy reputation, he certainly was a wimp in real life.

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  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is asinine.

    There are no saints, not in real life. If we want to name things after people we’re inevitably going to be including some less than perfect humans. We rightly remove Confederate statues because of what they represent, but John Wayne doesn’t represent a cause or a party or a rebellion or an idea, he was an actor FFS.

    You know who was a real asshole? The Duke of York (later James) after whom New York is named. Columbus, real POS. Washington owned slaves. Any number of state and locality names culturally appropriate (and usually misuse) Native American words. Give me ten minutes and I’ll connect just about any place name to some heinous person or practice. This is stupid.

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  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The use of the term “white supremacy” was especially unfortunate but the basic policy prescription Wayne was advocating—treating blacks equally but without making any sort of provisions for the consequences of centuries of past discrimination—was fairly mainstream well after 1971.

    Whoa, James. Lets go to the quote:

    WAYNE: With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.

    If I could triple bold that I would. He isn’t saying anything at all like you are intimating he is. He is saying they need to be “educated”. Maybe whites needed to be educated to a point of responsibility? And I don’t give a rat’s ass if it was “mainstream in 1971”. Was it less wrong then just because more white people excepted it as right then?

    I came here ready to quote the line from “The man who Shot Liberty Valance”: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” but no. In this case the legend obscures a far larger truth.

    John Wayne was a draft dodging racist homophobic piece of shit. My parents came out of those same years. Don’t tell me it was “fairly mainstream well after 1971” because it sure as shit wasn’t in my suburban middle class republican family. Both of them were far better human beings than Wayne ever dreamed of being. Everything he was, they weren’t. Which of the 2 is worth honoring? Emulating?

    I love John Wayne movies. John Wayne? Get real.

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  21. Mikey says:
  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    The search for purity is beginning to remind me of the feminist awakening in the 70’s, when you would go to a revival movie house playing a film from the 30’s that in contemporary terms had scenes that were blatantly sexist and part of the audience would break out booing. Eventually the boo-birds got over it and moved on to contemporary issues.

  23. Guarneri says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Its good to know you support the elimination of every Martin Luther King statue, road and holiday.

    You guys are just laughable clowns.

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  24. Franklin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The whole quote is borne of general ignorance. I only found it interesting that he didn’t exclude the possibility that blacks could be educated, because many bigots would.

    @Kathy:

    In almost every era there have been people who can see outside the field permitted by the blinders of their culture and times.

    Sure, and those people are highly regarded by history, and rightfully so. Few people have made the claim that John Wayne is acclaimed because of his innovative foresight in sociology.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a movie with John Wayne in it. Then again, I’m not a fan of Westerns longer than 53 minutes in length (roughly the length of an episode of Gunsmoke from the 60s) or of war movies at all. (Although, I did like “Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos” and “Blackhawk” [from the Forties and the 60s], as well as all of the retro comics and characters that became popular again in the 80s, so I guess I’m not completely backwards. Also liked “Combat” and “The Rat Patrol.”)

  26. gVOR08 says:

    As long they avoid confusion by continuing to call it “SNA”, I don’t care what else Orange County calls their airport. But as Doug notes, there’s a false note to Wayne. Wayne’s absence from WWII, per Wikipedia, may have been more a matter of his studio than himself. But,

    His widow later suggested that his patriotism in later decades sprang from guilt, writing: “He would become a ‘superpatriot’ for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home.

    Managing his image to make a pile of money to “atone” for being a chickenhawk seems such a Republican thing to do.

    My favorite “John Wayne” scene is Robin Williams telling Nathan Lane, ‘No, it’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.’ He really did walk like that.

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    @wr: Rio Bravo was the second best of the three times Howard Hawks and Wayne made that movie. The third was awful. From the WIKI article on Rio Bravo,

    The film was made as a response to High Noon, which is sometimes thought to be an allegory for blacklisting in Hollywood, as well as a critique of McCarthyism. Wayne would later call High Noon “un-American” and say he did not regret helping run the writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country.

  28. Slugger says:

    I don’t much care what the LAX alternative is called. John Wayne is dead, and those who saw the movies are not far behind. I am curious about the homophobia. How did that work on a basic biological level? Being an actor is not exactly a stereotypical manly, man type of job. There are a fair number of gay people in the business. What thoughts were going through Wayne’s mind as makeup was being applied when making Red River which was clearly one of his best films co-starring Montgomery Clift, a great actor who happened to be gay? Or a lesser movie like The Spoilers with Randolph Scott.
    I just don’t get it.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    MLK was against gay marriage (he was a frickin Reverend), do we take down his DC memorial?

    Oh? And when did he speak out against gay marriage?

  30. DrDaveT says:

    Now, I think Hiltzik overstates how “retrograde” these views were in 1971. They surely weren’t unusual for an almost-64-year-old Republican

    What a fascinating qualification. Does the modifier ‘Republican’ somehow excuse or mitigate the behavior in a way that (say) ‘racist’ wouldn’t? Or does it just say something about Republicans?

    Godwin notwithstanding, having views that were “not unusual for a 64-year-old Nazi” would not make those views somehow less anti-Semitic… After all, being a Nazi (or a Republican) is an effect, not a cause.

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  31. Mister Bluster says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:..anyone names anything after Dennison, I’m not responsible for anything that might happen to said structure.

    I don’t know. Donald Trump Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant has a ring to it.

  32. Stormy Dragon says:
  33. de stijl says:

    In DC rename Reagan National as Obama National and then tell me that naming means nothing.

  34. DrDaveT says:

    @de stijl:

    In DC rename Reagan National as Obama National and then tell me that naming means nothing.

    The signs and PA announcements in the Metro now say “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport”. My favorite moments, a few times a year, are when some tourist asks “Who was Ronald Reagan Washington?”.

  35. wr says:

    @gVOR08: “Rio Bravo was the second best of the three times Howard Hawks and Wayne made that movie. The third was awful.”

    For me, El Dorado has a great, shaggy charm, but Rio Bravo is a little sharper and more urgent. Hawks and co. were actually making that story into a movie there, but in the next one the story felt like an excuse to bring these characters together.

    Yes, Rio Lobo is terrible. The third-best version of Rio Bravo is easily John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13…

  36. drj says:

    @Concerned Citizen:

    Nobody told us what to say or think.

    Oh yes, they did. You just didn’t notice, because you never questioned what you were being told.

    You simply obeyed.

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  37. MarkedMan says:

    I suspect at least part of this is that John Wayne belongs to a different era. The sub-fifty generation are looking for reasons to change the name to something more relevant to them.

  38. James Joyner says:

    @SKI: Ah. In trying to be brief in my excerpt, I took out the second part, which is racist as hell but also more nuanced:

    PLAYBOY: Are you equipped to judge which blacks are irresponsible and which of their leaders inexperienced?

    WAYNE: It’s not my judgment. The academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically. But some blacks have tried to force the issue and enter college when they haven’t passed the tests and don’t have the requisite background. … But if they aren’t academically ready for that step, I don’t think they should be allowed in. Otherwise, the academic society is brought down to the lowest common denominator. … What good would it do to register anybody in a class of higher algebra or calculus if they haven’t learned to count? There has to be a standard. …

    I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There’s no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren’t Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can’t always be that way. There isn’t necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven’t trained themselves for that type of work.

    @Modulo Myself:

    There are The Searchers or The Red River, but they’ve been transported into film-nerd territory. The rest of his stuff is sentimental and unsophisticated.

    I think that’s mostly true—but probably why his movies were so popular. “Artistic” films seldom appeal to broad audiences, especially families with young children.

    No, it was just the same guy, over and over and over.

    That’s true of a lot of movie stars but not really true of Wayne, especially in the last 15-20 years of his career.

    @wr: “Rio Bravo” is kind of a silly movie but one of the most entertaining and re-watchable.

    @OzarkHillbilly: Wayne wasn’t a draft dodger; he was in his mid-30s with four kids and got a legitimate deferral. Straight Dope’s Cecil Adams has a fair rundown on the subject:

    At the time of Pearl Harbor, Wayne was 34 years old. His marriage was on the rocks but he still had four kids to support. His career was taking off, in large part on the strength of his work in the classic western Stagecoach (1939). But he wasn’t rich. Should he chuck it all and enlist? Many of Hollywood’s big names, such as Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, and Clark Gable, did just that. (Fonda, Wills points out, was 37 at the time and had a wife and three kids.) But these were established stars. Wayne knew that if he took a few years off for military service, there was a good chance that by the time he got back he’d be over the hill.

    Besides, he specialized in the kind of movies a nation at war wanted to see, in which a rugged American hero overcame great odds. Recognizing that Hollywood was an important part of the war effort, Washington had told California draft boards to go easy on actors. Perhaps rationalizing that he could do more good at home, Wayne obtained 3-A status, “deferred for [family] dependency reasons.” He told friends he’d enlist after he made just one or two more movies.

    The real question is why he never did so. Wayne cranked out thirteen movies during the war, many with war-related themes. Most of the films were enormously successful and within a short time the Duke was one of America’s most popular stars. His bankability now firmly established, he could have joined the military, secure in the knowledge that Hollywood would welcome him back later. He even made a half-hearted effort to sign up, sending in the paperwork to enlist in the naval photography unit commanded by a good friend, director John Ford.

    But he didn’t follow through. Nobody really knows why; Wayne didn’t like to talk about it. A guy who prided himself on doing his own stunts, he doesn’t seem to have lacked physical courage. One suspects he just found it was a lot more fun being a Hollywood hero than the real kind. Many movie star-soldiers had enlisted in the first flush of patriotism after Pearl Harbor. As the war ground on, slogging it out in the trenches seemed a lot less exciting. The movies, on the other hand, had put Wayne well on the way to becoming a legend. “Wayne increasingly came to embody the American fighting man,” Wills writes. In late 1943 and early 1944 he entertained the troops in the Pacific theater as part of a USO tour. An intelligence bigshot asked him to give his impression of Douglas MacArthur. He was fawned over by the press when he got back. Meanwhile, he was having a torrid affair with a beautiful Mexican woman. How could military service compare with that?

    He was certainly a racist and homophobe, although the latter concept was scarcely known in 1971. Indeed, that two years before the psychiatric community finally acknowledged that being gay wasn’t a mental illness.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Indeed. It was much easier to play at being a hero than actually try to be one. When the time for trial came, John Wayne was found lacking.

    It does look like it ate at Wayne. “Projection” was his middle name.

  40. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Concerned Citizen: Awwww… I feel so sad for you :-(. And your building the wall and everything.

    Poor snowflake… Sooooooo sad.

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  41. Mister Bluster says:

    Just reading this post and comments makes me sick.

    Well then stay on your knees in your bathroom with your head in the toilet.
    That way we get the best possible image of you.

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  42. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    Bill Wyler and Frank Capra were both in their 40s and had families. Not only did they not get deferments, they actively enlisted in WWII. Wyler even almost lost his career when he lost his hearing while filming on a bombing mission and came home a disabled veteran.

    And if John Wayne sat out the war, that’s fine. What’s galling is he spent the rest of his career claiming to be more patriotic than the people who actually went because in Republican land, playing a soldier in a movie is more patriotic than being an actual soldier:

    Wayne would later call High Noon “un-American” and say he did not regret helping run the writer, Carl Foreman, out of the country.

    Carl Foreman was a WWII vet. Fuck John Wayne.

  43. Tyrell says:

    @Jay L Gischer: He is considered great because of his movies, not his personal political and social views.
    Where is this stuff going to stop? How about Henry Ford? He had some rough views. General Sherman had some extreme views on the Native Americans.
    People should look at the overall. And the media need to quit giving the time of day to these misguided people who are going around trying to stir things up.
    Find me one person from the past who was perfect. (Oops!)

  44. James Pearce says:

    All the people blasting John Wayne for not serving in WW2 need to remember that just because you celebrate the people who go to war doesn’t mean you don’t get to slam the people who don’t.

    I also don’t think a person who was born in 1907 and died in 1979 really needs to abide by 2019 progressive ideology and it’s stupid (there, I said it) to think he should.

  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “you don’t get to slam the people who don’t.”

    Of course we do. The people on the right slam war protesters and COs as cowards and traitors who hate their country (yes, I looking at you, Sarah Palin), and people on the left slam right wingers in favor of sending other people’s children to die in wars as “chicken hawks.” It’s as American as Bacon Whoppers with cheese. What are you talking about?

  46. An Interested Party says:

    …you don’t get to slam the people who don’t.

    Of course you do, especially if the person presents himself as some kind of patriotic warrior…the least such a person could do is, you know, actually fight for his country…

  47. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Of course you do, especially if the person presents himself as some kind of patriotic warrior…

    That’s not how movies work.

    John Wayne was an actor and this is how you know he was a good actor: you have confused him with the roles he played. John Wayne “fought for his country” in the best way possible. With art and commerce.

  48. Mister Bluster says:

    …deranged…

    Never denied it.

  49. CHRISTINE stewart says:

    People who disagree with dead men’s opinions are cop outs. People who disagree with someone’s opinion should say so to their face. If you don’t like the answer, don’t ask the question. My Grandad was quite racist, was disgusted by homosexuality, spoke his mind, but he was still a great man. He never had slaves, didn’t castrate homosexuals, worked hard and loved his family. I have multi racial friends, straight & homosexual friends, if they ask my opinion, I will give it honestly. if they put their religion, their sexual tendencies, or history in my face they are asking for trouble (and they know it). I like to learn about history, I think people were treated unfairly, but I’m not responsible for it. I’ve got nothing to be repentant about. The problem is, we have no right to opinions now, because you know for sure someone will be offended and if you are unfortunate to make a name for yourself, someone will remember what you said 30 years ago even if you did a lot of good for society. Take his name off the airport, but not because of his opinion.

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @wr: El Dorado is one of the few John Wayne movies I’ll watch, along with The Searchers, Red River, Stagecoach (sometimes just for the current salience of the corrupt banker character), and the Cavalry trilogy. Rio Bravo was too Hollywood. Dean Martin AND Ricky Nelson FFS?

    Trivia. I’ll also watch The Longest Day, but that’s not really a John Wayne movie. As I bitched above, Wayne made his career by skipping the war. Among the cast Eddie Albert commanded an LST prowling around Tarawa Lagoon under fire. Richard Todd played the commander at Pegasus Bridge who kept muttering “hold until relieved” until some young Lieutenant relieved them. On the day, Todd was that Lieutenant.

  51. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce:

    John Wayne was an actor and this is how you know he was a good actor: you have confused him with the roles he played.

    He really only successfully played the same character over and over. This is how we know, despite great monetary success, that he was a mediocre actor.

  52. Mister Bluster says:

    @CHRISTINE Stewart:People who disagree with dead men’s opinions are cop outs.

    Adolph Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all died before I was born.
    So you are telling me I am a cop out if I disagree with them?

    Get bent.

  53. James Pearce says:

    @gVOR08:

    He really only successfully played the same character over and over. This is how we know, despite great monetary success, that he was a mediocre actor.

    That’s like saying Louis Armstrong was a mediocre musician because he only played the trumpet. Back in the day, you’d call up a guy named Marion Morrison from Glendale and who would show up on set? Captain Brittles. That’s what made him a good actor.

    (Louis Armstrong, a dope smoker with his own foibles, has an airport named after him too.)

  54. An Interested Party says:

    …you have confused him with the roles he played.

    No, dearie…outside of acting, he presented himself as a conservative Republican who was pro-military…if such a person can’t serve his country in wartime, particularly WW II, he deserves to be slammed…

  55. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    No, dearie…outside of acting, he presented himself as a conservative Republican who was pro-military…if such a person can’t serve his country in wartime, particularly WW II, he deserves to be slammed…

    No one deserves to be slammed over some bullshit parameters you just made up. You know who slams people for not serving in the military? Assholes. Assholes slam people for that.

  56. An Interested Party says:

    No one deserves to be slammed over some bullshit parameters you just made up.

    Ohhhh, like what you do to Congressional Democrats all the time…

  57. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Ohhhh, like what you do to Congressional Democrats all the time…

    Tell you what. I’ll carry water for the artists. You carry water for the politicians.

  58. An Interested Party says:

    Tell you what. I’ll carry water for the artists. You carry water for the politicians.

    You should worry less about carrying water and more about being honest and truthful in your arguments…

  59. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: Were I to take unsolicited advice from pseudonymous internet trolls, I might.

  60. An Interested Party says:

    @James Pearce: Oh sweetie…my existence shouldn’t matter to you being honest and truthful in your arguments…c’mon, I know you can do it if you try…