John Wayne: 30 Years Later

Alex Massie and Radley Balko remind me that John Wayne died 30 years ago today.

I recall it well, having just recently returned to the States from Germany and waiting to start 8th grade in El Paso.  I’ve seen most of his movies since and become a bigger fan.

Someone (Robert Prather, perhaps) shared via Google Reader a superb tribute by Roger Ebert published earlier this week in the Chicago Tribune.  I recommend it highly.

Alex lists his five favorite Duke movies, and they’re all good.  “Rio Bravo” and “Horse Soldiers” are two of my favorites as well.  I like Wayne in his later years, where his humor was more integral to his roles.  My all-time favorites are “Big Jake,” “The Commancheros,” “El Dorado,” “Chisum,” and “Rooster Cogburn.” The last, a reprise of his Oscar-winning role in “True Grit,” was a more enjoyable movie.

Of his non-Westerns, “The Quiet Man” is easily my favorite.  The WWII flicks “In Harm’s Way” and “They Were Expendable” were also quite superb.

The trailer from “Big Jake” is below.

What are your favorites?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The Shootist is almost undoubtedly his best performance. My favorite of his pictures is The Quiet Man, which I could probably recite.

    Stagecoach, his star-making performance, set the standards for Westerns. Red River is a transitional picture for Wayne, moving beyond his Western leading man parts more to the archetypal Wayne.

    The Searchers is one of the very best Westerns ever made, featuring a complex and nuanced portrayal by Wayne of a troubled character.

    If you’ve never seen it, The Shepherd of the Hills is the picture in which John Wayne became John Wayne. It marks a dividing line. Harry Carey clearly made a big impression on him.

  2. sam says:

    Pretty much what Dave says, though I’d add The Quiet Man–that was a lovely movie, and, as usual, he and Maureen O’Hara just lit up the screen. I’d also add the cavalry movies he made with John Ford, esp. Fort Apache.

    I remember watching the Academy Awards when he came out on stage for a reason I can’t recall. He was then pretty close to the end and had been undergoing chemo. He was so thin. So thin. When he came on stage, the gasp from the audience was a sighing dirge. It was the beginning, I think, of the twilight of the Hollywood gods.

  3. Phil Smith says:

    The Shootist, The Cowboys, and Angel and the Badman.

  4. The Searchers
    Rio Bravo
    Red River
    The Quiet Man

  5. Grewgills says:

    The Conqueror. John Wayne as Genghis Khan is priceless.

  6. I would have to go with The Shootist, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Searchers as my faviortes.

  7. The Strategic MC says:

    Four of the John Ford classics:
    1)The Searchers
    2)Fort Apache
    3)She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
    4)They Were Expendable

    5)The Shootist

  8. FormerHostage says:

    The Searchers
    3 Godfathers – which is actually a Christmas story

  9. physics geek says:

    I can’t really quibble with your list, but I’d like to add:

    1) The Sons of Katie Elder
    2) The Cowboys

  10. James Joyner says:

    I do love “The Cowboys.” Roscoe Lee Browne as Mr. Nighlinger steals the movie, however.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    No matter what medium (movies, TV, etc.) in which he appeared, Roscoe Lee Browne stole most of the scenes he was in…

  12. DavidL says:

    “Never apologize Mister – it’s a sign of weakness”

    Captain Nathan Brittles, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” It is may favorite John Wayne movie, with full John Ford Repitore Theater cast.

    I have a certain regard for “The Sea Chase.” Not a horse in sight, and you still smell the horse flowers.

  13. DRJ says:

    The Searchers, The Comancheros, Chisum, Sons of Katie Elder, and The War Wagon. With an Honorable Mention for The Undefeated.