Thursday, June 7, 2007
Remembering the anniversary of ‘the Duke’s’ 100th
His rightwing politics may have been suspect, his decision to put career before country during the Second World War grating here in a Britain that endured so much in that conflict, but there will still be several generations of Borderers who will have nostalgically marked the recent 100th anniversary of the birth of John Wayne.
In an age when much of our admiration for the United States, built on the foundation of mutual friendship and respect mainly as a result of the last world war, has been replaced in some minds by suspicion and mistrust because of the motives of those currently in power on Capitol Hill, Wayne remains an icon.
To many of us here in Scotland, a John Wayne movie on television on a weekend was as much a part of growing up in the 1970s and ’80s as Sunday lunch.
That slow drawl coupled to that forward-leaning gait of his - you always knew what you were getting with a John Wayne film and that was part of their appeal.
Born on May 26, 1907, Wayne starred in over 175 films during a career that stretched over half a century, starring in such classic movies as “Sands of Iwo Jima,” “The Searchers” and “True Grit.”
And even 29 years after his death from cancer, survey after survey of America’s most popular movie stars continue to rank him in the top five.
And for many who grew up outside the United States from the 1940s onwards, Wayne summed up all that was noble and good about America.
Big, bold and brave were Wayne’s stock in trade characters, whether he was riding the range or charging enemy machine guns in the Pacific war.
No matter that Wayne’s politics were not to everyone’s taste or that many of his films were of a too simplistic gung-ho nature.
No matter that, unlike his fellow big screen stars such as Ronald Reagan and James Stewart, who both served in the forces, he avoided wartime military service.
What we love about John Wayne is the myth, not the man. To many of us who could only imagine America in our younger days, he was America.
And, in an age of uncertainty, where more and more people are reluctant to take personal responsibility, or to take a stand even when they know something is plain wrong, we could still do worse than look to the Duke for inspiration.
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