Saturday, May 26, 2007
Happy Birthday, Duke
John Wayne would have been 100 years old today, and Turner Classic Movies has been showing a few of his films in tribute. I used to think it was not Wayne's job to "act" in a film. It was his job to be John Wayne. Certainly he's not what you might call a classically trained Shakespearean actor. Later, when I became more familiar with Wayne's work, I found I needed to give him a bit more respect as an actor.
That's not to say he should play Hamlet or be cast in the lead of Death of a Salesman. For the life of me I cannot remember which film featured a drunken Dean Martin as a co-star and which featured a drunken Robert Mitchum as co-star. Many of these cowboy flicks run together. But within a certain range, Wayne was actually quite talented and generally quite smart about the roles he accepted. If you watch In Harm's Way, The Searchers and The Quiet Man all in a row, you'll see he's asked to do something just a little different in each film, and he does it quite well. Like I said, he's not Olivier, but he does a little more than just stumble around calling people Pilgrim.
The three films mentioned above are probably my favorite Wayne pictures. You can throw in True Grit and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon as honorable mentions. I'd love to hear your favorites too.