Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Duke, My Father, and I

My first love.
Photo Courtesy of
     When I was a kid there were two men in my life that meant everything to me: My father and John "The Duke" Wayne. My father has been a fan of John Wayne all his life, and so it was quite natural for him to pass on his admiration, respect, and love for this man to me. Now, granted, in the beginning, I didn't even comprehend how big this man was, or just who he was, and really I didn't care, but he's been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.
     The first memory I have of John on screen is in the 1960 film North to Alaska. Here I am, about five or six, sitting in the middle of the living room, on the floor, looking up at the television, and watching delightedly as John gets drunk, gets angry, punches the daylights out of everybody, kisses the girl, and--oh, yeah--shoots guns. My eyes follow him across the screen, never once leaving him, and my little insides start to get all bunched up.
John and Stewart Granger in North to Alaska.
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     It is the beginning of my first crush.
     That shows just how magnetizing John could, and can, be. At the time he made North to Alaska, he was fifty-three-years-old--and there I was, some forty odd years later, wearing down the VHS tape to the movie, at the tender age of six and thinking that he was the most handsome man I had ever seen.
     In the days when VHS tapes were the "in" thing (yes, I do remember them), I was lucky enough that my father (of course) had an enormous pile of recorded John Wayne films from old cable stations and ones that had actually been sold and distributed on tape. By the time I was ten, I had watched all of them fourfold. And still, it wasn't enough for me.
John in Jet Pilot. He liked his lips, too.
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No one can even walk like John.
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     John made 154 pictures over his career, many of them wouldn't be considered even "good" by no means, but that hardly ever matters when somebody is a favorite of yours. The films among the pile were obscurities such as Jet Pilot (1957), Blood Alley (1955), The Fighting Ken-tuckian (1949), and, my personal favorite of all John's pictures for some reason or other, Angel and the Badman (1947), etc. I would watch these films over and over to the point where I could remember lines, note particular nuances, and match the John Wayne walk (or at least, what I'm sure I thought was the John Wayne walk).
     As a little girl, I really wasn't that interested in movies where the actors kissed (I think I was still in my "Eww, boys have cooties" stage), but when John kissed one of his leading ladies, my little heart would beat real fast, and I'd go "Wow." Even then I knew that John was a man.
     And since John did so many westerns, and that's the genre in which he is best remembered for (the poster boy, in fact), westerns have always been a favorite of mine. Many find them boring, but thanks to John, I have never found that to be.
Gail Russell didn't think he had cooties either.
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  There is so much that I love John for. It's not just who he was and what he did in the pictures and in his lifetime, but for what he has also done for my lifetime. His films has given my father and I this link, this bond, and I'm ever so grateful for that. And as hokey as this might sound, he's also taught me many lessons through his films: He's taught me to be firm in my beliefs, give a helping hand when you can, and love my country . . . All lessons that my father has taught me as well.
A young John Wayne.
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     Though I didn't know it at the time, John started off my love for the classics. He was my foundation, and having John as my standing ground is like having the Rock of Gibraltar beneath my feet--I know that I'm not going to be falling through anytime soon. My love for the classics is here to stay forever, and it's all because of John. I have found other stars (Cary Grant, Dean Martin) whom I love, and who I state to be my favorite above all others, but John holds this very special place in my heart that no one will ever be to touch.  He was there from the very beginning and he'll be there at the very end.
     Thanks John.

I still think he's one of the most handsome men there ever was.
Photo Courtesy of

This was my contribution to the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon for the whole month of August, which I will be partaking in all month long. See the other contributions for John Wayne here.


FlickChick said...

Nice post! It's wonderful how movies and stars connect us with those we love (and create some lasting crushes, too!).


Great! My grandfather is very fond of westerns too, and sometimes we watch John Wayne's films together. My favorite of his is Fort Apache.

azw596 said...

Wonderfully moving post!Whereas my father's as well as my exposure to John Wayne well predates VHS recordings, growing up there was barely a weekend when one of John's films was not being shown in one of the three theaters in our neighbourhood. My father got me going, and that was all it took! "The Alamo" has to be the one I always remember! Love your line " He was there from the very beginning and he'll be there at the very end."! Indeed, thanks John, and thanks so much, R.C.!!!

Caftan Woman said...

I loved your article. Few actors make me as happy as seeing John Wayne on screen.

Natalie said...

Awards awards awards. I awarded you the Leibster Blog Award. Details here: