Movie star John Wayne was no stranger to Westerns. He starred in some of the greatest films ever to grace the genre, but he also starred in his share of war and drama movies. Wayne talked about the importance of Westerns to moviegoing audiences when the genre was at its peak. Fans of all ages went to the theaters to see a wide assortment of such films. The Oscar-winning actor once explained why countries around the world had such a firm understanding of Westerns.John Wayne became the face of Westerns
Wayne started his acting career in Westerns with 1930’s The Big Trail, thanks to director Raoul Walsh. He starred in a variety of B-movies after his first film bombed at the box office. However, Wayne had another shot at stardom with John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939, which made him a roaring success. He shined from the ensemble, and his life was never the same again.The movie star went on to become the face of the Western genre with other big hits, such as Red River and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Audiences will always tie Wayne to films in the Wild West thanks to his familiar performances that always put his notions of masculinity front and center.John Wayne believed Westerns could be understood around the world
Film critic Roger Ebert once interviewed Wayne, who talked at length about Westerns. He understood how outsiders perceived Hollywood, and how that translated to the genre he was so closely associated with. Wayne explained why the genre became so universal, connecting with countries all around the world.“But you know, I’m very conscious that people criticize Hollywood,” Wayne said. “Yet we’ve created a form, the Western, that can be understood in every country. The good guys against the bad guys. No nuances. And the horse is the best vehicle of action in our medium. You take action, a scene, and scenery, and cut them together, and you never miss. Action, scene, scenery.”Wayne referred to Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers, and Hondo when it came to “depth” and “an American art form.” Further, he said that the genre “represents what this country is all about.”The Oscar-winning actor pointed to True Grit, which put emphasis on justice. He used the opportunity to talk further about how he believed that translated into America.“They keep bringing up the fact that America’s for the downtrodden,” Wayne said. “But this new thing of genuflecting to the downtrodden, I don’t go along with that. We ought to go back to praising the kids who get good grades, instead of making excuses for the ones who shoot the neighborhood grocery man. But, hell, I don’t want to get started on that!”John Wayne disagreed with where Westerns went with Clint EastwoodWayne held Westerns to a high standard because it was his area of familiarity. He criticized Western television shows because he thought that they lacked “nuance.” However, the genre moved forward in ways that he didn’t necessarily expect, and he certainly didn’t like it.Younger stars started to come onto the scene who looked up to Wayne, such as Clint Eastwood. The Spaghetti Western became popular with his Dollars Trilogy with Sergio Leone, which put more grit and violence into the storytelling. In response, Wayne told Eastwood that it certainly wasn’t the right way to represent the American West.