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John Wayne--The Cowboy's Cowboy




For some time I had been considering including a story in my website on John Wayne, also known as the Duke. What had prevented me was an inadequate sense of what I might be able to add to everything already written about the Duke. I've finally resolved my dilema by saying to myself--what the heck, I want the Duke on my website. To any cowboy action shooter, the above western character picture of John Wayne helps explain that wish.

Let's start our story with the Duke name. According to John Wayne there were many stories about how he got his name. One story was that he played a duke in a school play (he denied he ever did.) Another story was that he was descended from royalty (which he described as a lot of rubbish.) His version: "Hell, the truth is that I was named after a dog!"

In his western movies, the Duke often portrayed characters who followed a code of behavior that included some of the simple values of the old west. In "The Shootist," John Wayne played an aging gunfighter dying of cancer. One of the memorable lines in that movie has the gunfighter spelling out his personal code: "I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them."

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a character and the actor. This is true in John Wayne's case with his portrayal of the cowboy character in the old west. John Wayne clearly had portrayal success in non-western movies (one of my favorites being the "Quiet Man" where he played the part of an American boxer who had sworn off fighting after killing a man in the ring). He also played a military role in a number of movies, including "The Green Beret" (he was severely chastised by the critics for this role because of what was seen as his support for the war in Vietnam in that film.) But it was his actor role as a cowboy that most remember.

Among his successes as a cowboy actor was his starring role in the early movie, "The Stagecoach." His success continued in other movies such as his role as Marshall Cogburn in "Rooster Cogburn" and "True Grit." The latter movie earned him a best actor Oscar.

Although John Wayne would surely have been expected to play Texas Ranger characters in his movies, this happened only once out of more than 150 movies. That was in the movie, "The Comancheros".

There is a saying in cowboy action shooting that in matters regarding costume, weapons, and almost any other aspect of the game that you can never go wrong by doing what the Duke did in any of his western movies.