I was having a discussion with author Chad J. Stone @AuthorCJStone about how I wanted to do a post on my favorite John Wayne movies growing up. He said it’d be a good idea so I’m doing it. I won’t split it up like I did Hitchcock…
…I shouldn’t make promises like that.
We’ll see how this goes…I’d like to start off with some impressionable JW films and then I’ll leave my favorite of all time for last. “The Cowboys” is on this list somewhere in the middle and hopefully you have already checked that post out. One of my favorite posts in retrospect, but it was a tough one to get through.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance” had one of the best cast compilations of its time. Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, and of course John Ford directed. Valance, played by the haunting Lee Marvin, is a bully of a man that terrorizes everyone in the valley. Jimmy Stewart as Ransom Stoddard is the local would be politician that would stand up to Valance, because he doesn’t know any better. John Wayne as Tom Doniphon is the “man’s man” (of course) that is there to help Stoddard along the way as Doniphon is the only man that Valance would not dare cross. Would you? It is a well told story with old western politics as the back drop for a movie about bullying and standing up for what’s right. Great performances all around.
“The Searchers” is a very interesting performance by Wayne. He is such a hater as Ethan Edwards in this movie that it is hard to like him, even if you think his hate stems from the “just” side of things. This movie is daunting, ensnaring, and suspenseful, right up to the climax. I’d like not to give anything away, other than Edwards is a man searching–for what feels like a lifetime–for his niece that has been taken by a Comanche tribe. A must see for film buffs.
“El Dorado” is just a fun movie. Along Wayne it stars Robert Mitchum (one of his real life drinking buddies), and a very young James Caan. There is a story about water and land rights that gets in the way of the chemistry of Wayne, Mitchum, and Caan. The scenes they share together are electric and I wish they had more. It’s an entertaining Western with high comedy, action, gun fights and horse chases.
“Rio Bravo” is another entertaining Wayne film, but it is not just about the humor. Though there is plenty humor, there is tension, drama, suspense, action, and of course, gun fights. Get a load of this cast: Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, and Walter Brennan to name a few that you will remember. Quentin Tarantino has been quoted mentioning this as one of his top five favorite films of all time, along with “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I would say it is a favorite Wayne film, but it is also one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Check it out.
“McLintock!” fits the mold of a romantic comedy that happens to be set in the old west. That is one of the great things about it. You won’t find any gunfights here. Just some very well written humor of all types including sarcasm, sass, and slapstick; all of which Wayne and Maureen O’Hara find themselves at home in, as a couple that is struggling to make their complicated marriage work. There are some great supporting performances by Chill Wills as Drago and Patrick Wayne–John Wayne’s real life son who plays the love interest of McLintock’s (Wayne’s) daughter Becky in the movie. A mouthful I know. Campy comedy. Go see it.
“Red River” is probably the most well crafted Western that I have ever seen. It centers around a cattle drive by a baron, Thomas Dunson (played by Wayne in his best acting performance that I can recall), who is a ruthless man. During the drive, Wayne becomes so cruel that his adopted son Matt (Montgomery Clift) revolts and leaves him on his own out in the wilderness. The cattle men on the drive are more than happy to follow Matt. The movie takes a turn here and we follow both story lines as they are set for impact at the film’s climax. Hands down the feature that should be rented first for film buffs. Don’t hesitate.