John Wayne: American Legend


2h 1998

Brief Synopsis

Profile of actor John Wayne.

Film Details

Also Known As
Biography (03/15/98), Portr├Ątt
Genre
Documentary
Release Date
1998

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Synopsis

Profile of actor John Wayne.

Film Details

Also Known As
Biography (03/15/98), Portr├Ątt
Genre
Documentary
Release Date
1998

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Articles

John Wayne: American Legend on DVD


The 20th Century has sometimes been described as the time when image conquered substance. Movies and later television were, of course, the primary culprits in turning appearance into reality and yet, sometimes, that image could be so strong that it could provide uplift, hope and leadership where reality provided only confusion and doubt. There are few lives that typify that more than that of Marion Michael Morrison, now provided on a new DVD with the name and position under which he is world famous, John Wayne: American Legend.

This DVD tells the story of his life in standard A&E biography mode although the guest list is impressive. Wayne's last wife Pilar Wayne and his son Patrick are both interviewed along with biographers Garry Wills and Ronald Davis and fellow actors Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo), Red Buttons (Hatari!) and Ron Howard (The Shootist). Otherwise Wayne's story is told mostly in a succession of press photos, glamour shots and clips from the trailers to his films. Fox, the studio behind what the DVD packaging calls "The Official Studio Biography," obviously had little money in the budget to pay for clips from films that were not already in their archives. At times like this, Fox must regret firing Wayne in 1931 after the failure of his first few starring roles.

There is one element, however, for which this DVD shows courage. Despite being an official biography made with the co-operation of Wayne's family and marketed to those who want to look at Wayne as a hero, the DVD does not shy away from the controversial areas of Wayne's life. On screen he was the ultimate American man, patriotic, decisive, and a battler of wrongs. The actual man off screen, however, was a sometimes flawed person. He and his mentor, director John Ford, lived as much as possible in a men's-club world of drinking, carousing and wenching. His several wives were married and quickly left behind to raise children and keep their mouths shut when they saw pictures of Wayne escorting some new paramour to social events. Most controversial of all, when the chance for real bravery came in World War II, Wayne pulled strings to get a deferment, fearing a tour of duty would hurt his career in Hollywood.

Yet Wayne's image survives all that and not just for those who want to turn him into a flawless conservative icon. He may not have served in World War II but, in hindsight, could he have done his country a greater service than to create the morale-boosting movies he made during the war? Wayne and his best directors were more aware of the actor's dark side than many of his fans and used it to create masterful performances. Wayne and director Howard Hawks used the actor's tendency to see his battles in black-and-white terms to create the cattle baron in Red River (1948) so obsessed with his mission that he is willing to murder his own son. John Ford brought out that quality as well in The Searchers (1956) where the Wayne character's simple quest to recover a kidnapped girl is complicated by his blinding racist hatred for Indians.

This DVD does try to chart a middle ground that may end pleasing few. It is not the attack on Wayne sought by those who disagree with his values or the unapologetic hagiography desired by those who like their American heroes unvarnished. Ultimately, the life of Marion Michael Morrison seems to matter very little. What does matter is the image he put so forcefully on the screen. Perhaps the makers of this DVD would have done better to follow the advice from Wayne's last western he made with John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

For more information about John Wayne: American Legend, visit Image Entertainment. To order John Wayne: American Legend, go to TCM Shopping.

by Brian Cady
John Wayne: American Legend On Dvd

John Wayne: American Legend on DVD

The 20th Century has sometimes been described as the time when image conquered substance. Movies and later television were, of course, the primary culprits in turning appearance into reality and yet, sometimes, that image could be so strong that it could provide uplift, hope and leadership where reality provided only confusion and doubt. There are few lives that typify that more than that of Marion Michael Morrison, now provided on a new DVD with the name and position under which he is world famous, John Wayne: American Legend. This DVD tells the story of his life in standard A&E biography mode although the guest list is impressive. Wayne's last wife Pilar Wayne and his son Patrick are both interviewed along with biographers Garry Wills and Ronald Davis and fellow actors Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo), Red Buttons (Hatari!) and Ron Howard (The Shootist). Otherwise Wayne's story is told mostly in a succession of press photos, glamour shots and clips from the trailers to his films. Fox, the studio behind what the DVD packaging calls "The Official Studio Biography," obviously had little money in the budget to pay for clips from films that were not already in their archives. At times like this, Fox must regret firing Wayne in 1931 after the failure of his first few starring roles. There is one element, however, for which this DVD shows courage. Despite being an official biography made with the co-operation of Wayne's family and marketed to those who want to look at Wayne as a hero, the DVD does not shy away from the controversial areas of Wayne's life. On screen he was the ultimate American man, patriotic, decisive, and a battler of wrongs. The actual man off screen, however, was a sometimes flawed person. He and his mentor, director John Ford, lived as much as possible in a men's-club world of drinking, carousing and wenching. His several wives were married and quickly left behind to raise children and keep their mouths shut when they saw pictures of Wayne escorting some new paramour to social events. Most controversial of all, when the chance for real bravery came in World War II, Wayne pulled strings to get a deferment, fearing a tour of duty would hurt his career in Hollywood. Yet Wayne's image survives all that and not just for those who want to turn him into a flawless conservative icon. He may not have served in World War II but, in hindsight, could he have done his country a greater service than to create the morale-boosting movies he made during the war? Wayne and his best directors were more aware of the actor's dark side than many of his fans and used it to create masterful performances. Wayne and director Howard Hawks used the actor's tendency to see his battles in black-and-white terms to create the cattle baron in Red River (1948) so obsessed with his mission that he is willing to murder his own son. John Ford brought out that quality as well in The Searchers (1956) where the Wayne character's simple quest to recover a kidnapped girl is complicated by his blinding racist hatred for Indians. This DVD does try to chart a middle ground that may end pleasing few. It is not the attack on Wayne sought by those who disagree with his values or the unapologetic hagiography desired by those who like their American heroes unvarnished. Ultimately, the life of Marion Michael Morrison seems to matter very little. What does matter is the image he put so forcefully on the screen. Perhaps the makers of this DVD would have done better to follow the advice from Wayne's last western he made with John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." For more information about John Wayne: American Legend, visit Image Entertainment. To order John Wayne: American Legend, go to TCM Shopping. by Brian Cady

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