Rediscover John Wayne. The portrait of a man

It’s been a really long time since John Wayne made a movie or even lived. He died in 1979. As a kid growing up in the seventies, John Wayne western movies were frequently on one of the only four TV channels there were. He was one of my dad’s favorite actors, so then, he was one of mine.

When it comes to manly, I can’t think of an actor more so than John Wayne. I could only add Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, and Clint Eastwood to this list but would have to put Wayne at the top.


Life was simpler all the way around 50 years ago. The roles of man, woman, boy, girl, boss, and dog were much more clearly defined. John Wayne could easily always play a manly man in any movie he did. And he could also keep his male values intact as the roles of men didn’t change too abruptly during his span of being a movie star. This enabled him to become an icon for the values of the American male.

As society changes, so does its pop culture. Today’s macho male actor may star in roles that are less than manly. Fifty years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn’t have played a pregnant man in Junior, or babysitter Vin Diesel in The Pacifier. So, as the definition of what a man is, becomes more diverse, so does the roles these guys have to play.

John Wayne didn’t have to deal with this. He pigeon-holed himself into roles and lines that suited what he thought a man should represent. Society was changing in his later years though, and like a typical old man, he adhered to the values of his younger years. During this time, Wayne is quoted saying some things that made some heads tilt. Here are a few:


“I don’t think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I’d like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.”

“With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from the Indians. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

“I can’t understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim.”

John Wayne Interview Playboy May 1971

John Wayne is a true representative of the American Right of 50 years ago

Personally, I don’t care about politics or the stances of any party. John Wayne did. He was a right-wing conservative to a semi-extreme. Because of this, many of today’s American males may not like him. Even though I’m not political, it’s fascinating to use Wayne’s political views to reference what has and has not changed in the minds of some Americans today. I mean, it has now been a pretty long time now since “The Duke” was an active icon, yet at least half of America still adheres to many of the values he represented.

In researching this, I discovered that John Wayne was not an asshole about what he believed in. The proof for me is in him having close friendships with people who felt opposite of him. Having consideration for and allowing for opposing views is an impressive virtue for a super passionate alpha male. It was a positive discovery of Wayne’s character for me. Especially in today’s American society where neither side cares to consider the others.

My favorite John Wayne quotes

I don’t give a shit that John Wayne resided on only one side of the political train tracks. He represented a man, period. Here are some quotes:

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

“Words are what men live by…words they say and mean.”

“A man oughta do what he thinks is right.”

“I’ve always followed my father’s advice: he told me, first to always keep my word and second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddamn sure I intend to. And, third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble.”

“A man deserves a second chance, but keep an eye on him.”

“I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.”

“I define manhood simply: men should be tough, fair, and courageous, never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either.”

“When you come against trouble, it’s never half as bad if you face up to it.”

“I suppose my best attribute if you want to call it that, is sincerity. I can sell sincerity because that’s the way I am.”

“You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”

“I’m not the sort to back away from a fight. I don’t believe in shrinking from anything. It’s not my speed; I’m a guy who meets adversities head on.”

“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.”

When I was a kid, we walked to school five miles in the snow (even though I grew up in Orlando) uphill both ways. We also only had four tv channels, no video recordings, no internet, and no video games. As a result, the movies that played on tv were a big deal. And when a John Wayne western was on, that was the shit for a boy to watch.

Even though I was just a boy, I was drawn to the Duke’s manliness. I just wanted to be everything his character was and somehow knew that was what I wanted to be when I became a man.

These are 10 things I learned from watching John Wayne movies.

Do stuff. Not just talk about it.

My dad was a dreamer. He would talk about doing all kinds of cool things and rarely ever did any of them. The Duke was the opposite. He wouldn’t talk much and would do everything he said. As a boy, I didn’t realize how much people need men to do what they say. The flakiness of women and the dreaming of kids need older males to keep things grounded and focused. Wayne’s characters always provided that.

Don’t take any shit

Everyone talks about how they don’t or won’t take any shit. But we know the truth of that. We all do and have to take shit. Some take way more shit than they should though and I’m not one of them. Wayne’s characters justified not taking shit because they all felt they stood on righteous ground.

I don’t take too much shit but if I am right, I won’t take any. John Wayne may have helped make me this way.

Defend yourself and those who need it.

John Wayne simply didn’t allow himself to be pushed around. If you fucked with him, you can expect a harsh confrontation. I loved that about him. And he wouldn’t let those around him be unjustly controlled. He didn’t stick his nose in anyone’s business but also wouldn’t stand for someone getting bullied around him.

Be determined

One of my favorite Wayne movies was The Searchers. In it, his character spent years pursuing finding his niece and is never discouraged during the endeavor. Wayne’s characters never quit anything they were trying to accomplish. This was an important example for me as society has made it easy for all of us to move on to a million other things before we complete what we are doing.

Be honest

I never saw a movie where John Wayne ever played a scammer or a liar. He was always honest and fair with those he dealt with. This was the opposite of my father, so I needed that contrast from another male I looked up to. Even if it was just from movies.

Be trustworthy

This is close to the same as being honest. But some will tell you the truth and not be able to carry out what they say. With Wayne’s roles, you could trust and rely on him doing what he said and did. This was an important virtue for me as I developed friendships and dealings as I got older.

Don’t be snarky

Coming from a family of intelligent game players, it is tough for me not to be snarky. It’s a way to for me to openly but indirectly protest my undesirable position. And it’s not at all manly. The Duke was the opposite of snarky. He was always straightforward in describing his position. If he didn’t like something, he would simply say “I don’t like that”. This may not always be diplomatic, but it’s very manly.

Be fair

Big personality alpha males aren’t always fair. Their self-centeredness often disallows him to be able to see all sides. Wayne’s characters were somehow always fair despite their bold positions. It’s important as a man to be fair. If a man isn’t fair, he’s more than likely regarded as just an asshole, and I agree. Those old movies have helped me not to be such a narrow-minded male asshole.

Stand for what you believe in

To be honest, it can be hard to stand for what you believe in today’s judgmental and over communicative world. Everyone is poised to pounce on anything someone says that may suggest something derogatory. The Duke always stood for what he believed and that was cool. But his movies were from a simpler time filled more with actions instead of talk. It’s doubtful that he could pull off standing for everything he believed in during this era without the presence of tactfulness that he didn’t have. Regardless, Wayne was a good example of why you should stand for what you believe and the respect that comes with it.

Do what you say you’re going to do

To me, this is fundamental to being a man. The characters of John Wayne always did what they said. And with this, there was a lesson within a lesson. The Duke didn’t speak much. This made it easier to do what he said he was going to do. Guys who talk a lot usually commit to a lot of things. And the more things you commit to, the greater the likelihood you won’t be able to do everything.

I try to do everything I say I’m going to do. It’s not easy in the world we live in and I fail at it sometimes, but it’s a lesson that those old movies helped me to learn. It sure as hell wasn’t from my dad.


Regardless of your political affiliation, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or a hundred other things that make you who you are, you are still a man. Many of the characteristics of John Wayne and the roles he played are fundamental to being a solid American male.

We live in a time where each generation is quite different from the others. Each generation is about twenty-five years, so there’s always about three generations that live at the same time. Our youngest generation has more diverse definitions and guidelines than maybe any other in history. As a result, determining what makes a good man is not as clear as it was years ago. I believe that some characteristics of manhood are fundamental and everlasting. To me, John Wayne represents a lot of these foundations for being a man.

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