05 December 2012

Trad Xmas List: Duke Wayne - Born in the USA

Life can be terribly unfair and nothing brings that home quite like 'John Wayne: The Legend and the Man' (powerHouse Books $24.91).  Chock full of personal photos of family and friends, it really is something to see the charmed life John Wayne lead or, in the case of John Huston, followed.

Huge family, successful career, yacht, homes, wives...Like last year's 'Gary Cooper: Enduring Style,' there's nothing that connects to a celebrity, dead or alive, like ogling their personal photos. More so when that life resembles royalty. 

Twitter and Instagram are diluting these images as celebrities post pictures of themselves left, right and center.  I've been obsessed (in a good way) with Faye Dunaway for over 40 years but after following her on Twitter...I'm not so sure I want to see her scrap books. 

Faye at the Pierre Hotel

For that reason, studio and publicity images of John Wayne ring tired and mostly false.  Tired, because they've been seen too many times.  False, because despite all those pictures in uniform, John Wayne never served in the military. What really impresses me, like the Cooper book, are the family scrap book pics of Wayne and his family.

Sands of Iwo Jima, 1949

It's like looking in an 18th century mirror and wondering who all has seen their reflection in it.  I look at Wayne and Pilar in the bathroom with their daughter, Assia and I don't see a movie star as much as I see a proud Dad with a film director's eye for composition and a laugh.

Calling someone in my army, 'John Wayne' was not a good thing.  Although, there was a round disc of chocolate that came with C rations called a 'John Wayne' bar.  That was a good thing.  There's a lot of speculation that Wayne's intense patriotism came from guilt from never having served.  It's a complicated story when you dig into it but it's easy to see the connection Wayne made with the sailors below in a Hawaiian bar.

I grew up with John Wayne movies so it's hard for me to see him without a certain amount of Duke Dogma. Wayne died in 1979 while I was stationed at Ft Bragg. As corny as most of us thought him for the Gung Ho Show - I don't think there was a one of us who thought it an act.  There was a party at the main post all-ranks club shortly after Wayne's death where the John Wayne Special was invented.  It was a bastardized version of the 'Airborne Special' served at Ft Benning.  Best as I can remember it goes something like this:

The John Wayne Special Cocktail
2 ozs Gin
2 ozs Vodka
2 ozs Scotch
2ozs Bourbon
8 ozs Grapefruit Juice

Bragg shared a connection with Wayne through his 1968 film, The Green Berets, even though most of the picture was shot at Ft Benning.  Somewhere on Smoke Bomb Hill, the Special Forces A.O. at Bragg, there's an odd marker, almost a tombstone, dedicated to Special Forces from Wayne. God only knows what tribute was given to Duke at the Special Forces Sport Parachute Club.   

Wayne with son, Ethan, on The Green Berets set

I don't know when the day will come that I won't be surprised by the homes of celebrities.  Usually it's someone like Howie Mandel living in a palatial estate with mixed media sculpture on his grounds and a collection of antique cars in a custom built garage.  Their aesthetic always in close approximation to their talent.  John Wayne's digs are nice...don't get me wrong, but no fur sinks here.  Understated in that Marin County way where the heavy spending goes to landscapers.   

Who knew?  You think Wayne would have people for this sort of thing.  Maybe that's the point.  Toupee-less, wrench in hand...John Wayne was a man. A lucky man?  You bet your ass.  A legend?  I used to think so...until this book.  He was a man.  He made mistakes.  He put together bicycles on Christmas morning.  He drank too much. He smoked too much.  In him, some of us see the man we'd like to be.  I think he saw in us, the man he wanted to be. Just a man.  Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man. 


Nick said...

Royal Navy sailors?

tintin said...

Nick- Looks like it, mate. HMS Morecambe Bay. Anti A/C Frigate (K624), commissioned from 1949-1956

Oyster Guy said...

"In him, some of us see the man we'd like to be. I think he saw in us, the man he wanted to be."

That is a serious money quote. Rio Bravo and his last film The Shootist were always favs of mine.

George said...

Why would he feel guilty about not having served in the military? He was 10 years old when WW1 started and 34 when WW2 started. Not exactly draft age.

tintin said...

He was married with children as well but many men served in WWII who were not drafted and were married with children and were older than 34.

tintin said...

Draft age in WWII was 18-45 with men up to 65 required to register.

GSV JR said...

sorry this is my takeaway from this, but EQUAL parts (mixed!) booze and grapefruit juice? should be called the Buick Special.

Enzo AGC said...

He had a football injury that prevented him from service correct?

I took at Film class on the history of the western at SC and a major recollection of that class was my professor's assertion that, had it not been for the war, John Wayne would never have been a successful actor. Apparently, the majority of Hollywood's western stars of the time were drafted, leaving a plethora of roles for Wayne, who was acting in B movies at the time and struggling to make it big.

tintin said...

Oyster Guy- Great comment my erudite and sophisticated friend. I've always been partial to the Searchers, the Cowboys and the True Grit soundtrack for driving out west. Bruce Dern is amazing in the Cowboys and for what he did its even more amazing he had the career he has had.

Stew- Don't knock it 'til you tried. Goes down amazingly easy which is why I never could drink more than two.

Antonio- That's the consensus. It's complicated with fingers pointed at the studio and at Wayne. It seems he made an effort to join the OSS when he couldn't join John Huston's unit. I think Clark Gable enlisted @ 40 and Jimmy Stewart enlisted at 34. Both were promised nothing by the Army. Frank Sinatra also managed to avoid serving. Their bravado comes off somewhat disingenuous when compared to the understated behavior of folks like Gable, Stewart, Lancaster and Sterling Hayden who did serve in the OSS.

Alice Olive said...

I love the bathroom shot. Love it.

Anonymous said...

But the Duke was a...a...REPUBLICAN!!


George said...

And Lee Marvin, Marine wounded in action during the battle for Saipan against the Japanese. Buried at Arlington.

gentleman mac said...

Hey, there's also a John Wayne monopoly game.