Wednesday, 30 May 2007

YesBut the Duke was special

In yesterday’s blog, I said I had decided to declare each Wednesday for the next couple of months “Memorial day”, and feature one memorial each Wednesday. Not the grand well known memorials such as the Statue of Liberty, Nelson’s Column, Mount Rushmore or even the Gateway to the West. Today’s blog should have been about the first monument to be featured that to Henry Fawcett.

They say it doesn’t pay to plan, because you never know what is going to happen next. How true. Change of plans, Henry will have to wait to next week, because I can not let May pass without paying tribute to Marion Robert Morison, who had he lived would have been 100 years old last Saturday.

Perhaps you don’t know Marion Robert Morison, that’s understandable. His name was changed, when his parents decided to call their next son Robert, so he became Marion Michael Morrison. Twenty or so years later he changed his name again to John Wayne.

After two years working as a prop man at the Fox Film studios, John Wayne had his first staring role in 1930, in the first western epic sound picture made, “The Big Trail”. He went on to star in 142 films. He only won one Oscar, that for “Best Actor” in 1969 for his role as the tough Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn in “True Grit”. He was nominated but didn’t win an Oscar as Producer of the “The Alamo”.

While he played in a range of films from various genres, he was at his best when he had a six gun strapped at his waist and mounted on a horse. He courted controversy when in 1968 he directed and starred in “The Green Berets” - the only film made during the Vietnam War to support the war. In real life he wasn’t the great hero. At the start of World War 2, when other Film Stars joined the forces, Wayne chose to take advantage of their absence and stay in Hollywood, in order to boost his career.

What was his best film? It might not be the best, but my favourite is the 1939 western “Stagecoach”. The 32 year old Wayne plays the Ringo Kid, a young rancher who has broken out of jail. He joins a stagecoach carrying a group of passengers, each with their own story: a prostitute driven out of town, an alcoholic doctor, a banker absconding with his client’s savings, a cavalry officer’s pregnant wife, a whisky salesman who is, humorously, the object of the drunken doctor’s attention, and a US Marshall. The stagecoach is attacked by Indians - all good stuff.

If I see one actor in a cowboy film, I know I will enjoy it. That actor is Andy Devine who played the stagecoach driver Buck - who could possibly mistake his raspy voice - sounding like a schoolboy on the brink of puberty.

The other actor I love in cowboy films, though he wasn’t in Stagecoach, is the toothless bearded Gabby Hayes.

Back to John Wayne his last film was “The Shootist” made in 1976. The film plot about an aging gunslinger struggling with terminal cancer, reflected in part John Wayne, who died three years later of stomach cancer, aged 72.

Click here to see and make a suggestion of a caption for today’s YesBut’s Image.

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