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John Wayne named his five favorite movies of all time

John Wayne named his five favorite movies of all time

John Wayne is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors in American film history and became an icon of the western genre in the mid-20th century, from the 1920s to the 1970s. He appeared in films such as The seekers, Real courage, stagecoach And The man who shot Liberty Valance, Wayne quickly became a mainstay of the genre, leaving a legacy that provides a fascinating contrast between old and new Hollywood.

Although his films continue to be acclaimed to this day, modern appreciation for Wayne has waned significantly in recent years, especially after his 1971 film. Playboy interview that exposed many of the actor’s shocking values. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” Wayne said disgracefully, adding, “I don’t think we did anything wrong in taking this great country from the Indians. Our so-called theft of this country from them was merely a matter of survival.”

For some, Wayne remains a symbol of an older, perhaps more right-wing vision of America. For others, he embodies the prejudices and exclusions that have long plagued the nation. His name has been scrubbed from several institutions, including a California school and an Orange County airport, amid calls to stamp out his racist and intolerant views.

Filmmaker Spike Lee was quick to criticise this in a speech to Bafta, pointing out the racism of the American actor and his frequent collaborator, director John Ford. At the event, Lee said: “I’ve never been a fan of John Wayne and John Ford and that cowboy nonsense. I hate it: Indians depicted as savages and animals… Fuck John Wayne and John Ford.”

The debate over Wayne’s legacy reflects broader cultural battles over history, memory, and identity. Can we separate the art from the artist? Should his films be viewed separately from his personal beliefs? These questions remain contested and unresolved.

The argument for separating art from artist is based on the belief that personal shortcomings should not overshadow professional achievement. Proponents argue that Wayne’s films can be appreciated for their artistic merits, regardless of his personal shortcomings. His work has inspired generations of filmmakers and actors and contributed to the cultural fabric of Hollywood.

John Wayne - Actor
(Source: Far Out / Alamy)

Conversely, many of Wayne’s strongest critics argue that separating the art from the artist is a form of erasure, ignoring the context in which the art was created. Many argue that Wayne’s views are inextricably linked to his public persona, and that acknowledging his artistry without addressing his biases is problematic.

One thing that cannot be denied – rightly or wrongly – is that Wayne continues to have an undeniable presence in the history of American cinema. In 1977, when The People’s Almanac When asked to submit his picks for “the greatest films of all time,” he responded with five of the best films of the 20th century.

His number one choice is the 1966 Fred Zinnemann film A man for all seasonsstarring Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, John Hurt and Orson Welles. The film tells the story of Sir Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the king rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarry. Wayne’s love of the biographical drama is somewhat surprising, even though the film is considered a 1960s classic.

His second choice is a little more predictable, opting for the game-changer from 1939, Gone with the wind directed by Victor Fleming and starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Hattie McDaniel. Winner of eight Oscars at the 1940 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Gone with the wind is still one of the highest-grossing films of all time, adjusted for inflation.

In third place on his top five list is Vincente Minnelli’s war romance The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which follows two daughters, one married to a Frenchman and the other to a German, as tensions run high just before World War II. Starring Glenn Ford, Ingrid Thulin and Charles Boyer, the film is considered something of a cult classic thanks to its biblical references and impressive drawing style.

Of course, take this list of films with a grain of salt. Ultimately, John Wayne’s legacy serves as a case study in the ongoing struggle to balance appreciation for artistic contributions with a critical understanding of personal shortcomings. It invites us to consider how we celebrate cultural icons while holding them accountable for their impact, both positive and negative, on society.

John Wayne’s Favorite Movies:

  1. A man for all seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 1966)
  2. Gone with the wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
  3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Vincente Minnelli, 1962)
  4. The seekers (John Ford, 1956)
  5. The silent man (John Ford, 1952)

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