John Wayne in "Rio Bravo" (Wikimedia Commons)
John Wayne needs no introduction. Even more than 30 years after his death, he remains one of the all-time most popular actors, and many of his countless films are beloved classics. We know him as a man's man who took no guff. And he was at his best playing archetypal tough guys – most notably, gunslingers and war heroes. Today, we celebrate what would have been his 105th birthday with a look at a few of the classic types he played so well.
Cowboy: Westerns defined Wayne’s career. Over and over, he wielded a gun and saddled up a horse, inspiring generations of would-be wild-west lawmen. One of his greatest westerns was True Grit – he won an Oscar for his role as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who was much more than a one-eyed fat man:
Soldier: John Wayne truly wanted to serve his country in World War II, trying again and again to join up. But his age (he was 34 when the U.S. entered the war) and his four children gave him deferment status – plus his movie studio didn't want to lose a top star. As hard as he lobbied to be enlisted, Republic Studios lobbied harder to keep him out of the war. They won, and Wayne had to content himself with being a patriot at home – and with playing war heroes in some of his greatest movies, including Sands of Iwo Jima.
Fighter: Though he was best known for his westerns and war movies, Wayne had range that went beyond the two. In The Quiet Man, he played a former boxer who vowed never to fight again. But fans of the film know that even if Wayne’s character wasn't boxing professionally, the fight wasn't quite out of him.
Written by Linnea Crowther