I had been expecting the anti-American, anti-male, statue-toppling, historically and culturally ignorant political correctness mob to come after the late John Wayne, known by his friends as “Duke,” for quite a while. After all, a major airport in L.A. is named after him, he was a controversial conservative at many times during his career, he was frequently vilified by the Left, and in his films he epitomized the virtues, values and legends the United States was built on, and that modern progressives now deride.
Yesterday there was a flurry on social media over a more than 40-year old Playboy interview Wayne gave during one of his many surges of renewed popularity in his career, an epic achievement that saw him remain a top movie star longer than any other actor or actress, even decades after his death. In the interview, Wayne made some ill-advised, even dumb comments, especially about Native Americans: I thought so at the time. Playboy was lapping up the culture wars and people actually paid attention to it then. The magazine always tried to lead its subjects into headline-making quotes, and the Duke complied on that occasion by often sounding like the character he played on screen…you know, from the 19th Century. Wayne occasionally let his real persona peek through his carefully crafted and maintained screen image, but not often. In truth, the real John Wayne, or Marion Morrison, as he said he still thought of himself, was a smart, well-educated, well-read moderate conservative (by today’s standards) who was capable of great nuance in his political views. He was a fanatic chess player who preferred a blazer and slacks to cowboy boots, and, as he proved when the Harvard Lampoon invited him to their Ivy lair to ridicule and ended up laughing with him and cheering, he could hold his own in a debate.
John Wayne is one of a surprisingly few Hollywood actors who qualify as genuine cultural icons. He is in a tiny group that includes Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mouse and a few others we could argue about, like Fred Astaire. Toppling icons is what radicals and revolutionaries do; it’s essential to their attempts to destroy the culture. I’m pretty sure the Duke is beyond their reach, especially if the best they can find to try to shoot him down is an old Playboy interview when he was in his waning years. Continue reading