It was just too hard to pick. Just about every film this man did was inundated with love of country. So I will say that if John Wayne is starring in a film you will, to one degree or another, see patriotism on display. Patriotism was on display so much so in Wayne’s films and actions that, apparently, Stalin ordered assassins to take him out (Soviet competency, as usual, reigned supreme and the plan failed).
But since I should focus on a couple of examples of his patriotic movies let me focus on what is probably his best war film, The Sands of Iwo Jima, and his best western, Rio Bravo.
The Sands of Iwo Jima.
“Dear son, I guess none of my letters have reached you. I thought I’d try again as I’m feeling that this may be the last time I can write you. For a long time I’ve wanted to tell you many things. Now that you’re a big boy, I will. If we’d been together even for a while, I could’ve explained many things much better than writing them. You’ve gotta take care of your mother, and love her and make her happy. Never hurt her or anyone as I did. Always do what your heart tells you is right. Maybe someone will write you someday and tell you about me. I want you to be like me in some things, but not like me in others. When you grow older and get to know more about me, you’ll see I’ve failed…in many ways. This isn’t what I wanted but things just turned out that way. If there was only more time I…”
This film shows something that has been lost in modern Hollywood. Predominantly in modern Hollywood, either you have films aimed at liberals that show the armed services to be little more than ignorant butchers out for the thrill of battle or films aimed at conservatives that show the armed services to be populated by larger than life heroes that appear more recruiting poster cutout than human (there are exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that they are exceptions, not the rule). In Sands of Iwo Jima John Wayne and the rest of the cast portray some very human Marines. Flaws and human imperfection to the last man, but it also shows that for all their flaws they are motivated by their codes of honor and morals, by their belief and the best within them, and it is their actions that make them heroes, not just because they wear a uniform and we’re supposed to have a knee jerk reaction to that. It’s a much more realistic depiction of why the members of our armed services are worthy of our devotion than what I typically get nowadays.
A response to the whining liberal High Noon which Wayne considered un-American, Rio Bravo is probably one of the best westerns of all time. Unlike High Noon which has a sheriff spending half the film groveling for allies (reminds you of liberals always not wanting to make unilateral decisions), Wayne’s Sherriff John T. Chance actively turns down allies because he understand what his job is and refuses to let innocent bystanders get killed. Nor does he ever consider running away or not doing what his job and justice demand of him.
And to top it all off you’ve got songs from Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson.
Even the song is uniquely American. My three good companions “my rifle, my pony, and me”—the American habits of Westward movement, individualism, and willingness to defend yourself and what you believe in. There is also a strong strain of the American Dream in the song.
A distinctly American attitude.
As with all of the films starring Wayne, you have a hero who embodies character, intelligence and strength of will. Please tell me which other nation fits that bill for what it values?