John Wayne

In The Quiet Man, John Wayne Proves he is About More than Just Westerns

I admit that, when I saw John Wayne’s name in the opening credits of The Quiet Man, I was a bit bummed.  I wasn’t in the mood for a western that night.

But the first scene, in technicolor brought hope: a glorious green landscape and a some Irish accents.  This was most certainly not Tombstone…

The Quiet Man Film Poster.jpg

No, it isn’t a western.  Not one gun is fired at another human being in the entire movie… and yet it still manages to be an entertaining romp where John Wayne can be at his macho best without ruining–in fact in the service of–the love story at the center of the film.

In a nutshell, this film is a take on the “boy meets girl but her family opposes the marriage” plot.  The fun part–and it is very fun–is the way the problem is resolved.  That, in particular, is not traditional at all, and it’s really fun.  Any time you need professional boxers as extras… you know it has to have some good scenes.

The best prat of this one, perhaps is the way it shows how village life can be… idiosyncratic in large ways, and how even the village priest can be complicit in the hijinks.  In that sense, it reminds me a lot of Whisky Galore.  And that is a good thing.

Anyway, this one has my unreserved recommendation.  Find it and watch it.  It’s an enjoyable film.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose collection Love and Death follows the lives and loves of a group of characters whose fates are intertwined, usually without their knowledge.  It’s a study of the truly important things in a world that so often seems indifferent.  You can check it out here.

The Mustache of Discord and Weird Singing Interludes

Picture John Wayne.

Got it?  Now try to picture him with a mustache.  No?  Me neither, which is why it took me so long to believe that the Colonel in Rio Grande was the Duke himself.

It’s just another nail in the coffin of the mustache (unless you are a 1970s porn star or a British Sergeant Major, in which case it is still the preferred mode of facial adornment).  This one will take me a while to recover from.

John_Wayne - rio grande - & Maureen O'Hara

Even the producers knew the ‘stache was a bad call, as the film posters show Wayne bare-faced, something that doesn’t occur in the film itself.

Rio Grande Film Poster - John Wayne

If all this talk about facial hair leads you to suspect that there isn’t anything special about the film, you are correct.  Just another Western.  It is a bit different from the last one we reviewed in that here, the indians are 100% the bad guys, but it could have been the Mexicans, a band of outlaws or the aliens from Mars Attacks, as they were just there to provide an antagonist.  At least the indians in Winchester ’73 were pissed for a very good reason (the fact that white settlers had stolen their land).

It’s kind of hard to spot why this one made it onto the 1001 movies list except to say that it was probably the second best of the westerns on the list so far.  This one is a cavalry flick as opposed to a cowboy film, as well, which might have helped its cause.  Entertaining, but not memorable.

The central part of the story tells about a mother whose son is sent to this particular frontier unit.  The woman, of course, happens to be Wayne’s character’s estranged wife, and the boy, the son.  But he is treated like any other trooper, etc.

The singing interludes are full of talent but completely out of character with the film.  They feature the Sons of the Pioneers (including Roy Rogers) and jarred almost as much as Wayne’s mustache.

Interestingly, one scene shows the indians kidnapping a group of kids which, combined with the fact that the character of Wayne’s son was also pretty young at the time of filming means I can give a shout out to two surviving actors on this one: Claude Jarman Jr. and Karolyn Grimes.  If either is reading, hello!

In summary, the acting is good, the film is entertaining.  Certainly a good film, and one I enjoyed watching.  But I didn’t find it terribly groundbreaking or particularly memorable.

Recommended if you like Westerns.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose most recent book is Jungle Lab Terror.  You can check it out here.

 

A Western that Managed to Make my Wife Forget She Hates Westerns

I watch the 1001 movies list with my long-suffering wife.  She normally enjoys the good ones (some of them more than I do) and sits through the strange, foreign or noir ones with long-practiced stoicism.  Mainly, she is an enthusiastic participant in the project and often asks for a film if we’re not too tired when our day ends.

But there is one exception: westerns.  She hates them and usually falls asleep in the middle, with clear instructions that I should watch the thing myself and not bug her.  She even abandoned My Darling Clementine halfway through.

John Wayne in Red River

Red River, however, was another story entirely.  After a couple of false starts we watched the entire movie until the end, even though I wanted to go to sleep and finish it the following day.

Why?

I think the answer lies in the unrelenting tension and the huge number of actual cows onscreen… and those two things are related.  Let me explain.

The tension is, to a certain degree, driven by the plot.  You have some guys trying to drive a herd a long way against all odds in an unforgiving land where both the elements and groups of bandits and indians are out to get them.  Then, in the middle of it, one of the main characters abandons the group in order to follow them and try to get revenge by killing he group’s leader.

I think what makes the whole thing seem real, though is that the cows are on screen a good chunk of the time.  There are lots of them, and they are really there.  They’re big, they’re constantly moving and, somehow, they make everything seem real.  There’s a stampede scene which is probably the most memorable scene in the film.

Red River Film Poster

The acting is superb and, of course, John Wayne is the ultimate tough guy who hides his deepest feelings from outside scrutiny.  It works spectacularly well, and there’s little question as to why the film was beloved from the word go.  It is most definitely the opposite of a chick flick, and all the stronger for it.

Of course, if you’re the kind of person who is offended by either John Wayne or the attitudes prevalent in the 1940s, this one will shock you to the core – Westerns of this era are not for the socially sensitive.  The rest of you should go out and find this film as soon as you can.

And enjoy what might just be The Duke’s best performance in a film so good even my wife approves.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer who has never written a western.  However he has recently launched a collection of short SF and Fantasy stories which you can check out here.