He didn’t walk, he ambled.
He had “swag” before the stupid word was invented.
For over thirty years in Hollywood film, John Wayne was the American icon of rugged masculinity and the consummate good guy. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered Wayne’s assassination as a result of his frequently-espoused anti-communist politics.
Before dying of stomach cancer Wayne requested his tombstone read “Feo, Fuerte y Formal”, a Spanish epitaph for “ugly, strong, and dignified.”
My dad, a roughneck country boy in his own right, has an obvious man crush on John Wayne. Growing up, whenever a John Wayne movie was found on the old movie channels, pops was transfixed instantly like a moth to a flame. He’d seen every one of the Duke’s movies 23 times…at least.
The modern movie stud is a little more metro sexual and sanitized. You wouldn’t want them to have your back in a bar fight anymore than you’d want SpongeBob Squarepants to cater your dinner party. Bradley Cooper is a good actor, but don’t tell me you see him taking on Iran’s Ahmadinejad in a heated war of words.
To be sure, there were always the more domesticated winky eyed Cary Grant’s and James Stewart’s on the scene. But they were nicely balanced by the rough and tumble Rooster Cogburn. That leather face and razor wit. If you were the bad guy, he felt just as comfortable cracking a joke at you as shooting you.
So here’s to a simpler time. Where the line between good and evil was drawn with thick black paint. Simpler is not synonymous with dumber. We like our heroes to be a little more twisted and torn nowadays. Like the modern Christopher Nolan protagonists, Batman and SpiderMan wrestle with their darker tendencies while fighting for good.
But maybe we need a straight shooting straight talking Cowboy who will open up a can on society’s evil degenerates and restore order and justice for the victims.
But here’s to the late John Wayne and the era of manliness that died with him. Where real men protected women with strong hands, fought injustice with a fierce chivalry, and rode into the sunset of uncertainty with boldness.
When I grow up, I want to be “ugly”, “strong”, and “dignified” like that.