Episode 110

Visiting John Wayne's grave to honor his service

🎙️

We delve into the life and career of Hollywood legend John Wayne.

We'll take you from the dusty plains of Wyoming during the filming of 1930's 'The Big Trail,' where a young and determined John Wayne began to carve out his place in cinematic history, to the memorable performance in his final film, 'The Shootist,' where he poignantly confronted his own mortality.

We highlight Wayne's journey through various roles, his relationship with director John Ford, and his attempts to serve in World War II.

Last but not least, we touch upon Jenn's recent visit to Wayne's gravesite and discuss his impactful legacy on American cinema and military portrayal.

Links:

Pin-ups for vets

Walk with History Gift Shop

🚕 John Wayne's grave in Corona Del Mar, California

🎥 How to visit John Wayne's grave


Definitive John Wayne video playlist


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Transcript
Scott:

The Wyoming wind whipped my face, carrying grip in the tank's sweat.

Scott:

Dust devils danced between the towering pines, a constant reminder of the

Scott:

unforgiving landscape we were filming in.

Scott:

Out on the dusty plain, hundreds of extras milled about their covered wagons and

Scott:

makeshift town for the next few weeks.

Scott:

This was Hollywood, 1930.

Scott:

Miles from any soundstage and I, green horn grip on my first

Scott:

big picture, The Big Trail.

Scott:

Back then, John Wayne wasn't Duke yet.

Scott:

He was Duke Morrison, a scrappy kid with a jawline that could cut glass, and a

Scott:

voice that rumbled like distant thunder.

Scott:

He wasn't a star, not yet.

Scott:

He was our lead, Breck Coleman, a Wrangler thug.

Scott:

Thrust into the role of a lifetime.

Scott:

I first saw him during a stunt rehearsal.

Scott:

The horse went crazy, rearing up and threatening to throw its rider.

Scott:

The stunt double bailed, but the duke, all raw nerve and determination, clung on.

Scott:

The beast bucked and twisted, a whirlwind of brown hide and flying hooves.

Scott:

My breath caught my throat.

Scott:

I'm sure he wasn't gone.

Scott:

But then, with a yank of the reins and a mighty shout, Duke

Scott:

brought the horse under control.

Scott:

Through erupted in cheers, the sound echoing through the valley, there

Scott:

was a fire in his eyes that day, a hunger that promised greatness.

Scott:

The days on set were a blur of long hours and back breaking work.

Scott:

We hauled equipment over treacherous terrain, battling the elements

Scott:

and the ever present mosquitoes.

Scott:

Duke was always there, leading by example.

Scott:

He'd haul cables with the best of us, a quip always on his lips.

Scott:

Even when exhaustion painted lines across his face, he had a way of

Scott:

making you feel like you were part of something bigger, a grand adventure

Scott:

unfolding before our very eyes.

Scott:

One evening, huddled around a crackling campfire, guitars strumming under

Scott:

a sky ablaze with stars, Duke sang, his voice rough edged but filled

Scott:

with a quiet strength, resonated with a yearning for something more.

Scott:

We all felt it.

Scott:

The dreamers and the drifters who made up this traveling

Scott:

circus we called a film crew.

Scott:

We were chasing our own piece of the American dream, out

Scott:

here on the edge of nowhere.

Scott:

The Big Trail wasn't a box office success, but for those of us who

Scott:

were there, it was a baptism by fire.

Scott:

And John Wayne?

Scott:

He wasn't Duke yet, but the seeds of that persona were firmly planted.

Scott:

The grit, the determination, the twinkle in his eye.

Scott:

They all shone through, years later when I saw him on the silver screen,

Scott:

a steely glint in his steely glaze.

Scott:

I saw not a movie star, but the young wrangler who tamed a wild horse and stole

Scott:

our hearts under the endless Wyoming sky.

Scott:

Welcome to Talk with History.

Scott:

I'm your host, Scott, here with my wife and historian, Jen.

Jenn:

hello.

Jenn:

On this.

Scott:

podcast, we give you insights to our history inspired world travels,

Scott:

YouTube channel journey and examine history through deeper conversations

Scott:

with the curious, the explorers and the history lovers out there.

Scott:

Now, Jen, this is our second podcast back from an extended break and

Scott:

we had asked some folks to, to write in saying, podcast episode?

Scott:

Because we do love hearing that.

Scott:

And I actually got an email from Hannah.

Scott:

She had actually written us back in mid May, but it ended up in my spam folder.

Scott:

So sorry about that, Hannah, but I found it.

Scott:

I replied back, but she said, Hey, I love both your channel and your podcast.

Scott:

My favorite podcast is probably the women of bull run.

Scott:

I like how not only men joined the fight, but also women as well.

Scott:

So I thought that was, that was really cool because that was a fun.

Scott:

Kind of place for us to visit when we went to manassas We went to

Scott:

the battle of bull run and we gave a different perspective on that.

Scott:

So thank you Hannah for the email.

Scott:

We really enjoy and appreciate that feedback We also got I want to give

Scott:

Kenneth a shout out He actually donated to the channel over at walk with history gift

Scott:

shop comm so if you ever go over there you can see t shirts, we have Different things

Scott:

that we have on on the gift shop There's some really fun stuff that we've created

Scott:

over there and some I think especially the history or die one and and if you

Scott:

donate, then we'll give you a shout out.

Scott:

So thank you, Kenneth.

Jenn:

Thank you, Kenneth.

Scott:

All right.

Scott:

So Jen, as our listeners just heard in like the act one kind of vignette that

Scott:

I had, we're talking about John Wayne.

Scott:

He started his career really in 1930, right?

Scott:

He had been, that was one of his first movies.

Jenn:

yes.

Scott:

And if I remember correctly, he had been a USC football player,

Scott:

hurt his knee, and basically just started working in the movie industry.

Jenn:

Yeah, I mean, he's in USC, so right in Hollywood, right?

Jenn:

And so what, think of it as a working studio.

Jenn:

It's still working studios today, right?

Jenn:

So if you want to get a job being a laborer, a carpenter, a grip,

Jenn:

someone who's pulling scenes and pulling materials for scenes,

Jenn:

that's how he started background.

Jenn:

He even uses the name Duke Morrison, so he's not even using

Jenn:

the moniker John Wayne yet.

Jenn:

And that's how he gets his start.

Jenn:

And he starts with John Ford, who will become a huge mentor to him and director

Jenn:

that he works with throughout his career.

Jenn:

And it's John Ford who takes a notice of him.

Jenn:

He won't use him again.

Jenn:

as a main character until stagecoach is probably where he gets his

Jenn:

big notoriety as the Ringo kid.

Jenn:

But yes, so John Wayne is getting his roots started in Hollywood and

Jenn:

we're Californians.

Jenn:

I, I would consider you a Californian.

Jenn:

I'm not a Californian, but I married you in California and I had, we had

Jenn:

all of our children in California.

Jenn:

You are a true Californian.

Jenn:

And you're born in SoCal and raised in SoCal.

Jenn:

Your great grandfather was part of the movie industry.

Jenn:

He was a lead prop master.

Jenn:

We needed to get back out there to make more videos.

Jenn:

We just haven't had a chance to get out to Hollywood

Scott:

but you, you recently got a chance and that's why we're talking about John

Scott:

Wayne today because we just, we just made a video from his gravesite and we'll get

Scott:

into that here in just a little bit, but you got the opportunity to go out there.

Scott:

So what kind of, what came up that gave you this opportunity?

Jenn:

I was selected as a pinup for vets calendar girl.

Jenn:

So this calendar is it's a nonprofit to support VA hospitals

Jenn:

and veteran medical care.

Jenn:

And every girl in the calendar is a veteran.

Jenn:

And I was selected to be a part of the calendar this year.

Jenn:

So if you need to Get your calendar.

Jenn:

It's pinupforvets.

Jenn:

com, but yeah, and like I said, it's a nonprofit.

Jenn:

You buy the calendar.

Jenn:

I'm supposed to be Miss October because I'm the only Navy veteran

Jenn:

they have in the whole calendar.

Jenn:

October is the Navy birth month.

Jenn:

And so I flew out to L.

Jenn:

A.

Jenn:

to do this photo shoot, two days in Manhattan Beach.

Jenn:

And you and I, we have big wish lists of things we want

Jenn:

to film and do for the channel.

Jenn:

And we keep them in our back Burner if we ever make it out to here,

Jenn:

if we ever make it out to here.

Jenn:

And I would say these, these wishlist items are based on time.

Jenn:

If how much time if I have a day in LA, I'm doing this.

Jenn:

If I have two days in LA, I'm doing this.

Jenn:

If I have a week in LA, I'm going to hit this.

Jenn:

This was like, I have one day in LA.

Jenn:

So our two big things for one day in LA was John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

Jenn:

So I'm so excited that I got to see John

Scott:

you've talked about that for quite some time, because if you, if you've

Scott:

listened to the podcast for any, any period of time, or if you've watched our

Scott:

channel for any period of time, we've done Jimmy Stewart, many Jimmy Stewart videos.

Scott:

We've done many John Wayne videos, so you know that they are

Scott:

favorites here on the channel.

Scott:

So for you to get out there, and the funny thing is.

Scott:

In the video, right?

Scott:

And I will leave a link to the video and the podcast show notes in the video.

Scott:

You I don't remember if it's John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart, but there's

Scott:

so many famous people that are buried not far from either of these men.

Jenn:

I would say that Jimmy, Jimmy Stewart is in a

Jenn:

more famous celebrity area.

Jenn:

John Wayne is more South.

Jenn:

He's in Corona del Mar, but a very famous person has just been buried

Jenn:

in that cemetery, Kobe Bryant.

Scott:

Oh, really?

Jenn:

So now John Wayne shares the same cemetery, but Kobe

Scott:

Oh, I didn't know that.

Jenn:

So that has made his cemetery.

Jenn:

Now, he's there with a lot of like B list actors, and I hit one

Jenn:

actress that is important to me.

Jenn:

there, but it's a lot of like old Hollywood, but now that Kobe Bryant is

Jenn:

there, I notice there's a lot of people visiting the cemetery to visit him.

Scott:

Oh, interesting.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

And the Jimmy Stewart one, that'll be our next podcast episode.

Scott:

There's famous people there.

Scott:

I think you said Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable.

Scott:

So all like the, the uber famous, Hollywood figure.

Scott:

We'll talk a little bit more about also one of the things that you talked

Scott:

about because it was Memorial Day, but why don't you take us through a little

Scott:

bit of John Wayne's career and then how his involvement with the military

Scott:

before we get to the end of his career.

Jenn:

Sure.

Jenn:

John Wayne, he starts out as he's born Marion Robert Morrison, May 26th, 19.

Jenn:

07 in Winterset, Iowa.

Jenn:

And we go there.

Jenn:

We go to the house that he's born in.

Jenn:

His museum is right there beside it.

Jenn:

We spent the day in Winterset, Iowa.

Jenn:

It's a great little town

Scott:

the beaten path.

Jenn:

off the beaten path.

Jenn:

I did not know.

Jenn:

It's also where the Bridges of Madison County is set and filmed as well.

Jenn:

But it's really a cute little iconic town that he is from.

Jenn:

But quickly he moves to the Hollywood era to California.

Jenn:

So his father was a pharmacist, I guess for lack of a

Scott:

owned a drugstore.

Jenn:

owned a drugstore.

Jenn:

And so they moved to California in 1916.

Jenn:

So he's not even 10 years old.

Jenn:

And he sets up a pharmacy in Glendale.

Jenn:

So it's it's really he goes to Glendale High School.

Jenn:

And that's what he does.

Jenn:

He gets the scholarship to USC.

Jenn:

So he really is someone I would think who grew up in California.

Scott:

call himself a Californian.

Jenn:

And again, he calls himself Duke because his dog's name was

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

His childhood dog, his childhood dog's name was, was, was Duke.

Scott:

And I think if I remember correctly, he was always walking by like a fire

Scott:

station where he lived in the, in the fireman would, would say that they're

Scott:

like, Oh, look, there's, there's there's a little Duke or something like that.

Scott:

Yeah.

Jenn:

He's playing for USC football.

Jenn:

He gets injured.

Jenn:

He injures his knee, but he also has a shoulder injury, so he has two injuries,

Jenn:

which as a football player, common injuries, also career ending injuries.

Jenn:

So that's what happens to him.

Jenn:

And as a favor to the coach, he had given like one of the silent film

Jenn:

stars tickets to a USC game that movie star hires Wayne as a prop boy.

Jenn:

So it's like it, the whole, uSC movie industry is helping each other

Scott:

I mean, he's, he's living in that, that area.

Scott:

You're near the industry.

Scott:

It naturally, if he's not playing football, he's got to earn his way.

Scott:

He's got to work.

Scott:

And that's where he starts working.

Jenn:

Exactly.

Jenn:

So he starts as a prop boy, as an extra, like I said, and he's just big, right?

Jenn:

I mean, imagine he's playing football.

Scott:

he was incredibly handsome when he was young.

Scott:

I found some pictures that I hadn't seen before and I was like, good

Scott:

grief, no wonder they spotted this

Jenn:

Exactly.

Jenn:

Like he's just a big guy.

Jenn:

He has a presence about him.

Jenn:

He's good looking.

Jenn:

He has a strong personality.

Jenn:

face, strong chin.

Jenn:

And so he starts to work as a minor uncredited roles in a lot

Jenn:

of movies in the 1920s, just small bit parts and small bit movies.

Jenn:

It's while he's working there that he starts with that Duke Morrison

Jenn:

name because Marion Morrison, it's like, Oh, it's Marion.

Scott:

Not a, not a, not a manly name, name back then.

Scott:

I mean, and I think it was the studio executives that kind of tried to

Scott:

get him to, to get a stage name like

Jenn:

Exactly.

Jenn:

But it was in 1930 when he was moving studio furniture as a prop

Jenn:

boy that he was cast as his first starring role in The Big Trail.

Jenn:

And that's when, for a screen name, he suggested Anthony, the director suggested

Jenn:

Anthony Wayne after the Revolutionary War General, Mad Anthony Wayne.

Jenn:

But it's a, it's a, They felt it sounded too Italian, so suggested John Wayne.

Jenn:

John is very basic, and so that's how he gets the name John Wayne.

Scott:

it's so interesting that someone as famous as him now, you

Scott:

look back on that and that's, it was just like a, yeah, we need something

Jenn:

Yeah, and the story is that John Wayne wasn't even

Jenn:

present for that conversation.

Jenn:

It was a conversation between the, the studio chief and the director.

Scott:

That's wild.

Jenn:

So it was like, let's, let's change his name.

Jenn:

So it's more marketable.

Jenn:

And so he's John Wayne just took it.

Jenn:

His pay was raised to a hundred dollars a week when he got that name.

Jenn:

So big trail was, it was a minor success.

Jenn:

And again, he's just larger than life and he's really portraying

Jenn:

this, this this big character.

Jenn:

And I think people are getting the sense he's in these big sceneries,

Jenn:

these big Western sceneries.

Jenn:

He feels this the screen with his presence with this big background behind

Scott:

And he just stands out, right?

Scott:

I remember seeing clips from that movie when I was putting one of our videos

Scott:

together, and he just stands out, even as, even though obviously he was one of

Scott:

the main characters in the movie, so that was intentional by the filmmaker's part,

Scott:

he's just a little bit different, right?

Scott:

And he's so young and he's so much young.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

Bigger than a lot of the men that are around him acting and it's a lot of times

Scott:

especially hollywood nowadays You get actors that are shorter You can kind of

Scott:

if you if you look for it, you can tell when they're putting you know shorter male

Scott:

actors with taller female female actresses on books or kind of The way they film it

Scott:

the way they don't have to worry about that with john wayne like He's athletic.

Scott:

He's good looking.

Scott:

He's big.

Scott:

He just he fits the part

Jenn:

And I think He did a lot of Westerns in the 1930s here

Jenn:

and you're going to see like this kind of built his Western persona.

Jenn:

A lot of actors can get lost in a huge background, right?

Jenn:

The majestic background of Monument Valley or the majestic background of a ranch.

Jenn:

And John Wayne doesn't ever get lost in the background.

Jenn:

He fills the background like he's part of it.

Jenn:

And I think.

Jenn:

As your eye, as you're watching a film, you gravitate towards him.

Jenn:

He doesn't just become part of the scenery.

Jenn:

And I think people notice that right away.

Jenn:

His next major role will be in 1939.

Jenn:

So this came out in 1930, this first big trail.

Jenn:

And then so nine years later, he's been making Westerns the whole time,

Jenn:

building his leading man persona.

Jenn:

But it was 1939.

Jenn:

That is, John Ford stagecoach where he plays the Ringo kid and

Jenn:

the kind of like the camera zero ends on him I even hear directors.

Jenn:

I think it was Spielberg or Scorsese who is like that moment for them

Jenn:

was Understanding movie magic right how you're taking this character

Jenn:

and making him larger than life John Wayne was that persona.

Jenn:

And again, this is John Ford.

Jenn:

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, right?

Jenn:

Which they will have for the rest of their lives, making movies together.

Jenn:

But John Wayne is just really becoming the movie star, John

Scott:

Yeah, the hero the classic hero of of lore per se

Jenn:

So then we're going to get, it's 1939, America's

Jenn:

going to enter World War II.

Jenn:

what we talk about a little bit in this video, we open up with John Wayne service,

Scott:

and we talked about that because one of the reasons I think that you

Scott:

addressed it when you went To make the video at the at the cemeteries because

Scott:

we I mean we get all sorts of comments across all of our videos But there's

Scott:

some John Wayne haters out there And in a lot of times when we post either

Scott:

like a short or real, One of the videos the haters will jump in and they'll

Scott:

say John Wayne was a draft dodger John Wayne never served, and they and

Scott:

they're you know, denigrating him now.

Scott:

Those are much Those are few and far between, to be honest for John Wayne,

Scott:

the vast majority of the comments we get people love watching, watching John Wayne

Scott:

and watching the stuff about John Wayne.

Scott:

But, but there's kind of a, a little bit of a perception of that.

Scott:

And that's something that you wanted to address while you were there.

Scott:

Cause you were there on Memorial Day.

Jenn:

I was there on Memorial Day.

Jenn:

I do believe John Wayne did a service to his country in the

Jenn:

way he portrays military people.

Jenn:

He's portrayed military.

Jenn:

I can't even.

Jenn:

say how many times he's portrayed a veteran or someone in the military in the

Jenn:

movies and the storytelling he has done from a person of military experience has

Jenn:

really given a voice to so many military people and given them like a identity

Jenn:

and the way people see them and he's really painted them in a great picture.

Jenn:

He's done it for every war.

Jenn:

I would say.

Scott:

it.

Scott:

Sands of Iwo Jima, right?

Scott:

I mean, there's all all sorts of,

Jenn:

portraying civil war.

Jenn:

He's portraying World War Two.

Jenn:

He's portraying Vietnam like he's, he's hitting the wars.

Jenn:

He's doing Alamo like he's really hitting all these people of service.

Jenn:

Now, he didn't serve.

Jenn:

He tried to serve.

Jenn:

And there were a couple reasons why he didn't serve.

Jenn:

And it always was a very sore point for John Wayne because he

Jenn:

felt like he should have served.

Jenn:

He, I think he felt guilty that he didn't serve and, but he was already rejected.

Jenn:

He's what they call a four F.

Jenn:

So when you got put into the draft, you're given a rating based on your physical

Jenn:

standard and your financial standard, your emotional standards, all these things.

Scott:

about if, if you're, a little bit younger in our audience, if

Scott:

you ever watched Captain America, the very first one you remember, he

Scott:

keeps get like his before he, they.

Jenn:

Yeah.

Jenn:

Pump them up.

Scott:

Pump him up or whatever like that.

Scott:

Everybody's getting one a, which is the one that you've accepted in draft.

Scott:

And then you can go, but he, Steve Rogers, captain America before he's

Scott:

captain America can't because he's tiny.

Scott:

He's too small.

Scott:

He's got flat feet.

Scott:

He's got all these, these issues.

Jenn:

so there's certain things the military is looking for.

Jenn:

You have to meet a height and weight standard.

Jenn:

That's what he's not hitting in Captain America.

Jenn:

He doesn't, he's, it's too low weight, which what does that mean?

Jenn:

Too low weight to die for your country?

Jenn:

No, too low weight to carry the gear needed day in, day out to be a soldier.

Jenn:

You can't.

Jenn:

physically do it.

Jenn:

Now, John Wayne's 4F was for a couple of reasons.

Jenn:

His injuries came back to haunt him, this shoulder and the knee.

Jenn:

So already you're at a physical disability.

Jenn:

They don't want to put you in military gear when you already

Jenn:

have these physical ailments that you can't be a hundred percent.

Jenn:

And he has, four children at the time.

Scott:

I think age was a thing too, right?

Jenn:

And age was a thing.

Jenn:

Age you could get waivers for, but the four kids and then taking a military pay.

Jenn:

So the huge pay cut would put him in financial distress.

Scott:

if you think about it by the time that America's entering

Scott:

the war, he's in his mid thirties.

Scott:

I'm, if I'm remembering correctly, so he's,

Jenn:

at the time of Pearl

Scott:

So he, he's 34, probably, 35 by the time he's trying

Scott:

to, see if he can sign up.

Scott:

So that's, that's a bit further along than most men who were joining in the war.

Scott:

Now, not all of them, but he is farther along in life.

Scott:

Four kids, this huge career, already injured.

Scott:

So he had all these, all these things already stacked up against

Jenn:

So usually they want to do 18 to 30 to 34.

Jenn:

And it's not too old if you're an officer, but remember John Wayne didn't finish USC.

Jenn:

So when we talk about enlisted in officers, you have to have a

Jenn:

college degree to be an officer.

Jenn:

So John Wayne would have to enlist.

Jenn:

So enlistments 18 to 30 because they want the kids right out of

Jenn:

college or right out of high school.

Jenn:

And then his family status, he's classified, it's, it's three a,

Jenn:

when you have a family determined, which is deferment, which means

Jenn:

you have too many children.

Jenn:

Your pay that you would make as a E one would put you in a

Jenn:

financial distress, hardship.

Jenn:

Now he tries to enlist, he tries to serve under John Ford,

Jenn:

the director who he loves.

Jenn:

John Ford serves in the military in a capacity where some

Jenn:

other directors did as well.

Jenn:

Frank Capra.

Jenn:

They.

Jenn:

They took footage of the war.

Jenn:

They made propaganda movies, but they also just were documenting

Jenn:

the war and they did a very good

Scott:

John Ford was at Midway.

Jenn:

I mean, they go right into the heat of the battle to, to capture it all.

Jenn:

And so John Wayne tried to,

Jenn:

So he tried but unfortunately, he never got to serve.

Jenn:

He stayed home.

Jenn:

He made movies at home.

Jenn:

But it wasn't for lack of trying.

Jenn:

It wasn't for lack of want.

Jenn:

It wasn't like he was a dog.

Jenn:

People say a draft Dodger.

Jenn:

He wasn't any of those things.

Jenn:

He unfortunately had age working against him, injury working against

Jenn:

him, and he had too many kids.

Scott:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Scott:

And I appreciated you addressing that because we've talked

Scott:

about John Wayne so much.

Scott:

That was, that's one of the few things that we've never really

Scott:

had an opportunity to talk about.

Scott:

And I think that was appropriate on a day like Memorial Day.

Scott:

Where we're able to address a lot of those, those comments

Scott:

that we get in our videos.

Scott:

So it was, it was fun to, for you, for you to get there and

Scott:

to be able to talk about that.

Scott:

And then for us today to talk a little bit more about his, his career.

Jenn:

I want people to know John Wayne toured US hospitals during the war.

Jenn:

John Wayne did a lot for the USO during the war.

Jenn:

John Wayne continued to be an advocate for the United States

Jenn:

military up until his death.

Jenn:

He was not.

Jenn:

He was not a draft dodger.

Jenn:

It wasn't like he didn't agree with the war.

Jenn:

It wasn't like he didn't agree with fighting.

Jenn:

He was all in on all of those things.

Jenn:

Unfortunately, he just couldn't get in and the archives, the US archives

Jenn:

have found applications from John Wayne trying to get in and every time they

Jenn:

just were ultimately unsuccessful.

Jenn:

So he did his best and I give him a lot of credit, but I honor his service.

Jenn:

Because I leave a flag for him because his portrayal, which is what we love.

Jenn:

Actors for is their portrayal of telling the story of military men.

Jenn:

And to me, he just does that so well.

Jenn:

And so many movies I love my favorite movie, right?

Jenn:

The searchers, like he's playing a civil war veteran so he just does

Jenn:

a really great job in my opinion of portraying service members on screen.

Jenn:

And I think he should be honored for that service that he gave to his country.

Scott:

Yeah.

Scott:

I thought it was, it was neat to be able to talk about that.

Scott:

And I was looking forward to talking about.

Scott:

the ways in which he served because not everybody can serve and us both

Scott:

of us you having, veteran me still serving, we get people all the time

Scott:

that tell us whether we interview them on the podcast, or we talk to them out

Scott:

in town, they'll say, I always wanted to serve, I always wish I would have.

Scott:

And by a certain time, I was too late too late in life.

Scott:

And there's people out there, you can still support your country, you can

Scott:

still support Service in a different way.

Scott:

So I thought that was great to be able to talk about now Let's let's

Scott:

go past that into kind of really what is like more the peak and then the

Scott:

kind of golden years Of his career.

Scott:

So

Scott:

Monument Valley stretched before me, its stark beauty both familiar and alien.

Scott:

Here I was again, dust clinging to my sweat dampened brow, years

Scott:

after the Wyoming winds had whipped my face on the big trail.

Scott:

This time, 1956, I was a seasoned set supervisor on John

Scott:

Ford's latest, The Searchers.

Scott:

John Wayne, or Duke as everyone still affectionately called

Scott:

him, wasn't the same young buck with a twinkling eye I remember.

Scott:

The years had etched canyons into my heart.

Scott:

His face mirroring the ones around us.

Scott:

But the fire that burned in him back then hadn't entirely died.

Scott:

It had transformed a quiet intensity simmer beneath the surface.

Scott:

This film felt different.

Scott:

There was a rawness to it, a complexity that went beyond the usual

Scott:

good versus bad tropes of Westerns.

Scott:

Director John Ford pushed Duke demanding a depth I hadn't seen before.

Scott:

The character, Ethan Edwards, a Civil War veteran searching for his

Scott:

kidnapped niece, was a man haunted by prejudice and a thirst for vengeance.

Scott:

Don't call me uncle.

Scott:

I ain't your uncle.

Scott:

Yes, sir.

Scott:

Don't need to call me sir, either.

Scott:

What do you want me to call you?

Scott:

Name's Ethan.

Scott:

It was a far cry from clear cut heroes Duke usually portrayed.

Scott:

During filming, there were long stretches of silence broken only by the creak of

Scott:

saddles and the whistle of the wind.

Scott:

In those moments, I'd steal a glance at Duke.

Scott:

His face, usually in open book, was a mask of conflicted emotions.

Scott:

Anger.

Scott:

Regret.

Scott:

A flicker of something that might have been love.

Scott:

It was a performance unlike anything I'd witnessed.

Scott:

A raw vulnerability that resonated deeply.

Scott:

Why don't you finish the job?

Scott:

What good did that do you?

Scott:

By what you preach nothin.

Scott:

We all knew Ford was a visionary director, but on this set, there

Scott:

was a different kind of electricity.

Scott:

There was a sense that we were creating something special,

Scott:

something that transcended the genre.

Scott:

Little did we know, the Searchers would become a landmark project.

Scott:

Film forever changing the Western landscape.

Scott:

It would spark debate, challenge audiences, and force them to confront

Scott:

the dark corners of the American ethos.

Scott:

As filming wrapped a strange melancholy hung in the air.

Scott:

We poured our heart and souls into this project, and part of us knew

Scott:

it wouldn't be easily replicated.

Scott:

As I shook Duke's hand, his grip firm, despite the years I saw a

Scott:

flicker of that old fire in his eyes.

Scott:

But this time it was tinged with a quiet satisfaction, a sense of a job well done.

Scott:

He might not have known it then, but the searchers would become

Scott:

a defining moment in his career.

Scott:

A testament to his ability to push beyond the limitations of the Western hero and

Scott:

deliver a performance that resonated with audiences for generations to come.

Scott:

It was a far cry from the young wrangler I met in Wyoming, but it was the

Scott:

culmination of a remarkable journey, a journey I was privileged to witness.

Scott:

I mean he really starts hitting his his true movie stardom stride I'd

Scott:

say, you know in in those 40s 50s and then 60s is you know on the back end

Jenn:

Yeah, I would say like we both feel like he made his two best movies.

Jenn:

Now again, this is just our idea of his best.

Jenn:

If you want to see our top 10 John Wayne and why we consider them the top 10

Jenn:

please find the walk with history episode.

Scott:

find on our channel.

Scott:

I'll put it in the show notes as well

Jenn:

But I think he hits the stride like in his forties.

Jenn:

When you think of The Quiet Man and The Searchers, they're made within five years

Jenn:

of each other where he's like 45 to 49.

Jenn:

And I think that's where he's really hitting his stride.

Jenn:

Quiet Man is 1952 and The Searchers is 1956.

Jenn:

And again, these are John Ford movies, but I think this is when he's really

Jenn:

hitting his leading man status.

Jenn:

He's being able to pull an entire movie on his own.

Scott:

his name on the movie poster, his name on the billboard, is The Draw.

Jenn:

It's the draw a hundred percent so much so that he's going to ride

Jenn:

that out for his career, right?

Jenn:

And so when you watch like the longest day He's just one of the many actors

Jenn:

but John Wayne is listed on the line.

Jenn:

I'm gonna watch that John Wayne's

Scott:

And I think he, he directed The Alamo.

Scott:

Is that right?

Scott:

And I remember reading when we visited the John Wayne Museum in Winterset,

Scott:

it said the studio executives only allowed him to direct The Alamo.

Scott:

If he would star in it and he would put his name as one of the leading roles.

Scott:

That's the only way they would let him do it because they knew

Scott:

his name on a movie brought people

Jenn:

He's bankable.

Jenn:

He's a leading Star, he's a leading man.

Jenn:

I think even today he's in the top five leading men of all time So

Jenn:

he's just a very bankable actor.

Jenn:

He made a lot of movies He turned them out quickly and he was he was

Jenn:

really great now You get the criticism that John Wayne doesn't really change

Jenn:

character too much from movie to movie He's playing basically the same kind

Jenn:

of hard man Who has been, run through the ringer and is doing some kind of

Jenn:

he's reaching some kind of arc, right?

Scott:

And, and, and I think there's some truth to that.

Scott:

Absolutely.

Scott:

But that's also the era, the era was Westerns.

Scott:

The era was the era of big leading men that went in and won the fight

Scott:

almost every single time, but then as his career progressed, You actually

Scott:

saw him Change that character whether it's in the cowboys or whether it's

Scott:

in true grit or whether it's in you know his last movie the shootist Where

Scott:

he's he's playing that character that?

Scott:

Is vulnerable at times in the movie and that's what really draws you into

Scott:

the character And he didn't do that quite as much early in his career

Scott:

But then he's he's still playing these big I can win any fight and

Scott:

do anything But then there's these moments of true vulnerability, right?

Scott:

I think he was only killed in a movie a couple times, right?

Scott:

The cowboys is one of the most famous ones and bruce dern it followed him around

Scott:

for forever but when you get into You To the shootest and he's he's sitting there

Scott:

talking with jimmy stewart and it's the end of his career and Jimmy stewart is

Scott:

giving him the news that nobody wants to hear which you will hear the kind of

Scott:

The vignette here in just a little bit because that's what I I put in there

Scott:

But that's him playing almost himself, him, not John Wayne, not the Duke, but

Scott:

Marian Morrison at the end of his time through, through his movie career,

Scott:

admitting that vulnerability and admitting ah, it's just like you, he almost, he

Scott:

doesn't say it, but you want him to say, I thought it was going to live forever.

Scott:

And that I think he captures really well towards the end of his career.

Scott:

And that's one of the things that I really, I really love about him.

Scott:

Enjoyed and I enjoy talking about John Wayne because You see that true arc from

Scott:

the strapping young 20 year old who can do anything to Now he's in his Probably he

Scott:

was probably 70 something when he made the Shootist um you know, maybe late 60s and

Jenn:

dies at 72.

Jenn:

I think he made the shootest in 77, so he was 70.

Jenn:

And I think that again, you see that like in the Cowboys and you're seeing

Jenn:

that later in life, he's choosing these roles where he can be a little

Jenn:

bit more vulnerable and show you that vulnerability and do it in a way that

Jenn:

really makes you understand and believe that the human nature of people, even

Jenn:

the human nature of vulnerability.

Jenn:

people we think is of heroes.

Jenn:

And that I think is the greatest example he gives to the military

Jenn:

and in his service to his country is showing that anyone who is willing

Jenn:

to serve their country as a hero.

Jenn:

And I think John Wayne does a good job of showing that with these really

Jenn:

vulnerable characters who really do these noble things, even though they are

Jenn:

have a flawed life or they don't live the best picturesque life in the end.

Jenn:

In the shoot is he's even proud.

Jenn:

I think in the end to give that advice, leave that advice on like kind

Jenn:

of mentor a young Rod, Ron Howard.

Scott:

yeah his character

Jenn:

I think he's almost mentoring a young, a country is

Jenn:

he's mentoring the people because we've grown up with John Wayne.

Jenn:

He took us through the war.

Jenn:

He took us through a couple of Vietnam.

Jenn:

He took us through history.

Jenn:

We've learned a lot about history from John Wayne and he's taken us, he's taken

Jenn:

us through really the, the birth of cinema to what cinema ended up being.

Jenn:

being when he left.

Jenn:

And so that's like a lot of growing.

Jenn:

And I think he wanted to hand it off with this understanding that

Jenn:

I did my best, but I'm only human.

Scott:

Yeah, he had an amazing 40 year career, 40 plus year career.

Scott:

He's just one of the all time greats.

Jenn:

So to be able to visit his grave was always a bucket list thing for me.

Jenn:

I knew it was in Corona Delmar that's Orange County, California.

Jenn:

That's South of LA.

Jenn:

I knew it was on the water.

Jenn:

John Wayne was big.

Jenn:

He had his, his, boat.

Jenn:

Though the wild goose was like an old minesweeper that he would

Jenn:

take to Catalina all the time.

Jenn:

And so I know he wanted to kind of like see the water.

Jenn:

And so if you sit at his grave, you can see the Pacific

Jenn:

Ocean, which is very beautiful.

Jenn:

Pacific View Memorial Park, where he's buried, is, was open in 1958.

Jenn:

So John Wayne dies in 1979, so really 20 years it's been open.

Jenn:

When I visited his grave, it's a very unassuming grave.

Jenn:

A lot of them are flat graves.

Jenn:

Usually it makes it easier for them for maintenance of the

Jenn:

lawn, but it has a cowboy on it.

Jenn:

It looks like Monument Valley in the background, and it has his

Jenn:

name, his moniker, John Wayne, does not have his birth name.

Jenn:

There's no Marian Morrison on there.

Jenn:

The dates of the the year dates of birth and death, 1907, 1979, and then a quote

Jenn:

that has been attributed to John Wayne from an interview that he gave that

Jenn:

tomorrow always comes in perfect and clean and beautiful and ready for what you,

Jenn:

it's up to you for what you do with it, which I really always appreciated that

Jenn:

what he's telling you is it's up to you.

Jenn:

Your dreams are yours.

Jenn:

Your aspirations are yours and everybody gets the same amount of time and what

Jenn:

they do with it is completely up to them.

Jenn:

And so I think it's very much like a dream big quote and that is who John Wayne was.

Jenn:

I love these.

Jenn:

huge actors who came from nothing.

Jenn:

John Wayne's one of them.

Jenn:

Jimmy Stewart, no family.

Jenn:

There was no one in the industry.

Jenn:

No one gave him, there was no nepotism, right?

Jenn:

There was no one giving them a handout.

Jenn:

Like they just did it and they wrote the book along the way.

Jenn:

And John Wayne is really one of them.

Jenn:

And so it was just a real honor for me to be there.

Jenn:

I did say at the time that I don't think any other family members are around him.

Jenn:

Since then, I've looked up his daughter, his first wife.

Jenn:

They're close by.

Jenn:

They're not beside him, but they're, they're close by where he is.

Jenn:

So he's not alone there.

Jenn:

He was married twice and he has seven kids.

Jenn:

I think he's had two, three children who have since passed

Jenn:

and I think two of them are there.

Jenn:

Not on the same row, but close by.

Jenn:

So he's not alone.

Jenn:

He does have some family close by, but it is a beautiful location and it

Jenn:

was just a real honor to visit him.

Scott:

It's 1977, and the flickering light of the television casts a mosaic

Scott:

of shadows in my living room walls.

Scott:

The shoot is splayed on, John Wayne's face filling the screen.

Scott:

How'd you ever kill so many men?

Scott:

I think I've lived most of my life in the wild country.

Scott:

You set a code of laws to live by.

Scott:

What laws?

Scott:

I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, I won't be laid a hand on.

Scott:

I don't do these things, to other people.

Scott:

I require the same from them.

Scott:

It wasn't the same.

Scott:

Duke I remember from Monument Valley all those years ago.

Scott:

Age had finally etched its story onto his features, but his eyes still held that

Scott:

glint a defiance against the inevitable.

Scott:

A pang of grief hit me.

Scott:

John Wayne, the Duke, the larger than life figure who dominated

Scott:

westerns for decades was gone.

Scott:

News of his death had hit me hard, a reminder of my own

Scott:

mortality, my own fading memories.

Scott:

As I watched him on screen, a gunslinger, facing down his final

Scott:

showdown, memories flooded back.

Scott:

The Wyoming wind whipping at our faces, the camaraderie on the set of The Big

Scott:

Trail, the quiet intensity he brought to Ethan Edwards and the searchers, a

Scott:

role that, I now realized, laid bare the complexities of the American West.

Scott:

John Wayne.

Scott:

He wasn't just an actor, he was an icon.

Scott:

He embodied a certain kind of American spirit, rugged, self reliant, a

Scott:

man of action who stood his ground.

Scott:

Some might scoff, call it simplistic, but it resonated with audiences.

Scott:

He was the hero who rode in, restored order, and rode off into the sunset,

Scott:

a comforting fantasy in a world that often felt chaotic and unpredictable.

Scott:

The Shootist felt different.

Scott:

It was a poignant farewell, a reflection on a fading era.

Scott:

John Wayne, the aging gunslinger, knew his time was up, but he

Scott:

faced his end with dignity.

Scott:

A final act of defiance against the inevitable.

Scott:

Oh, what can you do?

Scott:

There's just very little I can do.

Scott:

I, uh, When the pain gets too bad, I can give you something.

Scott:

What you're trying to tell me, is it a

Scott:

Damn.

Scott:

I'm sorry, Books.

Scott:

You told me I was strong as an ox.

Scott:

Well, even an ox dies.

Scott:

The movie ended, the credits rolling in silence.

Scott:

I sat there.

Scott:

The quiet hum of the television filling the room.

Scott:

John Wayne was gone, but the legacy he left behind would endure.

Scott:

He'd captured a time, a spirit, and etched it into the silver screen.

Scott:

He was a reminder of simpler times, a storyteller who wove tales of the

Scott:

Wild West, a man who, For a fleeting moment, allowed us to believe in heroes.

Scott:

As I switched off the TV, the image of a young John Wayne full of fire

Scott:

and dreams flickered in my mind, a bittersweet smile touched my lips.

Scott:

It was a long road from the Wyoming plains to Monument Valley, and

Scott:

finally to this quiet farewell.

Scott:

But one thing remains certain, John Wayne, the Duke, would forever be a part.

Scott:

of American cinema, a testament to a bygone era and the enduring

Scott:

power of a well told story.

Scott:

Thank you for listening to the Talk With History podcast and please reach out

Scott:

to us at our website talkwithhistory.

Scott:

com.

Scott:

But more importantly, if you know someone else that might enjoy this

Scott:

podcast, please share it with them.

Scott:

Especially if you think today's topic on John Wayne would interest a friend, shoot

Scott:

him a text and tell him to look us up.

Scott:

We rely on you, our community to grow, and we appreciate you all every day.

Scott:

We'll talk to you next time.

Jenn:

Thank you.

About the Podcast

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Talk With History: Discover Your History Road Trip
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about traveling to historic locations

About your hosts

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Scott B

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, and Editor of TheHistoryRoadTrip.com
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Jennifer B

Former Naval Aviator turned Historian and a loyal Penn Stater. (WE ARE!) I earned my Masters in American History and graduate certificate in Museum Studies, from the University of Memphis.

The Talk with History podcast gives Scott and me a chance to go deeper into the details of our Walk with History YouTube videos and gives you a behind-the-scenes look at our history-inspired adventures.

Join us as we talk about these real-world historic locations and learn about the events that continue to impact you today!

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Thank you for the great podcasts and for sharing your passion! Love hearing about the locations you visit.