When it comes to Western movies, even to this very day, one name has to be up among the greats and that’s John Wayne. Check the resume of “The Duke” and it’s filled with legendary roles. Wayne brought his own mindset into a lot of these films. Some people might say he pretty much played the same role in different movies. While that may be true, the films themselves are some of the greatest in the Western genre.
People may have forgotten that Wayne really “cut his teeth” as a young movie actor on Westerns. He learned a lot from being in those flicks. From there, Wayne went on to appear in other types of movies. Still, Wayne fans probably will tell anyone that they love seeing him in his familiar Western world.
Let’s take a look at some of Wayne’s greatest Western movies, according to IMDb.
‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’
Wayne plays Tom Doniphan, who appears in flashback sequences with James Stewart. Stewart plays U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard, who came back for Doniphan’s funeral. Some people start raising questions about the two men’s involvement with a gunslinger named Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin. Stoddard opens up and starts talking about those days gone by. Wayne played a key role in this movie, taking center stage in numerous scenes. It’s a John Ford film, so you can look for similarities with other Wayne-Ford projects.
This 1959 movie features Wayne as Sheriff John T. Chance. He’s fighting off the brother of Joe Burdette, who shot a man in cold blood. Claude Aikins plays Joe Burdette here and he’s behind bars, thanks to Chance. The fighting takes place between Burdette’s brother and Chance’s crew. Oh, he’s got Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson along to help him in their roles. Walter Brennan plays Chance’s sidekick Stumpy. Look for an Angie Dickinson sighting, too.
OK, this is my personal favorite Wayne movie. He plays Ethan Edwards, who comes home after the Civil War to find his brother and family members murdered. Native Americans kill them in the movie. Ethan discovers his niece, played by Natalie Wood, is being held captive. Well, Ethan and his nephew, played by Jeffrey Hunter, head out to rescue her. If you’ve never seen The Searchers before, then do yourself a favor and see it. The cinematography is fantastic.
Wayne plays Thomas Dunson, a rancher, who is moving his cattle north from Texas. His adopted son Matt, played by Montgomery Clift, joins him. Well, father and son start to bicker with each other and it doesn’t get any better. The differences become greater, but so do the problems they face while moving their cattle. Howard Hawks directs this movie.
For Wayne fans, this is a good movie to start with among Wayne’s Westerns. This 1939 film features Wayne as the Ringo Kid, who is an outlaw. He is arrested by a U.S. Marshal, played by George Bancroft. Once they are together, the lawman learns more about the Ringo Kid and his life. Orson Welles was a fan of this movie, seeing it numerous times before making Citizen Kane.
Wayne plays J.B. Books, who is an aging gunslinger. He has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He’s come to get a second opinion and rents a room from a widow, played by Lauren Bacall, and her son, played by Ron Howard. Books keeps his identity on the lowdown, but eventually, it comes out thanks to the boy. Books decides to go and try to fix up some of his life’s miscues. This 1976 film is Wayne’s last before dying of stomach cancer in 1979.
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