Probably no one represents America's image of itself better than John Wayne. The guy is an icon. He was born in 1907 and died of cancer in 1978 but the image lives on in statues, museums, movies, and airports. You can find a book of John Wayne quotes. You can buy a book about what John Wayne's family eats. ("Great Stories and Manly Meals Shared by Duke's Family." Mostly barbecue; no quiche.) He was a student at USC who lost his football fellowship because he couldn't run fast enough, but with time he gained such control over his mammoth figure that he projected a natural grace. When he moved, when he turned his body, he seemed to swing him arms and shoulders and the rest of his torso followed as if by command. The suggestion of force was irresistible. If he sat heavily in a chair, one waited for the chair to fall apart.
The program is concise and non-judgmental, although of course some of the talking heads are highly opinionated one way or another. Among them is Aissa Wayne, John's daughter, here a pretty blond lawyer whose voice, whose presence, is as appealing as her life has been twisted. The most impressive speaker is Gary Wills, author of a perceptive biography of Wayne. There are multiple still photos and lots of brief clips from Wayne's films and home movies.
The episode is divided about half and half between Wayne the movie star and Wayne the controversial political figure. But no one who disagreed with his nationalistic values describes him differently than those who shared them -- he was a likable guy who could make fun of himself, one of any human being's greatest virtues.
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