A friend told me that he loved John Wayne and his movies, then went on to say, "but the man couldn't act worth a damn." He even followed that up by saying, "Hey, John Wayne himself admitted that he played John Wayne in his movies."
After giving it some thought, all of a few seconds worth, I can't say if he could act or not. What I do know is that people went to his movies to see John Wayne. For me, I never ever went to see a movie with him in it for the story. I always went to see John Wayne.
Whether it was in The Wings of Eagles, or McQ, or Donavon's Reef, or North To Alaska, or even The Shootist (which I thank God that they didn't follow the book very well when they made that movie), I knew what I was getting.
It was nice to never have to be briefed beforehand. I never had to read the book first to help me determine whether or not it was going to be a good movie. It wasn't a matter of knowing what Bozo directed it or who his supporting cast was first.
If John Wayne was in it then that's all I needed to know. With his films, they were good entertainment. The good guys won, the bad guys and those who hated America lost, and the good guy was not always a Holy man when he waged the fight. Hey, what more did a film need? To my way of thinking? Nothing! It's like feeding hungry Cowboys, if the food's hot, then you got more than half the battle won!
If a movie had John Wayne in it, then I don't care who wrote the story or even if the plot was sloppy. Heck, I went to see the Duke kick ass and take names in a way that was more or less believable. What is better than having John Wayne look at someone that he didn't really care for and growl, "I've got a touch of a hangover, Bureaucrat. Don't push me!"
I went to the movies to see John Wayne. I went to see HIM. I wasn't there for a Shakespeare sonnet, or a Noel Coward play, or a some other writer's story rewritten by some unknown bunch of Screen Writers who most likely butchered the intent of the book that someone thought would make a good movie. I went to see John Wayne the same way that I enjoy Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Spenser Tracy, and Charlton Heston in any movie that they did.
It was that thing that they did back then that we can't find in Actors today. It was their style. The way they carried themselves, the way they approached things. No wishy washy mamby pamby prissy bullshit about them or the way they see things. They were American men who "acted" like men. They were themselves. Could they act? Who cares? I certainly didn't.
There is a reason for things. Everything happens for a reason. Their films live on. They are remade all the time, but because they are not in the remake. Their's stands as the ideal. If you don't believe it, just take a few hours and watch the movie Casablanca, or Mr Smith Goes To Washington, or Bad Day At Black Rock, or Gone With The Wind, or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
You will see roles that can be recreated but never done as well as what you are seeing. Lee Marvin really was the outlaw Liberty Valance, just as Bogart was Rick and Jimmy Stewart really became Mr Smith. And now that they are gone, they live on in those fantastic roles.