Today’s Daily Create asks you to “Do a Duke Selfie” referring to the most iconic figure of U.S. Westerns: John Wayne. Love him or hate, he has been part of so many of the greatest films of this genre that it’s hard to ignore him once you start digging into Westerns. Let’s just name a few spanning four decades: Stagecoach (1939), Red River (1948), The Searchers (1956), Rio Bravo (1959),The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962), and The Shootist (1976). The Duke, indeed! Such an act is hard to follow, so I just had fun with today’s DailyCreate and mashed up the Duke with The Man with the Yellow Hat and Billy Idol.
But more than my half-ass selfie, today’s Daily Create provides me an opportunity to explore an element of the film Stagecoach that really struck me when I watched it recently. Stagecoach was the film that made John Wayne career. In fact, John Ford’s film would also jumpstart the Western genre that hasn’t really looked back since. Ford said about Wayne in this role: “He will be the biggest star ever because he is the perfect ‘
The camera zooms in on the Duke and goes from soft focus to a sharp, surprised look that captures a moment of surprise and vulnerability that immediately draws you into his character. What’s more, watching that moment made me realize Wayne had the same kind of screen magnetism that only a few other celluloid godheads did, namely James Dean, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor. He was a rarefied star representative of the perfect everyman—a paradox not lost on me. But I’ll take the Duke as everyman over Jimmy Stewart any day of the week 🙂
What I also realized while watching Stagecoach is that while John Wayne was certainly young, he was also timeless. His figure in the GIF above reminds me of the classic, defiant, expressive image of Walt Whitman that served as the frontispiece of Leaves of Grass—and made him in many ways as iconic an image of his own era (although the great poetry didn’t hurt his cause).
The idea of the celebrated self as an integral part of the expansive American identity. The song of my selfie! It’s all connected in #ds106, and nothing like bringing together America’s Bard with the closest thing we have to royalty from the 20th century: THE DUKE. And then there is this conspiracy theory from Repo Man (1984) that may suggest yet another link between the two: