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Moguls and Movie Stars debunking John Wayne


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Hats off to the producers of Moguls and Movie Stars for mentioning that not only was John Wayne a draft-dodger (as was Ronald Reagan), he rarely participated in the war effort during the Second World War. He was indeed *NOT* Sgt. Stryker in real life or anything like it. Where exactly was Wayne, when Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, Gene Autry, Jackie Coogan, Henry Fonda, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Leslie Howard were fighting the Axis? Tanking up at the Hollywood Athletic Club, no doubt.


My amusement at "John Wayne - American Hero" velvet paintings, bumper stickers, license plates, souvenir mugs, and other junk has over the years turned to disdain. It's this kind of bogus hype that creates false images of many public figures.


So, again, thanks TCM for this kernel of truth.


On a personal note, there are only four John Wayne films I can stand to watch - Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, True Grit (despite Glen Campbell!), and the Shootist.

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KUDO's movieman. Wonderful piece on Wayne and his war record. Sadly, no matter what is the truth on this major star, his detractors will never concede to anything but bashing "Duke" and his role in the war years. But as those detractors will never agree to the facts, we the fans of this man will never permit these "bashers" detract us...Things are not always black and white, there are many grey areas to be looked into.....I salute the stars who did go into "Harms Way" and I also salute those who served in a different manner....

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I remember when I was a kid my father couldn't stand to watch any John Wayne movies, especially those films where he was serving in the military during the war. My dad said Wayne was a draft dodger and didn't help with the war effort as other stars did so he thought John Wayne's "he-man" and "hero" image a fake. Now I realize my dad was right.

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The Duchess' draft status is a hardy perennial. I wouldn't call him a draft dodgers, but he

sure did seem to mosey up to that line, and then mosey back away whenever things looked

to be getting serious. The bottom line is that others went and Wayne didn't. So now his

later super duper patriotism comes off as a hoot.

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Has it really been 90 days since the last time this topic came up for discussion? I think we are now on our fourth (maybe fifth) go around of this discussion since last January.


Santa, all I want for Christmas here at TCM City are some new topics to discuss.

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"Things are not always black and white", I agree 100% with Fred on this one. Many people served the war effort in various ways and without knowing the specifics you can't judge a persons motivations. I would never call Wayne or Reagan (or others) "draft dodgers" , but sometimes there is a bit of hypocrisy present. People who wrap themselves in the flag and patriotism and even question those who don't (usually motived by politics) should look in the mirror. I don't have any deep resentment of John Wayne or his movies, in fact I like many of his films and believe he was a very good actor. I certainly don't question his love of country at all.

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While not a big fan of Reagan, I'm not sure if the term "Draft Dodger" really fits. True , he didn't go over the trenches in the big one, but he was in the Army Reserve in 1937. Nearsightedness resulted in his being classified for limited duty.True or not, I don't know. In the early 1940's he transferred to the Army Air Corp. and to the !st Motion Picture Unit. By the end of the war the unit had produced 400 training films. Maybe this isn't much to many, but like I said , not everyone can carry a rifle or drop bombs or sink ships...

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You know the thing I never understand around here is the need for labeling anyone a "draft dodger". Given how awful war is and how it changes the lives of all involved what does it matter who fought and who didn't? Everyone, on all sides, is transformed by the war experience and the decisions they make. I learned that years ago during the Vietnam War.


As for Wayne, he didn't seek to be that super-patriot that many came to see him as. He was an actor and that was all. But in the 1950s and 1960s, with so much cultural change going on and the Cold War raging, we, the people, needed someone that made us feel safe, made us feel good and made us feel like America was the top of the pyramid. Wayne never asked to become that icon. We (the public at large back then) made him that icon based on our own fears, it wasn't a role he solicited or wanted.


But he served that role because we needed someone to be that super hero and we chose him to be that icon. Even he was surprised at how we, the people, elevated him as that icon. That was never the role he thought he would play.


And even though, he knew how much we needed someone in that role, even he was surprised at how difficult it became for us to distinguish between his role as a movie star and his much larger role as cultural icon.


I've never agreed with his politics but I learned early on that it wasn't his role as cultural icon that I was interested in. It was his role as an actor that mattered most. To him and to all of us who are his fans. Had I been so arrogant as to refuse to watch his movies because of his politics, I not only would have missed out on some of the great films of American film history but some of the great performances ever put on film. And, as a film buff, that to me is a bigger crime than Wayne's supposed "draft dodging"


I won't rehash the whole John Wayne and WWII debate because it has been argued to death more than once here and a trip through the archives of this message board should provide ample reading for anyone looking for that debate.

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Duchess may not have solicited the role of Captain America, but he seemed to enjoy it

and become rather comfortable in it. And he likely didn't mind leaning on it when it

became handy. While some people may have needed and regarded him as a Big

Daddy substitute hero during the 1960s, others definitely neither needed nor wanted

a fake hero like Wayne. We got along just fine without him and his tiresome Hollywood

flag waving hype.


There are many ways people can serve during war, but being in battle is the most

dangerous. In that regard, it really can't compare to doing things on the home front,

however helpful they may be. If Wayne had so many physical problems, one wonders

why he didn't go for a physical. It would have made him look good and he wouldn't

have had to serve anyway. Win, win. Maybe he was afraid not that he would fail, but

that he would pass. Ouch.


Unhappy is the land that needs a hero. B.B.

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Tyrone Power was considered to be a "pretty boy" in Movies. But he had a tremendous war record in the South Pacific as a Marine Flyer. As a LT. he flew cargo to and wounded marines out of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Not bad for a matinee idol. After the war he was promoted to Captain.


Edited by: cujas on Dec 4, 2010 4:01 PM

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I have to admit that I saw the Wayne mention as a slur that was forced into the narrative courtesy of an inaccuracy. Contrary to what was claimes, during the war years, Wayne wasn't the primary face on screen fighting our enemies. That really didn't come until later, he was making more westerns than war dramas:


They Were Expendable (1945) .... Lt. (J.G.) 'Rusty' Ryan

Dakota (1945) .... John Devlin

Back to Bataan (1945) .... Col. Joseph Madden

Flame of Barbary Coast (1945) .... Duke Fergus

Tall in the Saddle (1944) .... Rocklin

The Fighting Seabees (1944) .... Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovan

In Old Oklahoma (1943) .... Daniel F. Somers

A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) .... Duke Hudkins

Reunion in France (1942) .... Pat Talbot

Pittsburgh (1942) .... Charles 'Pittsburgh' Markham / Charles Ellis

Flying Tigers (1942) .... Capt. Jim Gordon

In Old California (1942) .... Tom Craig

The Spoilers (1942) .... Roy Glennister

Reap the Wild Wind (1942) .... Captain Jack Stuart

Lady for a Night (1942) .... Jackson Morgan


If I had to venture a name off the top of my head, percentage-wise it was Errol Flynn who appeared to be fighting the war single-handedly (with some help from Humphrey Bogart).



San Antonio (1945) .... Clay Hardin

Objective, Burma! (1945) .... Capt. Nelson

Uncertain Glory (1944) .... Jean Picard/Emil DuPont

Northern Pursuit (1943) .... Corporal Steve Wagner

Edge of Darkness (1943) .... Gunnar Brogge

Gentleman Jim (1942) .... James J. Corbett

Desperate Journey (1942) .... Flight Lt. Terrence 'Terry' Forbes



Conflict (1945) .... Richard Mason

To Have and Have Not (1944) .... Harry 'Steve' Morgan

Passage to Marseille (1944) .... Jean Matrac

Sahara (1943/I) .... Sgt. Joe Gunn

Action in the North Atlantic (1943) .... Lt. Joe Rossi

Casablanca (1942) .... Rick Blaine

Across the Pacific (1942) .... Rick Leland

The Big Shot (1942) .... Joseph 'Duke' Berne


Bogie was even fighting the Nazis before the official start of the war in ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT.


Wayne was still a relative small-timer compared to those two who were superstars at a major studio while Wayne was working for various studios, with a good number for Republic and Universal. This is not to knock the guy, but it really wasn't until after the war that he became a superstar and noted as much for his war films as for his westerns.

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I caught the Moguls and Movie Stars documentary this afternoon. Wayne was not called

a draft dodger, which is true. I don't think they even mentioned his status, though they did

note he didn't participate in many home front activities. The Gipper wasn't a draft dodger

either, since as far as I know there is no reason to doubt that due to nearsightedness he was

unfit for combat duty. There was also a brief mention of Tyrone Power's service, though

not in detail.


I think Wayne's problem was that he put himself out as such an all-American patriot that his

lack of service is understandably seen as hypocritical. Through his own rhetoric he made himself

a target. I doubt Wayne was easy on someone who didn't want to go to Vietnam. I separate

Wayne the man from Wayne the movie actor, and I've enjoyed many of his films, though it's been

a while since I've seen his war movies. The latter I have no problem with, the former I do.

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The little I know of Ford, he could often be an irascible and cantankerous type and supposedly

got on Wayne's case about his lack of service during the filming of The Man Who Shot Liberty

Valance, contrasting that with Jimmy Stewart's military record. Would have loved to have

heard those conversations. So even the man who was partially responsible for Wayne's public

persona called him out on the subject.

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In addition to his usual crankiness, Ford must have had a burr under his saddle on

the subject of Wayne and his lack of service. To talk about it in 1945 is understandable,

but to be harping on it seventeen years later seems a bit much. I suppose Wayne had

to grit his teeth and take it. Now in a movie, he would have punched Ford out. Pronto.

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