John Wayne: A unique American hero
Wayne often took his family on location, sometimes even got them roles in his films.
Ethan said his father had come in one day and said to him, "We're going to Mexico. You're gonna be in this movie, you gotta wear that outfit." It was "Big Jake."
"He'd say, 'Now go over there, and you're scared 'cause there's a dog coming, and this guy's got a knife. He's gonna come after ya'. So you be scared over there,'" recalled Ethan. "And you just did what he said."
Born Marion Morrison and nicknamed Duke after his pet dog, John Wayne starred in nearly 200 movies. With his distinctive style, he came to embody the American hero in films like "The Searchers," considered by many the greatest Western ever made.
"John Wayne was actually a great screen actor," said critic John Powers. "There's a way in which he just walks so beautifully that you love watching him do it. You know, he looks so comfortable carrying a gun, you just admire that. The way he takes charge in a situation is reassuring and beautiful and nice."
His characters were pretty uniform ... gruff, take-charge men of action and simple values.
His personal life was more complicated - three wives, health issues, saddled with financial troubles. And his patriotic values and conservative politics made him one of the most polarizing figures of his time.
He was a hawk on Vietnam.
"I think we should have won it about four years ago, at about a quarter of the loss of men, and had the respect of the world," he once said. "Instead of that, we pussyfoot around, and now we're trying to get out of it without being a disgrace."
Wayne visited the war effort in Danang ... and the anti-war effort at Harvard University. He arrived there on a tank, but opted for the charm offensive.
"Do you look at yourself as the fulfillment of the American dream?" one student asked him.
"I don't look at myself any more than I have to, friend!" he said to laughs.
But many today still look at Wayne as the very model of American manhood.
"In fact, you can look at presidential candidates - they run as if they're John Wayne," said Powers. "For example, Governor Rick Perry from Texas, the way he carries himself, his whole style is very much steeped in an idea of the cowboy that comes out of John Wayne."
Wayne's family is selling only part of an enormous collection. Some things are just too precious to part with: The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal (which just says, "John Wayne, American").
"Nothing more needed to be said somehow?" asked Blackstone.
"Nope," said Ethan. "I think he'd be very happy with that."
Ethan was 17 when John Wayne died of cancer at 72.
"He came in one night, and he, you know, he wasn't feeling well. And he said, 'Come on boy, you gotta drive me to the hospital,'" said Ethan. "I don't think it ever registered to me that he wouldn't come out. He came out of everything."
When Ethan Wayne lost his father, millions of Americans lost their hero. But John Wayne seems not to have lost his power to inspire.
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