Who is John Wayne?
Marion Morrison, aka John Wayne, was born in Iowa in 1907. He and his family moved to California when The Duke was 7 years old. He grew up to be a star football player through high school and college before a bodysurfing injury ended his career. He began looking to local movie studios for work, and started his career in Hollywood as part of the "swing gang," or stage hand.
After a few gigs as an extra, Duke landed his first role in "The Big Trail." It was during this film that Morrison began to go by the name John Wayne. In 1939, Wayne got his big break on the film "Stagecoach."
Credited with 178 roles overall, Wayne was nominated for three Academy Awards and finally won the award in 1969 for his role as lead actor in "True Grit."
How did a movie star shape the 1960's?
By 1960, John Wayne was already widely popular for his Westerns & War films. He was also popular among soldiers as he entertained our troops around the world!
Wayne took a huge risk in directing and starring in the film "The Green Berets." Even though his goal was to show the general public why the USA was defending the South Vietnamese and the bravery of our special ops forces, critics ripped the film as "blatant hawk propaganda" immediately (3). Protestors even theaters in New York waved the Vietcong flag in front of the silver screen, and Wayne even received hate mail.
What did John Wayne do to draw attention to national issues?
Wayne intentionally created the film The Green Berets to draw attention to the bravery of our troops. He was rejected by two major production companies due to the political nature of the film and the potential for career suicide. Wayne took a pay cut to sign with Warner Bros.--Seven Arts. This demonstrated Wayne's personal commitment to the issue.
The Green Berets was the only pro-war major motion picture produced by Hollywood in the 1960's.
"Later in life, he increasingly spoke out on national issues, and played a central role in helping to get the United States Senate to ratify the Panama Canal Treaties in 1977, shortly before his death" (1).
Did John Wayne change the way the Vietnam War was perceived?
It would depend on who you ask...his intention was to change the way people saw the war, but by the time the film was released, I think most had already determined their views on the war. Supporters would like the film, and critics would hate it.
Some research shows that the film did anger even loyal John Wayne fans, but no further information was given.
Did Wayne boost troop moral, either personally or through his films?
In 1966, Wayne spent 3 weeks touring Vietnam to entertain and support U.S. troops. His tour came close enough to the fighting that bullets from the Vietcong were hitting the ground a few yards from him. On that trip, he was made an honorary soldier and given a bracelet made of wire from servicemen that he wore from then on. (See it pictured here!)
After his visit to Vietnam, Wayne came home in full support of the war. He stated, "Once you go over there you won't be middle-of-the-road. All those 'let's-be-sweet-to-our-enemies' guys are doing is helping the Reds and hurting their own country" (3).
Even with great risk to his personal career, Wayne decided to make a movie, "The Green Berets," about the war. His rationale was that he "owe[d] it to them," saying...
"I get mad these days when I see our boys getting killed and maimed and people back home aren't behind them....I honestly believe that there's as much need for us to help the Vietnamese as there was to help the Jews in Germany."
Did The Duke assist Vietnam veterans in readjusting to American life? Or did he fight for their rights post-war?
I did not find research to directly answer this question.
Wayne did support our veterans overall. He was a very patriotic man, and he produced the album "America, Why I Love Her" in 1972. The following recording of the piece "Why Are You Marching, Son?" gives us a glimpse of his message.