In response to Friday’s blog providing some general picks regarding John Wayne’s 10 best films, we received this email note from Armando:
“North to Alaska” , “The War Wagon” & “El Dorado” are excellent films.
To recap — here are what we think are eight of Wayne’s top ten. And yes, Armando, El Dorado is in the running for the top tier.
In no particular order we here at Classic Movie Chat can agree on eight which must be listed in his top ten.
In the order he made them: Stagecoach (1939), Red River (1948), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1958), Rio Bravo (1959), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), True Grit (1969) and The Shootist, his last film released in 1976. (A candidate for ninth would certainly have to be 1966’s El Dorado, the Duke’s fine western costarring Robert Mitchum.)
What is the other film to round out the top ten? There are so many good ones from which to choose. War films such as They Were Expendable, The Sands of Iwo Jima, or lesser known ones such as Flying Leathernecks or The Fighting Seabees.
We are partial to that first title — John Ford’s excellent, 1949 combat drama about PT boats in the Philippines, They Were Expendable.
Wayne is absolutely dead on as hard bitten Navy lieutenant Rusty Ryan, who falls for a military nurse played by Donna Reed in perhaps her most luminous movie role. Costarring is Robert Montgomery as Lt. John Brickly. (Montgomery, who really did active service in the military during the War, not only puts on an authoritative portrayal but also is said to have helped out in the film’s direction.)
There is a definite ruefully lyrical appeal to this movie, beautifully photographed. Wayne rarely looks better. So we’ll put this one up in the top 10.
As for Wayne’s single best performance, it’s hard to argue against his portrayal in The Searchers of Ethan Edwards (see photo above), which British critic David Thomson describes as a study of an unapproachable, stubborn man, finally excluded from the family reunion as a romantic but lonely facing he landscape.
More than that, Wayne had to push himself into uncharted psychic waters as Ethan’s unhinged, almost sadistic quest to retrieve a young girl (Natalie Wood) kidnapped by an Indian tribe.
This is a tough, at time unsympathetic performance that Wayne carries off beautifully. He is the driving force in this John Ford Western masterpiece — proof positive of what a powerful screen actor Wayne could be.