Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 25, 2013

John Wayne had his way of restoring order


— Try unwinding with a John Wayne movie

Some folks go for a walk to decompress after a tough day. Others listen to soft music.

Still others fight stress with a quiet dinner.

Not me! I reach for a John Wayne movie, sit back and relax.

And it doesn’t matter if he’s winning World War II almost singlehandedly or chasing the bad guys out of town on horseback or romancing Maureen O’Hara in Ireland.

On my office wall is a life-sized, pen-and-ink portrait of the “Duke,” as he liked to be called, to remind me each day that personal values of courage, integrity, honesty and patriotism never go out of style.

Wayne was America’s top box office star for 30 years. In today’s terminology, he was the first action hero and you didn’t have to be the smartest guy in the theatre to follow the storyline of his movies.

He always was the good guy who championed the cause of truth, justice and the American way of life.

In every situation, Wayne triumphed over evil, sometimes at the cost of his own character’s life.

His off-screen critics didn’t like his politics or his personal lifestyle of heavy drinking and gambling or the fact that he was married three times.

But to millions of moviegoers, he was a larger than life man’s man who generally made them feel better about themselves, about their lot in life and about their country.

After more than 140 movies, Wayne finally received the Best Actor Oscar in 1969 for his rollicking role of drunken U. S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit.”

Can we ever forget that scene in “True Grit” where, after Robert Duvall accused him of “bold talk by a one-eyed fat man”, he charged the bad guys with the reins in his teeth and guns blazing away in each hand?

The Hollywood press corps said he was being recognized merely for playing John Wayne in all of his movies.

When he gave his touching farewell at the Oscars shortly before his death in 1979, some of those same writers lauded him as a Hollywood icon.

Asked for his personal definition of bravery, he responded: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

I’ve always liked what he said to a mouthy villain in another of his movies: “Pilgrim, you're short on ears and long on mouth.”

He used a phrase in “The Cowboys” that probably gets used every day to motivate folks not to waste time: “We’re burnin’ daylight.”

Thanks, Duke … for all of it.


Keith Kappes is a columnist for the Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at