I can't say that Stagecoach is my absolute favorite John Wayne movie -- but it's such a classic and it's that one that made him a star. I would be hard pressed to choose my favorite. In Harm's Way was wonderful, and so was The Quiet Man. In both movies he starred with Maureen O'Hara. But then, then I love the westerns, too, especially McClintock, The Shootist (with Lauren Bacall, makes me cry everytime), and, of course, Rio Lobo with Jennifer O'Neill. And who can forget, the only movie for which he won an academy award, True Grit. Katherine Hepburn starred with him in that one.
My brothers loved all of his movies and we would stay up and watch The Sons of Katie Elder every time it was on the late, late movie (and the three of them would have to act out the river fight scene every time). And then there was War Wagon. A big favorite. I know nothing about trucks, but when my oldest brother got one of those monster pickup trucks back in the 80s, he named it the War Wagon, with the letters emblazoned on the plastic shield at the front of the hood of the truck. The only John Wayne movie I could get my kids interested in was The Cowboys. (I never did like Bruce Dern, because he shot and killed the Duke in that movie.) And, one more, I have to mention Hatari. Not a western, but it just goes to show you what great range that man had, from fighting the cowboys and Indians to facing wild animals in Africa. I wasn't as interested in the war movies, but he was as well known for them as the westerns. The Green Berets and The Sands of Iowa Jima are classics.
While one may not agree with his politics, there is no doubt that Wayne's passion and loyalty to his country ran deep. He once described himself as "old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness, flag-waving patriot." He had a sense of decency in the films that he chose, and rued the path that Hollywood was taking in the films that it made. He said, "I don't want ever to appear in a film that would embarrass a viewer. A man can take his wife, mother, and his daughter to one of my movies and never be ashamed or embarrassed for going."
Furthermore, he said, "I have tried to live my life so that my family would love me and my friends respect me. The others can do whatever the hell they please."
"We must always look to the future," John Wayne once said. "Tomorrow - the time that gives a man just one more chance - is one of the many things that I feel are wonderful in life. So's a good horse under you. Or the only campfire for miles around. Or a quiet night and a nice soft hunk of ground to sleep on. A mother meeting her first-born. The sound of a kid calling you dad for the first time. There's a lot of things great about life. But I think tomorrow is the most important thing. Comes in to us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."
John Wayne died in 1979 of lung cancer. He holds the record for having starred in the leading role in more movies than any other actor. Of 142 movies, he was the lead in all but 11. But as much as he was admired for his movies, he became an icon for his patriotism and loyalty to his country. He was honored with a Congressional Medal of Honor. It simply states: "John Wayne, American". God bless him.