Long before he cemented his status as a Hollywood hawk with the pro-Vietnam politics of “The Green Berets,” John Wayne was known as the Duke.
He was bigger than life, as epic and craggy as director John Ford’s lovingly photographed Monument Valley. Wayne injected Ford’s best Westerns, from “Stagecoach” to “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” with a quiet machismo. But it wasn’t until “The Searchers” and Howard Hawks’ “Red River” that Wayne pulled away the nonchalant mask and revealed considerably darker dimensions.
The Oscar for “True Grit” might have been dismissed as a career achievement award, but the saddle-weary stance, that deliberate way of spitting out words like “Pilgrim” and that trademark furrowed brow were vintage Americana.