John Wayne, born Marion Michael Morrison on May 26, 1907, has proven to be the most durably popular star in the history of film. Over the course of a half century, Wayne became the ultimate personification of the Western hero. His collaborations with John Ford and Howard Hawks established bodies of work unsurpassed for solidity and cohesion in American cinema. Decades after his first starring role in Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail (1930), Wayne’s legend had become so grand that the best of his later films were monuments fashioned to various aspects of his myth. The final film in the exhibition, Hawks’s El Dorado (1967), provides a mellow and sublime elegy about growing old in a West that has grown old, echoing Sitting Bull’s lament upon his surrender: “A warrior I have been. Now it is all over. A hard time I have.” This centenary celebration also features four of Wayne’s defining films with Ford, including arguably the two most beautifully photographed Westerns ever made, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and The Searchers (1956). Several of the films will be introduced by Kevin Stoehr, professor, Boston University; project director, John Ford Center, Portland, Maine; and coeditor of the forthcoming McFarland anthology John Ford in Focus: Essays on the Filmmaker’s Life and Art.
Organized by Charles Silver, Associate Curator, Department of Film.