John Wayne Is Orange County

Expanded for the Web! Newport Beach Film Fest honors the icon. Its about time


Call me crazy, but I've always thought of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) as a Jimmy Stewart film. He plays U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard, who returns with his wife Hallie to the dusty little frontier town they met in 25 years earlier to attend the funeral of Wayne's character Tom Doniphon, whose story is told in Stewart's flashback. Valance is among several films where Wayne addresses people as "pilgrim."


In Mark Rydell's The Cowboys, Wayne is an aging cattle owner who faces financial ruin unless he takes a collection of young boys as his drivers after his men abandon his herd for the gold fields. The 1972 film struggled to find an audience upon release, although most critics uncharacteristically loved it and Wayne's performance.


The festival rounds out the screenings with Wayne's best film, The Searchers (1956). This may have been the closest he got to playing the type of antihero Clint Eastwood would later turn into a cottage industry. As Confederate veteran Ethan Edwards, Wayne goes on a crazed search for the niece (lil' Natalie Wood) who marauding Indians kidnapped while wiping out the rest of her family. But Edwards does not want to save the girl; he wants to kill her because, in his twisted view, she's been infected by the savages. Nothing against ol' Rooster, but this is the turn that should have won Wayne the Oscar (it was ranked among Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time). He named son Ethan after the character. Remind me never to piss off Ethan.


Okay, Newport Beach Film Fest, where in Sam Hill is The Green Berets? Yes, it's been unmercifully ripped over the years—"Did you ever see reviews like that?" the Duke once said. "Reviews with hatred and nastiness."—but it's also got historical value. When Wayne wrote to Democrat Lyndon Johnson requesting military assistance for his pro-war production, Jack Valenti told the then-president, "Wayne's politics are wrong, but if he makes this film he will be helping us." Johnson gave Wayne the firepower he needed. That's not all he had backing him up. During shooting, the fiercely anti-Communist Hmong people bestowed on Wayne a silver bracelet he wore in Green Berets and all subsequent pictures. The U.S. Special Forces, which the film depicts, to this day carry copies of The Green Berets into foreign countries.


It's no wonder: these days a lot of those countries have kids lying face up in sand dunes.

WAYNE AND THE WESTERN AT FASHION ISLAND. SAT., APRIL 21, 2 P.M. FREE.


TRUE GRIT AT EDWARDS ISLAND. SAT., APRIL 21, 5 P.M. $10.


JOHN WAYNE CENTENNIAL GALA AT ISLAND HOTEL. SAT., APRIL 21, 7 P.M. $100.

STAGECOACH AT EDWARDS ISLAND. SUN., APRIL 22, 2:30 P.M. $10.

 
RIO BRAVO AT EDWARDS ISLAND. SUN., APRIL 22, 5:30 P.M. $10.

THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA AT EDWARDS ISLAND. MON., APRIL 23, 4:30 P.M. $10.

THE QUIET MAN AT REGENCY LIDO. WED., APRIL 25, 7:30 P.M. $20, OR $40 WITH POST-SCREENING GALA.

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE AT EDWARDS ISLAND. THURS., APRIL 26, 4:30 P.M. $10.

THE COWBOYS AT REGENCY LIDO. SAT., APRIL 28, NOON. $10.

THE SEARCHERS AT REGENCY LIDO. SAT., APRIL 28, 2 P.M. $10.

For information on screenings and events, call (949) 253-2880 or visit NEWPORTBEACHFILMFEST.COM.

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