Vital Signs

True Grit

A remark one often hears from the current crop of film critics is that John Wayne might indeed merit the iconographic status conferred on him by tens of millions of ordinary cinemagoers around the world, were it not for the troubling matter of his alleged evasion of military service during World War II—an issue, it would seem, of rather greater consequence to the more ideologically pristine of the professional reviewers than it is to the civilians who actually pay to watch the movies.  We can only admire the pundits’ own unstinting patriotism, freedom from self-righteousness, exquisite probity, and universal wisdom—particularly the last, in having an opinion about everything.  Wayne himself was by no means as self-assured as many of his detractors, and he winningly remarked that “most acting is forgotten in a day, as any good actor knows.”  This was one of his guiding principles, and those who hated him were infuriated not merely by his unparalleled fame, and the quietly disciplined manner in which he went about achieving his uniquely relaxed style, but by the way in which he never aggrandized his profession or believed that a person influences the course of events purely because he happens to “slap on makeup [and] dance around in tights” for a living.  He was a standing reproach to the sort of performer who takes himself very seriously indeed and thinks that his work is destined...

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