John Wayne

John Wayne Looked up to 1 ‘Enormous’ Actor as His Inspiration for Building His Persona


Actor John Wayne was an inspiration for many movie stars around the world seeking to achieve his level of success. Some critics attacked his performances, claiming that he couldn’t act. Nevertheless, he continued to build the on-screen persona that Western and war genre audiences came to love. Wayne once explained that there was one actor that was an “enormous” impact on his career.

John Wayne had a signature walk and talk

Wayne initially provided inspiration for filmmakers, such as John Ford and Raoul Walsh, who saw something in him. He was working in the props department at Fox before he landed his first leading role in 1930’s The Big Trail. However, Wayne didn’t develop his acting chops overnight, as he initially had difficulty finding the rhythm that became unique to him.

Red River and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance demonstrated some of the most iconic performances in Wayne’s career. They also both showcased his signature walk and talk that took time for him to develop. Wayne spoke slowly, as he found the importance in utilizing speech as a way to keep audiences hanging onto his every word.

John Wayne found ‘enormous’ inspiration in Harry Carey

Wayne didn’t hesitate when it came to talking about the inspiration that he drew from the actors that came before him. In fact, he infused some of their work into creating his on-screen persona that so many audiences connected with. According to Joseph McBride’s Searching for John Ford

, Wayne found an “enormous” amount of inspiration in Harry Carey, who earned an Oscar nomination for 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
. It was specifically his silent Westerns that left an impact.

“Harry Carey projected a quality that we like to think of in men of the West,” Wayne said. He even emphasized this to his son, Harry Carey Jr.

“I watched your dad since I was a kid,” Wayne told Carey Jr. “I copied Harry Carey. That’s where I learned to talk like I do; that’s where I learned so many of my mannerisms. Watching your father.”

John Wayne and Harry Carey had different approaches to watching their own movies

Wayne initially took even more habits from his inspiration, but he grew out of them. For example, McBride wrote that Carey hated watching himself on the screen. He gave every project his all, but he refused to watch any of his projects. Carey thought there was nothing for him to do about performances he finished, so why watch them back?

Meanwhile, Wayne loved to watch his movies back. He regularly watched them back, especially the ones that he was most proud of. However, Wayne was his own biggest critic, picking apart his own performances. Nevertheless, he was particularly proud of the roles that he played in movies, such as She Wore a Yellow RibbonRed River was the first time that he felt like a real actor.

His favorite performances didn’t earn him the awards season attention that he thought he deserved. The two aforementioned titles were a couple of those, yet he won his Oscar for True Grit playing Rooster Cogburn.


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