John Wayne (1907 - 1979), US actor, wearing a black cowboy hat and a white neckerchief, holding a rifle in a studio portrait, against a white background, issued as publicity for the film, 'The Searchers', USA, 1956. The Western, directed by John Ford (1894-1973), starred Wayne as 'Ethan Edwards'. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Going Outside Of His 'Image' Gave John Wayne His Favorite Performance Of His Career
John Wayne may be known as a Western icon who played good-guy characters and represented a narrow definition of masculinity, but Wayne had more range than you might think. Films like “The Searchers,” “Red River,” and “True Grit” showed the actor with more depth than usual, but his most nuanced performance is undoubtedly in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”
In “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” 42-year-old Wayne adds depth to his character, 65-year-old Captain Nathan Brittles, who attempts to strike a peace treaty with the nearby Cheyenne tribe. In fact, director John Ford almost didn’t cast Wayne until he saw his nuanced performance in “Red River,” when he reportedly exclaimed, “I didn’t know the big son of a b**** could act.”
Recalling the film, Wayne said, "'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ turned out to be, I think, the best acting job I've done. As a matter of fact, it's about the only picture I've been in where I could play a character that was a little apart from the image that has developed for me over the years on the screen. I played a 65-year-old man when I was 35 [actually, 42]."