I know this is odd, but I have watched John Wayne in The Cowboys twice in two days. And I loved it the second time as much as the first. For all my actor buddies that read this, please sit down right now before you read this next sentence. John Wayne is one of the best screen actors I have ever seen.
He learned to act in front of us. His early work throughout the thirties and forties was just awful. All he really had was this gargantuan PRESENCE. But, god, was he a bad actor.
Then, somewhere around 1945, he started getting okay. And then along came John Ford. He had done Ford movies before but something seemed to click around the late forties and early fifties. He did Stagecoach in 39, I think. His breakthrough role. Not very good in hindsight, but again, the PRESENCE. Then we see Red River, The Searchers, Iowa Jima, Quiet Man...he's learning right there, right in front of us.
Then we see the sixties stuff, he's getting better and better, The Alamo, True Grit. Even gets an Oscar for the latter.
He battles cancer. Beats it the first time. And here he is in his sixties and his name above the title all but insures a hit, even at that age.
And then, in 1973, he makes this movie, The Cowboys. If you haven't seen this film, rent it, netflix it, NOW. It is an extraordinary piece of film acting. Wayne does with one subtle expression what most actors can't do with two pages of dialogue. Wayne always said about acting, "I don't act, I react." That may be true, but know this, he's being modest. At that point in his career he could blow any other actor off the screen. And I mean ANY other actor. The eye follows him no matter what else is being done. The PRESENCE, again.
There is a moment in The Cowboys when Wayne says in a quiet scene, talking about his two dead sons, "They went bad on me. Or I went bad on them. I don't know." It is a snatch of the most heartbreaking, honest dialogue I've ever heard.
John Wayne could act. In this move, The Cowboys, he is breathtaking. See it.
On a side note, had my two buddies, John Bader and Jim Petersmith over last night for a little birthday dinner (I'm turning 32 again). Invited them to a friendly, sociable game of Trivial Pursuit. Left them both scarred and bloodied. Nearly weeping. Shamed. Wounded and humbled. And that's all I have to say about that.
Angie made a beautiful cake for me. One of the best cakes I've ever had. I was happy. Not to linger on this, but I really have no business being alive (See my play, Praying Small, opening April 9, NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia, North Hollywood, CA). A cake was nice. She is the best thing to ever happen to me. The cake was the second best thing to ever happen to me. Zooey brings up the number three spot. Diablo is up there, too. And pudding.
See you tomorrow.