Movie star John Wayne had an iconic walk that helped amplify his on-screen presence in Western and war films. He became the face of an entire era of Western filmmaking, entering the popular culture canon in more ways than one. However, Wayne didn’t entirely understand how his walk was much different from any other. Therefore, he didn’t get how that added to the sex appeal that he had earlier in his career.
John Wayne became a masculine icon
Wayne got his big break thanks to his fateful meeting with director John Ford on the Fox lot, where the young eventual actor started working in props. However, he received his first leading role in Raoul Walsh’s 1930 adventure film The Big Trail. Wayne slumped into B-movies for quite some time before he got another shot at fame in 1939’s Stagecoach, which launched him into fame.
Red River, Sands of Iwo Jima, Rio Grande, and The Quiet Man are just a handful of film titles that proved why Wayne was a masculine icon with the help of his walk and talk. He went on to inspire countless actors and motion pictures, bringing his signature style in more ways than one.
John Wayne didn’t understand how his walk was different
In the 1971 Playboy interview, Wayne talked about the image that he nurtured over the course of his career, including his walk. The interviewer noted that much of his stardom was attributed to his sexuality that he exuded. They wanted to know if he believed that he still carried that “sexual authority,” which he only perceived when he was earlier in his career.
“Well, at one time in my career, I guess sexuality was part of my appeal,” Wayne said. “But God, I’m 63 years old now. How the hell do I know whether I still convey that? Jeez. It’s pretty hard to answer a question like, ‘Are you attractive to broads?’”
Wayne continued: “All that crap comes from the way I walk, I guess. There’s evidently a virility in it. Otherwise, why do they keep mentioning it? But I’m certainly not conscious of any particular walk. I guess I must walk different than other people, but I haven’t gone to any school to learn how.”
However, Wayne did have to develop his on-screen presence through his walk. He didn’t entirely understand the “physical side of acting,” which took work. This all came with the help of his The Desert Trail co-star Paul Fix.
John Wayne developed a signature way of talking
Wayne had more than an iconic walk, but also a booming voice that commanded the silver screen. It took some time for him to develop such skills, although it was worth the wait. Wayne once spoke about the importance of speech in motion pictures, which resulted in the slow speech pattern that followed him through his career.
The movie star said an array of iconic quotes, only further amplified by his signature delivery, such as saying “pilgrim” in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.