Let me just say this fast so it’ll be like a ripped off bandaid and only sting for a few minutes.
John Wayne, you should be ashamed. You were an empty vessel for fear mongering propaganda. You were a barbarian parading as virtuous. You shouldn’t have an airport named for you; your name should be on toilet paper.
There I said it. Readers, are you still with me?
I was a mere whippersnapper when John Wayne made his last films and, since Westerns interested me in the least, I watched most of them as an adult and thought they were rather silly. Real cowboys don’t act or look like the Duke. They’re almost never clean, they spit a lot and some sleep with their horses. But, John Wayne was a frequent visitor to the town where I grew up and even rode in Nevada’s annual parade celebrating statehood. He cut a mighty fine figure, even in his sixties, and I was proud to share a birthday with him (different year lest you try guessing my age.) But alas, some things I was too young to know.
In the clip above, the empty vessel mouthpiece, John Wayne, claims that Congress can override the Bill of Rights for the purpose of national security. Sounds like a lofty principle but what he meant was, Congress can imprison or blacklist anyone suspected of discussing subversive ideas, such as communism. Suspected, being the key word. Not tried. Not found guilty. Suspected. If you didn’t like your neighbor, all you’d needed to do during that deadly time was call up the FBI and say you saw a Communist pamphlet in their house and voila! You could ruin their life. But, like John Wayne, America’s hero, you would be upholding a lofty principle.
In the 1950s a successful screenwriter named Dalton Trumbo was accused of being a communist by a less successful colleague. This led to his imprisonment and subsequent shunning by friends, neighbors and potential employers. A punishment known as “blacklisting.” Desperate for income, he organized a group of fellow blacklisted writers and together they convinced the producers of B movies to hire them incognito and far cheaper than the going rate. And since no one much cared who wrote such masterpieces as This Female is Deadly, they were able to survive.
Until Roman Holiday. That movie won an Oscar for best screenplay and convinced Otto Preminger to ignore the fear mongering, anti-communists and openly hire him.
The above scene from Spartacus, written by Trumbo for Kirk Douglas is a rebuke to the name-calling and finger-pointing that went on during the McCarthy era, a time when the Bill of Rights was ripped and trampled and few people stood up and said “I am Spartacus.”