Clint Eastwood vs. John Wayne Westerns

Clint Eastwood vs. John Wayne Westerns

When it comes to Western movie buffs there is often a debate on who is a better western actor, Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. Just like the real life rivalry between them there is one among their fans as well. Can anyone really say who the better cowboy is? If you ask any Clint Eastwood or John Wayne fan they will tell you that their hero is the best and give you a laundry list on why. When it comes to these two gentlemen, doing impressions of their demeanor is a form of flattery. Comics like Jim Carrey and the late Robin Williams did impressions of their hero’s as part of their comic routine. Can we really compare both men who are clearly at opposites of the spectrum at all?  No matter who you think is better; John Wayne and Clint Eastwood will always be remembered in history as western icons in their own respective genre.

 

Eastwood’s characters always had the “anti-hero” attitude that goes against the social norms.  Wayne was a patriot and an American icon. His personal life imitated art as a rough and tumble cowboy. John Wayne was a “man’s man” who lived by his principals. “The Duke” did have beauties who were also great actresses like Maureen O’Hara, Katherine Hepburn, and even in his last movie (The Shootist) had Lauren Bacall. Eastwood has more grit and an edginess to him that certainly has appeal.  The misunderstood bad boy has a sex appeal with women. What woman never had a crush on a bad boy? Clint Eastwood is multi-talented. Not only is he an actor, he is a screenwriter, producer, and director. He even has won Oscars for his directing, producing, and acting abilities. Also, like Eastwood, Wayne was too, and produced and directed movies he was in, winning a few Oscars himself. To top it off on May 26, 1979 Wayne was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

A rare photo of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne together at a Birthday.

A rare photo of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne together at a Birthday.

The best examples of how great but opposite these men were can be seen in their famous movies Rio Bravo and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, respectfully. Rio Bravo is a seamless film with not one shot wrong. It’s also considered one of John Wayne’s best performances.  Like most Wayne films he played the cowboy that faces external conflict and based on his strong principles and will tries to change things for the betterment of all. Wayne even wears his same hat he had worn in every western since Stagecoach.  It centers on four men holed up inside a sheriff’s office. This formula would prove so resilient that director Tarantino would directly reference it.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was one of Clint Eastwood best performances. The film like most of Leone films came from a different Universe than traditional Westerns. Its about three men who are after a fortune in Civil War gold, and the secret of its location is divided out among them.  This film is bigger, starker, and more brutal, and more dramatic, than life. Eastwood’s “the man with no name” character was a man that never needed to explain himself, a man whose presence was important enough to fill the whole screen.  He was unshaven and wore a weathered poncho and hat. You can feel and see his internal conflict with himself and his surroundings which, is different than Wayne’s character, but still as dramatic and wonderful. Both films show Eastwood’s and Wayne’s unique style in their Westerns and, even though different, both are great for their genre.

 

     The Verdict

We have Eastwood who played a silent and anonymous loner, a man of little words, who is very direct of dealing with his adversaries. John Wayne played a peacekeeper with a trademark southern drawl. Both are best known for their westerns, even though they directed, produced and starred in a variety of other films including military epics and police dramas. Both Wayne and Eastwood were typecast, which is a terrible fate to befall an actor. Fortunately for Eastwood he was able to break free from the typecast after many years of trying. John Wayne outgrew his typecasting well and transformed himself into an icon.

Can we really compare both of them at all?  Clearly both men are at opposites of the spectrum. Both men were excellent in their respective times and genre. The Duke is a pure American patriot and icon. I grew up watching both John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies and still love them. Both had some great lines handed to them over the years. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood will be remembered in history as western icons in their own respective genre.

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