Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Duke Dies

Steve "Axle" Hinkley sent me this, which I use now to correct some info in my previous blog on "John Wayne." It mentioned the "Duke" and how many films he died in, but gave the wrong number as the following entry shows. Thanks Steve. Bob Nelson

Bob Tuttle, a big John Wayne fan, offered some more information about Duke Wayne's career: "With regards to Duke's film deaths, he did die in eight films, they were: Central Airport (1933)--He drowns in an airplane crash (this was an uncredited role); Reap The Wild Wind (1942)--He drowns battling a giant squid; The Fighting Seabees (1944)--He is shot by a Japanese soldier; Wake of the Red Witch (1949)--He drowns; Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)--Shot by a sniper; The Alamo (1960)--killed with a soldier's lance; The Cowboys (1972)--Shot in the back, and his last film, The Shootist (1976)--Shot in the back by the Metropole bartender.... Wayne also appeared as a corpse in 1931's The Deceiver, and his character died in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). "

Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Wayne

I didn't grow up a John Wayne fan, but somehow over the years have become one. Some of that may have rubbed off because my Mom is a big "Duke" fan. If there's a Wayne movie on television you'll have to pry her away from it.

I mention this because his 100th birthday would have been this weekend and you'll be seeing scores of his films on the old glitter box.

My parents grew up at a time when Hollywood had the star system and a movie star was the real deal. Their pictures got you through the Great Depression, WW II and you could escape from real life. It was before TV, VHS and DVD's would bring their movies right into your living room.

My folks tried to teach me a little about the classic stars and appreciation for their films. I guess some of that sunk through because now when I watch an old film I appreciate the movie and the performances a little more.

When did I become a John Wayne fan. You know that's a funny thing. It kind of slipped over me. My Dad liked Jimmy Stewart and I am a Jimmy Stewart fan as a result. It must have happened while I was watching "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." I've seen it a number of times, but it wasn't until recently that I came to realize that it wasn't Jimmy Stewart who was giving the great performance.

Other Wayne movies I enjoy are "The Searchers," "Rio Bravo," "The Quiet Man," "True Grit," and "The Shootist." "The Shootist" was his last film and ironically about a gunfighter dying from cancer. It's fun to see Ron Howard, the actor, playing a gunfighter wannabe.

Until recently I'd never seen "Stagecoach" the film generally regarded as the movie that put John Wayne on the map. Watch the first scene when the camera focuses on him and it's definitely a star making moment. He only had to toil in movies for nine years to get that point.

Fellow KFIZ Breakfast Clubber Jerry St. John tells me there are certain Wayne films he'll watch whenever they are on like "The Quiet Man" or "McClintock." So I guess I'm not alone in that regard.

I sort of understand why I became a "Duke" fan, but don't quite get why he's such an enduring star now 28 years after his death. Some of the stars I enjoy watching now, I'm wondering if the same can be said. Maybe when Bruce Willis hits his sixties he'll win an Oscar too!

Watching the "Duke" die on film is tough. It only happened in four of his films. If you can name them you're probably a Wayne fan too. For me the death he suffered in "The Cowboys" not only drove the plot, but showed that even in one of his last films he still had it. Like Stewart and Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and a few others; Wayne could act, but made it look like he was having too much of a good time to be taken seriously. Maybe that's the point. He was entertaining us and 100 years after his birth still is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Candlelight Vigil

Unfortunately it's become all to common place to hear about candlelight vigils in Wisconsin. Specifically over the last several weeks in Fond du Lac. Four high school students have lost their lives in two seperate traffic accidents. One continues battling for her life and another was seriously injured.

I attended the candlelight vigil for 16-year-old Candy Holstein at Fond du Lac's Veterans Park. Several hundred area residents were there, mostly in Candy's age bracket. At first a few pictures were propped up on a large planter in the middle of the park. Soon there were mementos and flowers piling up. It really stinks that these are the kind of tributes her family will have to remember instead of the other milestones that accumulate over a regular lifetime.

So it also goes for the lives of Peng Thao, Fue Vang and Jerry Vang who were killed in an accident several weeks before. I didn't attend that vigil, but thanks to the church where it was held got an audio copy and was able to hear the stories and grief that friends and relatives shared at that vigil. Really when your 16 or even 18 years old a funny story about working at KFC or McDonald's is the kind of story you should be sharing with friends at school or just hanging out. Certainly not at a candlelight vigil, visitation or a funeral.

The stories I've heard behind the scenes about how close other kids were to grabbing rides with the victims in those two accidents would make your hair curl. Or how about returning to school after one funeral to sit next to an empty seat that should be occupied by a 16-year-old girl who can't be there because she was killed in another car accident that weekend. And how would you feel to be sharing a locker with one of those unfortunate four?

I was lucky when I was in high school. The closest I came to losing a classmate in a car crash was a guy I played football with. One of my sisters had a crush on him. He sported scars at graduation. My Mom on the other hand was not as lucky. A car load of kids ran her older and youngest brother off a rural road one night. My Uncle Jack, who I never knew, was killed. My Uncle Jimmy was left with a permanent hearing disability. He walked a long ways to get help. My Mom suspects she probably has seen those responsible hundred of times over the years, but they never owned up to it. My Dad's older brother was walking along a road when he was hit and killed by a hit and run driver. One of his shoes ended up in the rain gutter of an adjacent home.

It's sudden, it's violent and then it's over. Unlike the gear shift in your car, there is no reverse.