“That’ll be the day!”
John Wayne’s gravelly, dry voice connected with millions who recognized in its tenor something of America’s pioneer character. In dozens of popular movies, Wayne— who died on this day in 1979—played the no-nonsense, self-reliant cowboy who had an innate and profound, if not quite scholarly, understanding of justice. Wherever he found himself, he was in his own way a force for good, for law and order.
Wayne’s favorite setting on the big screen represented a period when hundreds of thousands of Americans headed west. Despite violence, disorder, natural obstacles, and a civilizational void, they forged ahead. Adventure-seeking individuals, enterprising businessmen, fervent missionaries, and ordinary families looking for a new beginning established towns and communities across the American West.