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October 22 , 2007

John Wayne’s World

Transnational Masculinity in the Fifties


In a film career that spanned five decades, John Wayne became a U.S. icon of heroic individualism and rugged masculinity. His widespread popularity, however, was not limited to the United States: he was beloved among moviegoers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. In John Wayne’s World, Russell Meeuf considers the actor’s global popularity and makes the case that Wayne’s depictions of masculinity in his most popular films of the 1950s reflected the turbulent social disruptions of global capitalism and modernization taking place in that decade.John Wayne’s World places Wayne at the center of gender- and nation-based ideologies, opening a dialogue between film history, gender studies, political and economic history, and popular culture. Moving chronologically, Meeuf provides new readings of Fort Apache, Red River, Hondo, The Searchers, Rio Bravo, and The Alamo and connects Wayne’s characters with a modern, transnational masculinity being reimagined after World War II. Considering Wayne’s international productions, such as Legend of the Lost and The Barbarian and the Geisha, Meeuf shows how they resonated with U.S. ideological positions about Africa and Asia. Meeuf concludes that, in his later films, Wayne’s star text shifted to one of grandfatherly nostalgia for the past, as his earlier brand of heroic masculinity became incompatible with the changing world of the 1960s and 1970s. The first academic book-length study of John Wayne in more than twenty years, John Wayne’s World reveals a frequently overlooked history behind one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars.
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