Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

American Artist

I was wrong about John Wayne. He didn't dodge WWII on the strength of a football injury. The truth is he was exempted from service on the grounds of age (he was 34 at the time of Pearl Harbour) and because of  family commitments. No shame in that. Of course he could have got round the ruling easily enough- and in fact he tried- only not hard enough. That's what he reproached himself with afterwards- not having tried hard enough.

Poor John Wayne. He was a sissy at heart. I'm convinced of this. He was a very delicate artist- look at the grace with which he moved, look at the understatement he brings to all his best roles, look at the fine and sensitive business with which he creates character- the fumbling with the glasses in My Darling Clementine, the right hand grasping the left elbow as he walks off into the desert at the end of the Searchers, consider the intelligence with which- if caught off guard- he could discuss the craft of acting. But America- Bitch mother that she is- insisted on him being a Man- meaning all that two-fisted, raw-steak eating, whisky drinking  machismo he fell into in later life. He wasn't alone. American artists of all types keep being squeezed into this mould. 

Want a list? Here, have a list.

John Ford
Howard Hawks
William Wellman
John Huston
Sam Peckinpah
Ernest Hemingway
Charles Bukowski
Hunter S Thompson
Norman Mailer
Jackson Pollock
Jim Morrison
Snoop Dogg

And that's just off the top of my head.

Why do so many American artists end up as alcoholics? Because they're running scared. Because they're afraid they're going to be exposed as the sissies they are. 

In any other society Wayne's reasons for staying out of uniform would have been accepted as perfectly honourable. In every other society the artist is valued for being an artist and isn't also expected to out-drink, out-fight, out-fuck every man in the bar.  Only in America do artists  feel compelled to turn themselves into dicks.
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