John Wayne’s World

[ Film, Media, and Popular Culture ]

John Wayne’s World

Transnational Masculinity in the Fifties

By Russell Meeuf

Connecting John Wayne’s films to the transnational historical context of the 1950s, John Wayne’s World argues that Wayne’s depictions of heroic masculinity dovetailed with the rise of Hollywood’s cultural dominance and the development of global capitalism after World War II.

September 2013


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6 x 9 | 224 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-4773-0218-7

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 among 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.


Introduction: Reexamining John Wayne

1.The Emergence of "John Wayne": Red River, Global Masculinity, and Wayne's Romantic Anxieties

2. Exile, Community, and Wandering: International Migration and the Spatial Dynamics of Modernity in John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy

3. John Wayne's Cold War: Mass Tourism and the Anticommunist Crusade

4. John Wayne's Body: Technicolor and 3-D Anxieties in Hondo and The Searchers

5. John Wayne's Africa: European Colonialism versus U.S. Global Leadership in Legend of the Lost

6. John Wayne's Japan: International Production, Global Trade, and John Wayne's Diplomacy in The Barbarian and the Geisha

7. Men at Work in Tight Spaces: Masculinity, Professionalism, and Politics in Rio Bravo and The Alamo

8. Conclusion: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Nostalgia for John Wayne's World




Meeuf is an Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho, where his research focuses on celebrity studies, masculinity and the media, popular cinema, and disability studies. He is also the coeditor of Transnational Stardom: International Celebrity in Film and Popular Culture.

“Meeuf’s discussion is smart and far-ranging, bringing together Wayne, postwar economics, and postcolonial politics in a comprehensible and insightful way.”
—Stan Corkin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Cincinnati, and author of Starring New York: Filming the Grime and the Glamour of the Long 1970s and Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and U.S. History

“This is a fascinating, and welcome, project. It offers an important fresh look at John Wayne and his films, it breaks new ground by reading its subject both nationally and internationally, and it offers an important revision to the nationalist interpretation of the Western genre in general. . . . Meeuf very skillfully draws out the contradictions and complexities of Wayne, showing how he figured simultaneously as an isolationist and an imperialist, an idealized patriarch and an antisocial loner, an icon of libertarian frontierism and a global capitalist.”
—Michael Kackman, Lecturer in Radio-Television-Film, University of Texas at Austin, and author of Citizen Spy: Television, Espionage, and Cold War Culture and Pan-Am Cowboys: Hoppy and Cisco from B Westerns to Global Television