Skip to comments.My 'granddaddy' John Wayne, actor and Catholic convert
Posted on 10/02/2011 12:12:54 PM PDT by NYer
.- John Wayne, for many, was a Hollywood legend who symbolized true masculinity and American values. To Fr. Matthew Muñoz, though, he was simply granddaddy.
When we were little wed go to his house and wed simply hang out with granddaddy and wed play and wed have fun: a very different image from what most people have of him, Fr. Muñoz told CNA on a recent visit to Rome.
Fr. Muñoz was 14 years old when his grandfather died of cancer in 1979. In his lifetime, The Duke won three Oscars, the Congressional Gold Medal and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of all those achievements, though, Fr. Muñoz is most proud of just one his grandfathers conversion to the Catholic faith.
My grandmother, Josephine Wayne Saenz, had a wonderful influence on his life and introduced him to the Catholic world, said 46-year-old Fr. Muñoz, a priest of the Diocese of Orange in California.
He was constantly at Church events and fundraisers that she was always dragging him to and I think that, after a while, he kind of got a sense that the common secular vision of what Catholics are and what his own experience actually was, were becoming two greatly different things.
Fr. Muñozs grandparents married in 1933 and had four children, the youngest of whom Melinda is his mother. The couple civilly divorced in 1945 although, as a Catholic, Josephine did not re-marry until after John Waynes death. She also never stopped praying for her husbands conversion a prayer which was answered in 1978.
He was a great friend of the Archbishop of Panama, Archbishop Tomas Clavel, and he kept encouraging him and finally my granddaddy said, 'Okay, Im ready.'
As a result of a change in Panamanian leadership, Archbishop Clavel was exiled from his native land in 1968. Three years later, Cardinal Timothy Manning, then the Archbishop of Los Angeles, invited Archbishop Clavel to Orange County, where he served as pastoral leader to half of Orange County's 600,000 Latinos.
By the time of Wayne's request, however, Archbishop Clavel was too ill to make the journey to the film star's residence.
So Archbishop Clavel called Archbishop McGrath, Fr. Muñoz said, explaining that Archbishop McGrath was the successor to Archbishop Clavel in the Archdiocese of Panama.
My mom and my uncle were there when he came. So theres no question about whether or not he was baptized. He wanted to become baptized and become Catholic, Fr. Muñoz said. It was wonderful to see him come to the faith and to leave that witness for our whole family.
Fr. Muñoz also said that his grandfathers expressed a degree of regret about not becoming a Catholic earlier in life, explaining that was one of the sentiment he expressed before he passed on, blaming a busy life.
Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, though, John Waynes life was far from irreligious.
From an early age he had a good sense of what was right and what is wrong. He was raised with a lot of Christian principles and kind of a 'Bible faith' that, I think, had a strong impact upon him, said Fr. Muñoz recalling that his grandfather often wrote handwritten notes to the Almighty.
He wrote beautiful love letters to God, and they were prayers. And they were very childlike and they were very simple but also very profound at the same time, he said.
And sometimes that simplicity was looked at as naivety but I think there was a profound wisdom in his simplicity.
Fr. Muñoz summed up the hierarchy of his grandfathers values as God coming first, then family, then country. Its a triumvirate he sees repeatedly reflected in his grandfathers films. He believes those values are much needed in Hollywood today and, if the Duke were still here hed be leading the charge.
My grandfather was a fighter. I think there would be a lot of things hed be disappointed and saddened over. But I dont think he would lose hope. I think he would look at the current time as a moment of faith. People are in crisis and theyre looking for something more meaningful, more real, Fr. Muñoz said.
So I think he would look at the situation and say dont get discouraged! I think he would say get involved. Dont go hiding in a shell and getting on the defensive from Hollywood. Get involved and be an agent for the good. I think he would do that. Thats what he did in his time.
“Proprieties must be observed”
I think you don’t really like John Wayne, which is strange for a regular American but it’s OK, tastes are tastes, even though he was indeed a GREAT actor. What I don’t understand is
1) How does converting practically on your deathbed help you achieve “a secular goal”?
2) All the more when you are already a multimillionaire Hollywood star and it’s Catholicism you’re converting to, of all faiths the most hated by the media-academia complex which also hated John Wayne and everyhting he stood for (AKA US of A)?
I like John Wayne just fine, including his views on America, I just don’t delude myself in thinking of him as a great actor to be mentioned in the panoply of the likes of Tracy, Bogart, etc. His films were entertaining for the most part but there were some stinkers in there, too.
Perhaps “secular goal” was stretching the point. Maybe “peace of mind” and “fire insurance” might have better communicated my point.
I’ve long admired Mr. Wayne. The Quiet Man was likely my favorite, but I enjoyed many of his films. His conversion to Catholicism, and this story of his grandson’s thrill me too. In it’s own way, somewhat reminiscent of Bob Hope’s conversion, both having happened with the help of their wives. Whether our fellow freepers love him or hate him, his individuality is hard to beat. I’d much rather have actors like him on the screen than some of today’s fare.
One of the things that stood out in a biography I read of John Wayne was the amount of work that went into learning how to be an effective movie actor. He put in years on those one-reel western features developing the character “John Wayne” - who didn’t just turn up the way “Tax-chick” strolls into a Walmart - and learning the skills to present that character on-screen.
I disagree with the contention that he did only one part. Yes, there was only one face and voice, but he showed an interesting variety of personalities.
Hey even Ronald Reagan has some turkey in his film career LOL!
Reagan’s a good example. The ease with which one is a good actor is probably an indicator of underlying personality disorder! Plenty of examples of actors with modest talent but a certain unique look or style combined with attentive practice becoming classy artists. Reagan did a ton of bad acting jobs, but by “Death Valley Days” he was compelling and smooth. John Wayne would be in that category, too.
Yes, he worked in all those early horse operas - where he impressed the great actress Louise Brooks (down on her luck and appearing in low-budget westerns) as a handsome and charismatic figure. That’s where he learned hard work and ambition to improve.
I suppose it was when he met up with his great mentor, John Ford, that his magical persona came to the fore. Look at the amazing first close up of Wayne in “Stagecoach”!
He played an amazing variety of characters - from the cruel cattle driver in “Red River” to the American lost in Ireland in “The Quiet Man” to the racist in “The Searchers” to the bastion of American values in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” All capped off by his satirical and heartwarming turn in “True Grit.” Great actor, great man.
Sorry, he was a great actor. There are very few people in the film and theatre world who do not understand that. Unless they have a political agenda, of course.
Just because he worked in a popular art form does not mean that every single person’s opinion on him is either right, correct or has any artistic value.
Ever see Tom Hanks in “Bosom Buddies”?
John Wayne was a very good actor from the late 1930s to the mid 1960s.
After THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE he fell into a rutt of same same. Same character, different shirt.
Same character, same plot, movie after movie. I've seen them all.
He did change again in the 1970s and I still consider THE OUTLAWS and THE SHOOTIST to be his crowning work, even though critics at that time blasted it unmercifully.
I personally have a preference for Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, and some Gary Cooper westerns.
***He also wasnt the first man to convert in order achieve a secular goal so that doesnt make him particularly unique, either.***
I believe Gary Cooper converted to Catholicism in his later days.
Bogart, Tracy and Wayne were great actors - all in very different ways. Usually, the “bad acting” problems with these actors had to do with miscasting forced by the studio system: Wayne as Genghis Khan, Tracy in “Tortilla Flat” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and Bogie in “Racket Busters”.
Think of Katharine Hepburn - a truly brilliant film actress who ended up being listed as “box office poison” because of the bad roles she took.
I’ve always felt that there were no brilliant actors - only brilliant performances.
And as someone who has twice watched Wayne’s performance as Ethan in “The Searchers” this weekend - that is one brilliant performance.
Yeah ROFL actually I watching on OTA channel called ME TV network ROFL right now
He did change again in the 1970s and I still consider THE OUTLAWS and THE SHOOTIST to be his crowning work.
That is, THE TRAIN ROBBERS and HE SHOOTIST. Sorry. When I think of Ann Margaret I black out for a moment. ;-)
The Train Robbers has long been a favorite of mine. Not much plot, but it’s fun to watch such a great ensemble cast.
Bob Hope converted also!!!
So did Rep. Keith Ellison!!!
I like John Wayne, but I like James Stewart better.
Now that was a true American hero.
(He didn’t just play a war hero on screen, he was one in real life)