The Many Names of John Wayne

24 Jan

The other day, I wrote about a John Wayne movie, and Andrew over at Have Bag, Will Travel had an interesting question. Of all the roles that John Wayne played, which character had the best name? With that in mind, I went in search for the answer.

John Wayne is credited with over 180 roles, and that means some limitations had to be placed on the experiment.3 Godfathers

First, I kicked out the movies that I have not seen. Honestly, I did not feel qualified to determine the strength of a character’s name if I did not know the strengths of the character.

Next, I threw out the times that the Duke played a real person. The purpose of this exercise was to find the best name created by some writer. Counting the given name of a real person is not that interesting or challenging.

On top of that, I decided not to count the times when he played someone named John. It is a total lack of creativity to have someone play a character and use their own name.

With the parameters set, the search commenced, and I was immediately met with disappointment. You would be surprised at how many times John Wayne played someone named Mike. Now, I am not trying to disparage all of the Mike’s in the world, but John Wayne does not strike me as a Mike. This list has to consist of names that fit the actor.

Oh yeah, there is one more thing. I stayed away from names that sound like the alter egos of superheroes. Joe January is interesting but also corny. Matt Masters is not much better. Unfortunately, I had to be consistent and not count Ethan Edwards.

The following names stuck out for several reasons. They fit the actor; they sound original and unique; and they are cool.

10. Tom Doniphon is a great name for a great character in a great movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, it loses points for not being the best name in the movie. How can you beat a name like Liberty Valance? For that matter, Ransom Stoddard is also a better name.

9. Taw Jackson wanted to get revenge by hijacking The War Wagon. The name is unique, but I cannot get around the fact that a taw is connected to the game of marbles. I never understood the fascination with marbles.

8. Rockwell Torrey got In Harm’s Way and turned the Pacific tide in World War II. He won the battle but lost a leg. The name is good, but there is a weakness. When I hear it, the Saturday Evening Post pops into my mind.

7. Cole Thornton is one of my favorite John Wayne character names. It also comes from a script that was turned into several movies. In my mind, El Dorado was the best of the bunch. It ranks seventh because it has less syllables than some of those ranked higher.

6. Chance Buckman fought oil fires, flew airplanes and was based on a real person. Hellfighters is one of my favorite non-western John Wayne movies. The name ranks sixth because I like Chance better than Cole.

5. Cord McNally was a Union officer who ended up at Old Tucson Studios. Rio Lobo is one of those movies that were all made from the same script. It is the worst of the bunch, but the character name has four syllables.

4. Jacob McCandles was also known as Big Jake. He was rich. He was tough. He had a town named after him. Also, everyone thought he was dead.

3. Nathan Cutting Brittles ranks this high because a character that has three names should rank higher than characters that have two names. Besides, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is one of the John Ford cavalry pictures.

2. George Washington McLintock is a historical name and provides the title for the movie, McLintock. The town is also named for this character. Heck, the name dominates the entire movie.

1. Robert Marmaduke Hightower was one of the 3 Godfathers. Honestly, how can you beat a name like that? That is a five dollar name if I ever saw one.

Well, there is my list. I am sure there are other John Wayne fans who have their own ideas of what this list should look like. Let me know what you think.



21 Responses to “The Many Names of John Wayne”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong January 24, 2015 at 17:10 #

    Jake McCandles would be my second pick, but my top one isn’t on your list: Sean Thornton from The Quiet Man. And surprisingly, you don’t have Ethan Edwards from The Searchers, which would be my number three.

    • Rick January 24, 2015 at 17:50 #

      I had to discard Ethan Edwards with Joe January and Matt Masters. Too superhero alter ego sounding. I didn’t list Sean because John Wayne doesn’t strike me as a Sean.

      • Marilyn Armstrong January 24, 2015 at 18:30 #

        Well … Sean is just John in a Celtic variation.

      • Rick January 24, 2015 at 20:19 #

        I know. I still can’t watch John Wayne and think Sean.

      • Marilyn Armstrong January 24, 2015 at 20:21 #

        We make a lot of “young Sean Thornton” jokes. We visited the places where that movie was filmed in Ireland. It gave us a much better understanding of the unreality created by editing!

      • Rick January 24, 2015 at 22:23 #

        I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. Hopefully, I’ll make it over there.

      • Marilyn Armstrong January 24, 2015 at 23:57 #

        It was 25 years ago, but i bet it is still beautiful … and incredibly, magnificently green 🙂

  2. shutterbugshea January 24, 2015 at 19:56 #

    I like your choices..!
    My all time favorite name is Rooster Cogburn!

    • Rick January 24, 2015 at 20:20 #

      Rooster is a good one, and I almost put it on there.

  3. Andrew Petcher January 24, 2015 at 20:51 #

    I too am surprised to see Rooster Cogburn missing. I agree with you on Sean Thornton. Now I have seen your list I think my favourite is Nathan Brittles. I remember the narrative at the end of the film: “…but the army had not finished with Nathan Brittles…”
    Ringo Kid might have been in there but that would be too close to Jimmy Ringo played by Gregory Peck in the Gunfighter.
    Good post!

    • Rick January 24, 2015 at 22:25 #

      I have never understood why there are so many Ringo’s in westerns. I guess Rooster was left out because it is more of a nickname.

      • Andrew Petcher January 25, 2015 at 10:36 #

        Even Reuben J Cogburn is a good name. Do you think the J might be for John?

      • Rick January 25, 2015 at 14:50 #

        It could stand for John. Honestly, I didn’t consider Reuben because I was stuck on Rooster.

  4. Lea January 25, 2015 at 14:43 #

    When you explained #9, I understood the lure of the name Taw, a word that wasn’t in my vocabulary. For my dad, who was young growing up as a poor kid born in 1933 here in Tennessee in Jackson County near Defeated Creek, the sparkle and rarity of marbles held a draw about like video games do for young folks today. Game competitions with marbles had skilled players almost as talented as pool sharks did who competed at billiards. His trajectory skills in marbles and later hunting and marksmanship skills behind a gun do enlighten me to the “draw” of that name.

    • Rick January 25, 2015 at 14:53 #

      I have heard a lot about marbles from my dad and my grandfather. It was almost like collecting baseball cards through skill. From what I understand, you got to keep the marbles that you knocked out. Perhaps we should go back to marbles. It was definitely a more social game than something on a screen.

  5. Manu Sudhakar Kurup January 27, 2015 at 18:10 #

    The War Wagon is one of my favorite movies… nice post.

    • Rick January 28, 2015 at 00:31 #

      Thanks. It’s a good one with an interesting ending.

  6. Andrew Rhinock January 13, 2018 at 05:37 #

    Hondo Lane, Kirby York(e),and my favorite,Quirt Evans.

    • Rick January 14, 2018 at 19:26 #

      Quirt Evans is a great one.

  7. chandlerswainreviews February 17, 2018 at 15:05 #

    Well, there’s Breck Coleman from “The Big Trail”, but I guess that’s reminiscent of a Breck Girl. However, in “Pittsburgh”, though his name is Charles, everyone called him Pittsburgh Markham. That’s pretty tough, taking on the name of a steel town.

    • Rick February 17, 2018 at 20:08 #

      There were several geographic character named in John Wayne movies (i.e. Colorado, Mississippi). However, I didn’t know he had one, too.

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