Picks and Pans Review: John Wayne Standing Tall

updated 03/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

(PBS, Wed., March 8, 9 P.M.)


It was hard not to love John Wayne, even if his superhawk politics and simplistic moral views made your yogurt curdle. This 90-minute special—hosted by his longtime pal James Arness—chronicles the Duke's near-mythic life, interspersing clips from some of his 250 movies throughout the narrative. Selections include Stagecoach, which elevated him to stardom, Red River, which many critics consider Hollywood's finest Western, and The Alamo, his epic vision of America. Wait'll you see him in Riders of Destiny, a 1933 Western in which he plays a gunslinger called Singin' Sandy Saunders. He breaks into song as he plugs his enemies! What's admirable about this tribute is that it isn't a glossy, sycophantic portrait. Offscreen, the outspoken superstar is shown fueling the flames of McCarthyism and making racist statements in a Playboy magazine interview. Did he ever apologize? That'll be the day.

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