Day after day it went on. I asked him what he wanted but he just continued to stare. There was something in the way that the lenses exaggerated the size of his cow-like eyes that haunted me continually. He even invaded the sanctuary of my room and sleep with frightful nightmares about those eyes. I began to lose all confidence in myself, under that unrelenting gaze. Teachers noticed and ordered him to stop but he ignored them as he always did. They even punished him—with lashings and detentions, but still he persisted unwaveringly. My nerves were so much on edge I began to have trouble seeing straight myself. Friends interrogated him and threatened him but nothing worked. On and on, he ruthlessly stared at me. It was like walking through life with your fly-buttons permanently undone.
In Sands of Iwo Jima, the most iconic of his many war films, John Wayne plays the tough, mean Sgt Striker, hated by his men because of his brutality and bastardisation. It’s only when they hit the beach that they suddenly appreciate the skill with which he prepared them for the horror to come. The cast gets picked off in reverse order, but finally they reach the mountaintop and the island is theirs. The final scene has Wayne sitting with his men while in the background, the famous flag-raising scene takes place, and he smiles for the first time in the whole movie. “Best day of my life,” he declares, whereby the last surviving sniper picks him off. Wayne was born in the magic year of 1902, making him too young for WWI and too old for WWII, but they wouldn’t let him enlist anyway, because he was too valuable making movies like this and selling war bonds. After this one, it became mandatory that he die at the end of every war film.