I often start arguments when I talk about John Wayne. He may have been one of the most popular actors in film history, as well as an American icon, but his reputation has shriveled in some corners. In my experience, film critics and film buffs tend to be a fairly liberal bunch -- exposed and open as they are to so many world cultures and ideas -- and so Wayne's famous conservative politics tend to curdle their view of him. (He supported the Vietnam War, for example.) For the record, I don't agree with his politics, but I miss "Duke" Wayne because he knew who he was. He reached a level of ease and confidence onscreen that seems all but impossible for any other actor to achieve today. There will never be another Duke.
The most common argument I hear against John Wayne is that "he was always just John Wayne." It's easy enough to ignore the politics while watching Duke onscreen, but it's much more difficult to argue that he was one of the great screen actors of the 20th century. He won an Oscar, in 1969, for True Grit, and was nominated once before, but his detractors will claim that it was an act of generosity for a long and successful career in the picture business. At least four of his films are considered among the 100 greatest films ever made (Stagecoach, The Searchers, Rio Bravo and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), though detractors would credit these achievements solely to directors John Ford and Howard Hawks.