John Wayne

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John Wayne (May 26, 1907June 11, 1979), nicknamed "Duke," Template:Fn was an American film actor whose career began in silent movies in the 1920s. He was a major star from the 1940s to the 1970s. He is most famous for his Westerns, but he also made films of various other kinds. He epitomised a certain kind of rugged individualistic masculinity, and has become an enduring icon.

Life and career

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa in 1907, but the name became Marion Mitchell Morrison when his parents decided to name their next son Robert; however in later life he often stated that his middle name was Michael. His family was Presbyterian; father Clyde Leonard Morrison was of Scottish descent and the son of a Civil War veteran, while mother Mary Alberta Brown was of Irish descent. Wayne's family moved to Glendale, California in 1911; it was neighbors in Glendale who started calling him "Big Duke," because he never went anywhere without his Airedale Terrier dog, who was Little Duke. He preferred "Duke" to "Marion," and the name stuck for the rest of his life.

Duke Morrison's early life was marked by poverty, his father was a pharmacist, but did not manage money well. Duke was a good student and popular, but had a bad reputation as a drinker. Tall from an early age, he played football for Glendale and was recruited by USC.

After nearly gaining admission to the U.S. Naval Academy, he attended the University of Southern California, where he was a member of the Trojan Knights and Sigma Chi Fraternity. Wayne also played on the USC football team under legendary coach Howard Jones. An injury while supposedly swimming at the beach curtailed his athletic career, however; Wayne would later note that he was too terrified of Jones' reaction to reveal the actual cause of his injury. He lost his athletic scholarship and with no funds was unable to continue at USC.

While at the university, Wayne began working around the local film studios. Western star Tom Mix got him a summer job in the prop department in exchange for football tickets, and Wayne soon moved on to bit parts, establishing a long friendship with director John Ford. After two years working as a prop man at the William Fox Studios for $35 a week, his first starring role was in the movie The Big Trail; it was the director of that movie, Raoul Walsh, who gave him the stage name "John Wayne," after Revolutionary War general "Mad Anthony" Wayne. His pay was raised to $75 a week. He was tutored by the studio's stuntmen in riding and other western skills.

Although appearing in many war films and frequently being eulogized as an "American hero," Wayne never served in the Armed Forces. However, his friend Bob Hope speculated that Wayne did more for the WWII war effort as an actor, than he ever could on the battlefield. Between 1940, when the military draft was reinstated and the end of World War II in 1945, he remained in Hollywood and made 21 movies. (Among them was Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind (1942), in which he portrayed one of the few less-than-honorable characters in his career.) He was of draft age (34) at the time of Pearl Harbor in 1941, but asked for and received a deferral for family dependency, a classification of 3-A. This was later changed to a deferment in the national interest, 2-A.

His friendship with Ford led them to work together on films which featured some of Wayne's most iconic roles. Beginning with three minor parts in 1928, Wayne would appear in over twenty of Ford's films in the next 35 years, including Stagecoach (1939), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), The Wings of Eagles (1957) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

Wayne appeared in many strong masculine roles in western films and war films, but he also had a down-to-earth sense of humor that allowed him to appear in a pink bunny suit for an episode of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, as well as in comedy movies. According to the Internet Movie Database Wayne played the male lead in 142 of his film appearances, an as yet unsurpassed record.

One of Wayne's best roles was ironically in one of the few films he made that wasn't a Western or war picture, The High and the Mighty, released in 1954. The movie was directed by William Wellman and based on a novel by Ernest K. Gann. Wayne played the co-pilot of a plane that develops serious engine problems in flight. His portrayal of the heroic airman won widespread acclaim.

Despite his prolific output John Wayne won only a single Best Actor Oscar, for the 1969 movie True Grit. He received a nomination for Best Actor in Sands of Iwo Jima, and another as the producer of Best Picture nominee The Alamo, which he also directed. In 1973, he released a best-selling spoken word album titled America, Why I Love Her, that was nominated for a Grammy, and re-released with similar success in 2001.

Wayne was well known for his pro-American, conservative political views. In 1968 he directed The Green Berets, the only feature film of the time to openly support the Vietnam War. It was produced in close collaboration with the Armed Forces. It was also ironic that he appeared in an episode of the TV series Maude, created by ultra-liberal Norman Lear, and starring the liberal actress Bea Arthur, who stood 5'9" and to whom Wayne referred as "little lady". Wayne seemed to enjoy acting with actresses of a liberal bent, such as Lauren Bacall, Colleen Dewhurst, and Katharine Hepburn.

The High and the Mighty is one of four films (the others are Hondo, Island in the Sky, and McLintock!) that are owned outright by Batjac, a production company co-founded by Wayne and named after the fictional shipping company in The Wake of the Red Witch. Batjac now belongs to the Wayne family estate. Because of lawsuits and copyright issues with the estate, these films, with the exception of McLintock!, have not been seen for many years. Hondo was not shown from Wayne's death in 1979 until 1994, a fifteen-year hiatus. As of the summer of 2005, however, Batjac has allowed The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky to be reissued on television and video in digitally remastered versions.

John Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72 at the UCLA Medical Center, and was interred in the Pacific View Memorial Park cemetery in Corona del Mar, Orange County, California. Some trace his cancer back to his work in The Conqueror, filmed about 100 miles downwind of Nevada nuclear-weapons test sites. However, it should also be noted that until 1964 Wayne was a chain smoker, which was more likely to have caused his cancer. Other actors who worked on that movie and later died of cancer were also heavy smokers, including Dick Powell, Agnes Moorehead, Pedro Armendariz, Susan Hayward and John Hoyt. He had converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death.

Wayne was married three times, always to Spanish-speaking Latinas; to Josephine Alicia Saenz, Esperanza Baur, and Pilar Palette. He had four children with Josephine, three with Pilar, most notably Patrick Wayne. All but one of his children went on to have minor Hollywood careers. His romance with Josie Saenz began when he was a college student and continued for 7 years before their marriage. Miss Saenz was 15 or 16 at their first meeting at a beach party at Balboa. The daughter of a successful Spanish businessman, Josie resisted considerable reluctance on the part of her family to maintain her relationship with Duke.

At the time of his death, John Wayne resided in a bayfront home in Newport Beach, California. His home remains a point of interest in Newport Harbor.

He is the most celebrated utterer, and apocryphal coiner, of the tmesis "ri-goddamn-diculous."

In memoriam John Wayne

John Wayne in modern pop culture

Movies and television

Characters in numerous other movies and television shows have made imitations of John Wayne. Easily imitated, with his signature swaggered walk, especially the use of the word "pilgrim," and famous lines like, "fill your hands you son-of-a-bitch," have made their way into other performances.

  • Clyde Kusatsu played eccentric Honolulu Detective Gordon Katsumoto on two episodes of Magnum P.I., titled "This Island Isn't Big Enough...." and "A.A.P.I." (both 1986), in which he imitated John Wayne throughout the show. The imitation went so far as to have a bronze bust of Wayne and a white cavalry hat (like the one Wayne wore in movies Rio Grande, Fort Apache, and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,) in his office.

The persona that Wayne portrayed in numerous movies has become part of Americana. Like Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart, Archibald Leach, Marion Morrison, and Bogart were different men in real life than their screen portrayals. In all three cases, their screen characterizations have taken on lives of their own. In real life Morrison was a quiet man who enjoyed his yacht, fishing, playing cards, smoking, and drinking. It was the screen John Wayne, however, that became an American icon. Tough, rugged, larger-than-life, taming the West, and saving democracy from fascism, his characters represented the spirit of the men who built the country.

Song lyrics
  • Wayne is mentioned in the Paula Cole song Where Have All the Cowboys Gone (lyrics) from the 1996 album "This Fire". In the song, sung from the female point of view, the singer is both: wanting a man, or men, that act like they did in the John Wayne Westerns ("Where is my John Wayne"), and at the same time making fun of, both the men of today, and the falseness of the men in the movies.
  • In a uncomplimentary light in the Public Enemy (P.E.) song Fight the Power (lyrics), from the 1990 album "Fear of a Black Planet". The lyrics state that Elvis Presley was an evil racist, then seems to lump Presley and Wayne together. Wayne has come under fire for comments he reportedly made in a 1971 interview with Playboy, when he stated that he believed in "white supremacy" until blacks were educated enough to take a more prominent role in American society. His statement: "that blacks were not yet qualified to hold high public office because discrimination prevented them from receiving the kind of education a political career requires."; was not an indication that he was racist, but was a statement of fact as to how he felt the system operates. Public Enemy is not saying that Wayne is a racist, but instead is responding to the idiom that John Wayne, and the characters he portrayed on film, are iconic heroes of America and the American way of life. P.E. is saying, Wayne is NOT our hero, he doesn’t speak for us, he doesn’t inspire us. He is the “white-mans” hero, not ours.
  • Jimmy Buffett mentions John Wayne prominently in his song Incommunicado (lyrics), on the "Coconut Telegraph" album of 1981. Jimmy is lamenting his loss and remembering such films as "Red River" and (The man who shot) "Liberty Valence".
  • Country duo Big & Rich mention Wayne in Save a horse, Ride a cowboy from their 2004 album Horse of a Different Color
  • John Wayne appears in the "Preacher" comic series by Garth Ennis. He serves as the spirit guide to the protagonist, Jesse Custer.

Character deaths


A frequently asked trivia question is: In how many films did John Wayne's character die? The answer is as follows:

His death is seen in the following films:

  1. The Shootist - After winning a seemingly hopeless gunfight with three opponents simultaneously, he is shot by the bartender, and is then avenged by Ron Howard's character.
  2. The Cowboys - He is killed by Bruce Dern's character.
  3. The Alamo - Playing Davy Crockett, he is killed by a Mexican soldier's lance.
  4. Sands of Iwo Jima - He is killed by a bullet fired by a Japanese soldier who is hiding under concealment at the end of the film.
  5. Wake of the Red Witch - He dies as the ship sinks.
  6. The Fighting Seabees - He is shot by a sniper.
  7. Reap the Wild Wind - He is trapped inside the wreck of a sunken ship after a fight with a giant squid and drowns.

His character death is not shown in the following:

  1. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - His character is dead at the beginning of the film and the story is told in flashback by James Stewart who is attending his funeral.
  2. The Sea Chase - Lana Turner and Wayne are on a ship when it sinks, but the possibility that the characters survived is left open.
  3. The Deceiver - Ian Keith's character died, but the corpse was played by John Wayne.
  4. Central Airport - John Wayne has a very minor role as the co-pilot of an aircraft that crashes into the ocean.








Character quotes

Template:Wikiquote "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them." (From The Shootist)

"Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway."

See also

Further Reading

  • Campbell, James T. "Print the Legend": John Wayne and Postwar American Culture" in: Reviews in American History - Volume 28, Number 3, September 2000, pp. 465-477
  • Shepherd, Donald, and Robert Slatzer, with Dave Grayson. Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne. New York: Doubleday, 1985. ISBN 038517893X
  • Carey, Harry Jr., "A Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company". Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1994. ISBN 0810828650
  • Clark, Donald & Christopher Anderson, "John Wayne's The Alamo: The Making of the Epic Film". New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 0-8065-1625-9 (pbk.)
  • Eyman, Scott, "Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford". New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. ISBN 0-684-81161-8
  • McCarthy, Todd, "Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood". New York: Grove Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8021-1598-5
  • Zolotow, Maurice, "Shooting Star: A Biography of John Wayne". New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974. ISBN: 671-80211-9

External links


  • Template:Fnb He was, and is, called "Duke" by his friends and when he was present, he was, and is, called "The Duke" when being referred to in third person on television shows, in magazines, or by people in casual conversation.

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