Birth Date: May 26, 1907
Birth Place: Winterset, Iowa, USA
Also Credited as: Michael Morris
Date of Death: June 11, 1979 / Age: 72
Location of Death: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of Death: lung & stomach cancer
Biography: John Wayne (May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979), nicknamed "Duke," was an Irish-American film actor whose career spanned the evolutionary phase of American cinema, appearing in silent movies and "talkies" alike. He remains, by many accounts, the most popular star in the history of American film.
Life and career
He was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, but the name became Marion Michael Morrison when his parents decided to name their next son Robert. His 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.
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.
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. 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 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 ("macho") 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. Because of lawsuits and copyright issues with Wayne's estate the film has not been seen for many years but is scheduled to be re-released in the summer of 2005.
Although appearing in many war films and frequently being eulogized as an "American hero," Wayne never served in the Armed Forces. 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.
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. His production company was called Batjac, taken from the name of the fictional shipping company in The Wake of the Red Witch. 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 far right-wing 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.
John Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979 in Newport Beach, California, 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 and Susan Hayward.
Wayne was married three times; 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.
He is the most celebrated utterer, and apocryphal coiner, of the tmesis "ri-goddamn-diculous."
John Wayne in memoriam
There is an airport named after him, John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, California.
John Wayne was entered into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1974.
John Wayne in modern pop culture
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 there way into other performances.
Jonathan Winters imitated Wayne on several occasions, and Robin Williams has even imitated Winters imitating Wayne (including in the film Good Morning Vietnam).
Sheriff Cooper, played by Wally Flaherty, in the movie “The Capture of Bigfoot” (1979) does both Wayne and Columbo impressions.
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.
In the 1986 John Carpenter film, “Big Trouble in Little China,” Kurt Russell tries his hand at imitating John Wayne.
“Full Metal Jacket”, the Stanley Kubrick 1987 effort has Matthew Modine doing his Wayne imitations.
1989: Holly Hunter and Brad Johnson both attempt, although poorly, to imitate "The Duke" in the movie Always.
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.
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.