John Wayne

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John Wayne
Publicity photo of John Wayne
Wayne, c. 1965
Born
Marion Robert Morrison

(1907-05-26)May 26, 1907
DiedJune 11, 1979(1979-06-11) (aged 72)
Resting placePacific View Memorial Park, Newport Beach, California
33°36′34″N 117°51′12″W / 33.60953°N 117.85336°W / 33.60953; -117.85336
Other namesMarion Michael Morrison
Marion Mitchell Morrison
'Duke'
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
Occupation
  • Actor
  • director
  • producer
  • singer
Years active1926–1977
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)
Josephine Saenz
(m. 1933; div. 1945)

(m. 1946; div. 1954)

(m. 1954)
Children7, including Michael, Patrick, and Ethan
WebsiteOfficial website
Signature
John Wayne's signature

Marion Robert Morrison[1][a] (May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979), known professionally as John Wayne and nicknamed Duke, was an American actor and filmmaker who became a popular icon through his starring roles in films made during Hollywood’s Golden Age, especially in Western and war movies. His career flourished from the silent era of the 1920s through the American New Wave, as he appeared in a total of 179 film and television productions. He was among the top box office draws for three decades,[3][4] and he appeared with many other important Hollywood stars of his era. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected Wayne as one of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema.[5]

Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, but grew up in Southern California. He lost a football scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of a bodysurfing accident,[6] and began working for the Fox Film Corporation. He appeared mostly in small parts, but his first leading role came in Raoul Walsh's Western The Big Trail (1930), an early widescreen film epic which was a box-office failure. He played leading roles in numerous B movies during the 1930s, most of them also Westerns, without becoming a major name. It was John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) that made Wayne a mainstream star, and he starred in 142 motion pictures altogether. According to one biographer, "John Wayne personified for millions the nation's frontier heritage."[7]

Wayne's other roles in Westerns include a cattleman driving his herd on the Chisholm Trail in Red River (1948), a Civil War veteran whose niece is abducted by a tribe of Comanches in The Searchers (1956), a troubled rancher competing with a lawyer (James Stewart) for a woman's hand in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and a cantankerous one-eyed marshal in True Grit (1969), for which he received the Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also remembered for his roles in The Quiet Man (1952), Rio Bravo (1959) with Dean Martin, and The Longest Day (1962). In his final screen performance, he starred as an aging gunfighter battling cancer in The Shootist (1976). He made his last public appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony on April 9, 1979[8][9] before succumbing to stomach cancer two months later.[10] He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States.[11][12]

Early life[edit]

The house in Winterset, Iowa, where Wayne was born in 1907

Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, at 224 South Second Street in Winterset, Iowa.[13] The local paper, Winterset Madisonian, reported on page 4 of the edition of May 30, 1907, that Wayne weighed 13 lbs. (around 6 kg.) at birth. Wayne claimed his middle name was soon changed from Robert to Michael when his parents decided to name their next son Robert, but extensive research has found no such legal change. Wayne's legal name remained Marion Robert Morrison his entire life.[14][15]

Wayne's father, Clyde Leonard Morrison (1884–1937), was the son of American Civil War veteran Marion Mitchell Morrison (1845–1915). Wayne's mother, the former Mary "Molly" Alberta Brown (1885–1970), was from Lancaster County, Nebraska. Wayne had Scottish, English and Irish ancestry.[16] His great-great grandfather Robert Morrison (b. 1782) left County Antrim, Ireland with his mother arriving in New York in 1799 eventually settling in Adams County, Ohio. The Morrisons were originally from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.[17] He was raised Presbyterian.[18]

Wayne's family moved to Palmdale, California, and then in 1916 to Glendale at 404 Isabel Street, where his father worked as a pharmacist. He attended Glendale Union High School where he performed well in both sports and academics. Wayne was part of his high school's football team and its debating team. He was also the President of the Latin Society and contributed to the school's newspaper sports column.[19]

A local fireman at the station on his route to school in Glendale started calling him "Little Duke" because he never went anywhere without his huge Airedale Terrier, Duke.[20][21] He preferred "Duke" to "Marion", and the nickname stuck. Wayne attended Wilson Middle School in Glendale. As a teen, he worked in an ice cream shop for a man who shod horses for Hollywood studios. He was also active as a member of the Order of DeMolay. He played football for the 1924 league champion Glendale High School team.[22]

Wayne applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, but was not accepted. Instead, he attended the University of Southern California (USC), majoring in pre-law. He was a member of the Trojan Knights and Sigma Chi fraternities.[23]: 30  Wayne also played on the USC football team under coach Howard Jones. A broken collarbone injury curtailed his athletic career; Wayne later noted that he was too terrified of Jones' reaction to reveal the actual cause of his injury, a bodysurfing accident.[24] He lost his athletic scholarship, and without funds, had to leave the university.[25][26]

Career[edit]

Early works and first lead role[edit]

As a favor to coach Jones, who had given silent western film star Tom Mix tickets to USC games, director John Ford and Mix hired Wayne as a prop boy and extra.[27][28] Wayne later credited his walk, talk, and persona to his acquaintance with Wyatt Earp, who was good friends with Tom Mix.[27] Wayne soon moved to bit parts, establishing a longtime friendship with the director who provided most of those roles, John Ford. Early in this period he had a minor, uncredited role as a guard in the 1926 film Bardelys the Magnificent. Wayne also appeared with his USC teammates playing football in Brown of Harvard (1926), The Dropkick (1927), and Salute (1929) and Columbia's Maker of Men (filmed in 1930, released in 1931).[29]

With Marguerite Churchill in the widescreen The Big Trail (1930); John Wayne's first role as a leading man

While working for Fox Film Corporation in bit roles, Wayne was given on-screen credit as "Duke Morrison" only once, in Words and Music (1929). Director Raoul Walsh saw him moving studio furniture while working as a prop boy and cast him in his first starring role in The Big Trail (1930). For his screen name, Walsh suggested "Anthony Wayne", after Revolutionary War general "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Fox Studios chief Winfield Sheehan rejected it as sounding "too Italian". Walsh then suggested "John Wayne". Sheehan agreed, and the name was set. Wayne was not even present for the discussion.[30] His pay was raised to $105 a week.[31]

The Big Trail was to be the first big-budget outdoor spectacle of the sound era, made at a then-staggering cost of over $2 million (over $32.8 million equivalent in 2021[32]), using hundreds of extras and wide vistas of the American southwest, still largely unpopulated at the time. To take advantage of the breathtaking scenery, it was filmed in two versions, a standard 35 mm version and another in the new 70 mm Grandeur film process, using an innovative camera and lenses. Many in the audience who saw it in Grandeur stood and cheered. However, only a handful of theaters were equipped to show the film in its widescreen process, and the effort was largely wasted at the time. The film was considered a huge box office flop at the time, but came to be highly regarded by modern critics.[33]

Subsequent films, breakthrough and war years[edit]

Wayne as "Singin' Sandy" Saunders in Riders of Destiny (1933)
With Jean Rogers and Ward Bond in Conflict (1936)
With Joan Blondell in Lady for a Night (1942)

After the commercial failure of The Big Trail, Wayne was relegated to small roles in A-pictures, including Columbia's The Deceiver (1931), in which he played a corpse. He appeared in the serial The Three Musketeers (1933), an updated version of the Alexandre Dumas novel in which the protagonists were soldiers in the French Foreign Legion in then-contemporary North Africa. He played the lead, with his name over the title, in many low-budget Poverty Row Westerns, mostly at Monogram Pictures and serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. By Wayne's own estimation, he appeared in about 80 of these horse operas from 1930 to 1939.[34] In Riders of Destiny (1933), he became one of the first singing cowboys of film, albeit via dubbing.[35] Wayne also appeared in some of the Three Mesquiteers Westerns, whose title was a play on the Dumas classic. He was mentored by stuntmen in riding and other Western skills.[29] Stuntman Yakima Canutt and Wayne developed and perfected stunts and onscreen fisticuffs techniques which are still in use.[36] One of the main innovations Wayne is credited with in these early Poverty Row Westerns is allowing the good guys to fight as convincingly as the bad guys, by not always making them fight clean. Wayne claimed, "Before I came along it was standard practice that the hero must always fight clean. The heavy was allowed to hit the hero in the head with a chair or throw a kerosene lamp at him or kick him in the stomach, but the hero could only knock the villain down politely and then wait until he rose. I changed all that. I threw chairs and lamps. I fought hard and I fought dirty. I fought to win."[37]

Wayne's second breakthrough role came with John Ford's Stagecoach (1939). Because of Wayne's B-movie status and track record in low-budget Westerns throughout the 1930s, Ford had difficulty getting financing for what was to be an A-budget film. After rejection by all the major studios, Ford struck a deal with independent producer Walter Wanger in which Claire Trevor—a much bigger star at the time—received top billing. Stagecoach was a huge critical and financial success, and Wayne became a mainstream star. Cast member Louise Platt credited Ford as saying at the time that Wayne would become the biggest star ever because of his appeal as the archetypal "everyman".[38]

America's entry into World War II resulted in a deluge of support for the war effort from all sectors of society, and Hollywood was no exception. Wayne was exempted from service due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status (classified as 3-A – family deferment). Wayne repeatedly wrote to John Ford saying he wanted to enlist, on one occasion inquiring whether he could get into Ford's military unit.[39] Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Studios was emphatically resistant to losing him since he was their only A-list actor under contract. Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract,[40] and Republic Pictures intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne's further deferment.[41]

U.S. National Archives records indicate that Wayne, in fact, did make an application[42] to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), precursor to the modern CIA, and had been accepted within the U.S. Army's allotted billet to the OSS. William J. Donovan, OSS Commander, wrote Wayne a letter informing him of his acceptance into the Field Photographic Unit, but the letter went to his estranged wife Josephine's home. She never told him about it. Wayne toured U.S. bases and hospitals in the South Pacific for three months in 1943 and 1944,[43] with the USO.[44][45][46] During this trip, he carried out a request from Donovan to assess whether General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the South West Pacific Area, or his staff were hindering the work of the OSS.[21]: 88  Donovan later issued Wayne an OSS Certificate of Service to memorialize Wayne's contribution to the OSS mission.[21]: 88 [47]

By many accounts, his failure to serve in the military later became the most painful part of his life.[39] His widow later suggested that his patriotism in later decades sprang from guilt, writing: "He would become a 'superpatriot' for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home."[48]

Wayne's first color film was Shepherd of the Hills (1941), in which he co-starred with his longtime friend Harry Carey. The following year, he appeared in his only film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, the Technicolor epic Reap the Wild Wind (1942), in which he co-starred with Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard; it was one of the rare times he played a character with questionable values.

Like most Hollywood stars of his era, Wayne appeared as a guest on radio programs, such as: The Hedda Hopper Show and The Louella Parsons Show. He made a number of appearances in dramatic roles, mainly recreations for radio of his own film roles, on such programs as Screen Directors Playhouse and Lux Radio Theatre. For six months in 1942, Wayne starred in his own radio adventure series, Three Sheets to the Wind, produced by film director Tay Garnett. In the series, an international spy/detective show, Wayne played Dan O'Brien, a detective who used alcoholism as a mask for his investigatory endeavors. The show was intended by Garnett to be a pilot of sorts for a film version, though the motion picture never came to fruition. No episodes of the series featuring Wayne seem to have survived, though a demonstration episode with Brian Donlevy in the leading role does exist. Wayne, not Donlevy, played the role throughout the series run on NBC.[49]

Wayne (right) acting in a short clip from Angel and the Badman (1947) (click to play)

Director Robert Rossen offered the starring role in All the King's Men (1949) to Wayne. Wayne refused, believing the script to be un-American in many ways.[50] Broderick Crawford, who was eventually cast in the role, won the 1949 Oscar for best male actor, ironically beating out Wayne, who had been nominated for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).

1950s[edit]

He lost the leading role of Jimmy Ringo in The Gunfighter (1950) to Gregory Peck due to his refusal to work for Columbia Pictures because its chief, Harry Cohn, had mistreated him years before when he was a young contract player. Cohn had bought the project for Wayne, but Wayne's grudge was too deep, and Cohn sold the script to Twentieth Century Fox, which cast Peck in the role Wayne badly wanted but for which he refused to bend.[50][51]

Batjac, the production company co-founded by Wayne in 1952, was named after the fictional shipping company Batjak in Wake of the Red Witch (1948), a film based on the novel by Garland Roark. (A spelling error by Wayne's secretary was allowed to stand, accounting for the variation.)[50] Batjac (and its predecessor, Wayne-Fellows Productions) was the arm through which Wayne produced many films for himself and other stars. Its best-known non-Wayne productions were Seven Men From Now (1956), which started the classic collaboration between director Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott, and Gun the Man Down (1956) with contract player James Arness as an outlaw.

One of Wayne's most popular roles was in The High and the Mighty (1954), directed by William Wellman, and based on a novel by Ernest K. Gann. His portrayal of a heroic copilot won widespread acclaim. Wayne also portrayed aviators in Flying Tigers (1942), Flying Leathernecks (1951), Island in the Sky (1953), The Wings of Eagles (1957), and Jet Pilot (1957).

He appeared in nearly two dozen of John Ford's films over twenty years, including She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Wings of Eagles (1957), etc. The first movie in which he called someone "Pilgrim", Ford's The Searchers (1956), is often considered to contain Wayne's finest and most complex performance.[52]

On May 14, 1958, Hal Kanter's I Married a Woman had its Los Angeles opening. In it Wayne had a cameo as himself.[53] On October 2, John Huston's The Barbarian and the Geisha has its New York opening, where Wayne plays the lead.[54]

Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo premiered on March 18, 1959. In it Wayne plays the lead in an ensemble that consists of Angie Dickinson, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan, and Ward Bond.[55] John Ford's The Horse Soldiers had its world premiere in Shreveport, Louisiana on June 18. Set during the American Civil War, Wayne shares the lead with William Holden.[56]

1960s[edit]

Wayne in The Challenge of Ideas (1961)

In 1960, Wayne directed and produced The Alamo. He was nominated as the producer of Best Picture.[57] That year Wayne also acted in Henry Hathaway's North to Alaska.[58]]In 1961, Wayne acted in Michael Curtiz's The Comancheros.[59]

On May 23, 1962, Wayne acted in John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with James Stewart.[60] On May 29, premiered Howard Hawks's Hatari!. In it Wayne plays the lead.[61] On October 4, The Longest Day started its theatrical run, where Wayne acted among an ensemble cast.[62]

On February 20, 1963, Wayne acted in one of the segments of How the West Was Won.[63] On June 12, Wayne played the lead in his final John Ford film named Donovan's Reef.[64] On November 13, another film starring Wayne premiered, Andrew V. McLaglen's McLintock!.[65]

In 1964, Wayne acted in Henry Hathaway's Circus World.[66]

On February 15, 1965, Wayne played the role of a Centurion in George Stevens's The Greatest Story Ever Told.[67] On April 6, he shared the screen with Kirk Douglas in Otto Preminger's In Harm's Way.[68] On June 13, he acted in Henry Hathaway's The Sons of Katie Elder.[69]

In 1966, Wayne acted in Melville Shavelson's Cast a Giant Shadow with Kirk Douglas.[70]

On May 24, 1967, Wayne acted in Burt Kennedy's The War Wagon with Kirk Douglas.[71] His second movie that year, Howard Hawks's El Dorado, a highly successful partial remake of Rio Bravo with Robert Mitchum playing Dean Martin's original role, premiered on June 7.[72]

In 1968, Wayne co-directed with Ray Kellogg The Green Berets.[73] the only major film made during the Vietnam War in support of the war.[25] Wayne wanted to make this movie because at that time Hollywood had little interest in making movies about the Vietnam War.[74] During the filming of The Green Berets, the Degar or Montagnard people of Vietnam's Central Highlands, fierce fighters against communism, bestowed on Wayne a brass bracelet that he wore in the film and all subsequent films.[50] Also that year, Wayne acted in Andrew V. McLaglen's Hellfighters.[75]

On June 13, 1969, Henry Hathaway's True Grit premiered. For his role as Rooster Cogburn, Wayne won Best Actor at the Academy Awards.[76] In November of that year another film starring Wayne was released, Andrew V. McLaglen's The Undefeated with Rock Hudson.[77]

1970s: later career[edit]

On June 24, Andrew V. McLaglen's Chisum started to play in cinemas. Wayne takes the role of the owner of a cattle ranch, who finds out that a businessman is trying to own neighbouring land illegally.[78] On September 16, Howard Hawks' Rio Lobo premiered. Wayne plays Col. Cord McNally who confronts confederates soldiers who stole a shipment of gold at the end of the civil war.[79]

On June 1971, George Sherman's Big Jake made its debut. In it Wayne plays the role of estranged father who must track down a gang who kidnapped his grandson.[80]

In 1972, Wayne acted in Mark Rydell's The Cowboys. Vincent Canby of The New York Times, who did not particularly care for the film, wrote: "Wayne is, of course, marvelously indestructible, and he has become an almost perfect father figure".[81]

On February 7, 1973, Burt Kennedy's The Train Robbers opened. In it Wayne acts alongside Ann-Margret and Rod Taylor.[82] On June 27, Andrew V. McLaglen's Cahill U.S. Marshal premiered. In it Wayne acts alongside George Kennedy, and Gary Grimes.[83]

In 1974 Wayne took on the role of the eponymous detective in John Sturges's crime drama McQ.[84]

On March 25, 1975, Douglas Hickox's Brannigan premiered. In it Wayne played a Chicago police lieutenant named Jim Brannigan on the hunt organized crime leader.[85] On October 17, Rooster Cogburn started its theatrical run. In it Wayne reprised his role as U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn.[86]

In 1976, Wayne acted in Don Siegel's The Shootist. It was Wayne's final cinematic role, whose main character, J. B. Books, was dying of cancer—which Wayne himself succumbed to three years later. It contains numerous plot similarities to The Gunfighter of nearly thirty years before, a role which Wayne had wanted but turned down.[50] Upon its theatrical release, it grossed $13,406,138 domestically. About $6 million were earned as US theatrical rentals.[87] It was named one of the Ten Best Films of 1976 by the National Board of Review. Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times ranked The Shootist number 10 on his list of the 10 best films of 1976.[88] The film was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA film award, and a Writers Guild of America award. The film currently has an 86% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 reviews.[89] The film was nominated by the American Film Institute as one of the best Western films in 2008.[90]

Death[edit]

Although he enrolled in a cancer vaccine study in an attempt to ward off the disease,[91] Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979, at the UCLA Medical Center.[92] He was buried in the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach. According to his son Patrick and his grandson Matthew Muñoz, who was a priest in the California Diocese of Orange, Wayne converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death.[93][94][95] He requested that his tombstone read "Feo, Fuerte y Formal", a Spanish epitaph Wayne described as meaning "ugly, strong, and dignified".[96] His grave, which was unmarked for 20 years, has been marked since 1999 with the quotation:

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.[97][98]

Political views[edit]

Throughout most of his life, Wayne was a vocally prominent conservative Republican in Hollywood, supporting anti-communist positions.[99] However, he voted for Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election and expressed admiration for Roosevelt's successor, fellow Democratic President Harry S. Truman.[100] He took part in creating the conservative Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in February 1944 and was elected president of that organization in 1949. An ardent anti-communist and vocal supporter of the House Un-American Activities Committee, he made Big Jim McLain (1952) with himself as a HUAC investigator to demonstrate his support for the cause of anti-communism. His personal views found expression as a proactive inside enforcer of the "Black List", denying employment and undermining careers of many actors and writers who had expressed their personal political beliefs earlier in life. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is alleged to have said that Wayne should be assassinated for his frequently espoused anti-communist politics, despite being a fan of his movies.[101][102] Wayne was a supporter of Senator Joseph McCarthy.[103]

Wayne meets with President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in San Clemente, California, July 1972
Wayne addresses the Republican Convention in Miami, 1968.

Wayne supported Vice President Richard Nixon in the presidential election of 1960, but expressed his vision of patriotism when John F. Kennedy won the election: "I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job."[104] He used his star power to support conservative causes, including rallying support for the Vietnam War by producing, co-directing, and starring in the financially successful film The Green Berets (1968).[105] In 1960, he joined the anti-communist John Birch Society but quit after the organization denounced fluoridation of water supplies as a communist plot.[106]

Due to his status as the highest-profile Republican star in Hollywood, wealthy Texas Republican Party backers asked Wayne to run for national office in 1968, like his friend and fellow actor Senator George Murphy. He declined, joking that he did not believe the public would seriously consider an actor in the White House. Instead, he supported his friend Ronald Reagan's campaigns for Governor of California in 1966 and 1970. He was asked to be the running mate for Democratic Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1968, but he immediately rejected the offer[99] and actively campaigned for Richard Nixon;[107] Wayne addressed the 1968 Republican National Convention on its opening day.[106]

Wayne openly differed with many conservatives over the issue of returning the Panama Canal, as he supported the Panama Canal Treaty in the mid-1970s;[108] while Republican leaders such as Reagan, Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond had wanted the U.S. to retain full control of the canal, Wayne and fellow conservative William F. Buckley believed that the Panamanians had the right to the canal and sided with President Jimmy Carter. Wayne was a close friend of Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos Herrera, and Wayne's first wife Josephine was a native of Panama. His support of the treaty brought him hate mail for the first time in his life.[109][110]

Left-wing activist Abbie Hoffman paid tribute to Wayne's singularity, saying, "I like Wayne's wholeness, his style. As for his politics, well—I suppose even cavemen felt a little admiration for the dinosaurs that were trying to gobble them up."[111]

1971 Playboy interview[edit]

John Wayne signs the helmet of Pfc. Fonsell Wofford during a visit at Chu Lai, South Vietnam in June 1966

In May 1971, Playboy magazine published an interview with Wayne, in which he expressed his support for the Vietnam War,[112] and made headlines for his opinions about social issues and race relations in the United States:[113]

With a lot of blacks, there's quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can't all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. ... I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from the Indians. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.[23]: 289 [114]

In the same Playboy interview, Wayne calls the two lead characters in Midnight Cowboy "fags" for the alleged "love of those two men".[115] He also responded to questions about whether social programs were good for the country:

I know all about that. In the late Twenties, when I was a sophomore at USC, I was a socialist myself—but not when I left. The average college kid idealistically wishes everybody could have ice cream and cake for every meal. But as he gets older and gives more thought to his and his fellow man's responsibilities, he finds that it can't work out that way—that some people just won't carry their load ... I believe in welfare—a welfare work program. I don't think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living. I'd like to know why they make excuses for cowards who spit in the faces of the police and then run behind the judicial sob sisters. I can't understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim.[112]

In February 2019, the Playboy interview resurfaced,[116] which resulted in calls for John Wayne Airport to be renamed.[117] John Wayne's son, Ethan, defended him, stating, "It would be an injustice to judge someone based on an interview that's being used out of context."[118] The calls for changing the airport back to Orange County Airport were renewed during the George Floyd protests in June 2020.[119]

Similarly, in October 2019, USC student activists called for the removal of an exhibit dedicated to the actor, citing the interview.[120] In July 2020, it was announced that the exhibit would be removed.[121]

Personal life[edit]

Wayne was married three times and divorced twice. His three wives included one of Spanish American descent, Josephine Alicia Saenz, and two from Latin America, Esperanza Baur, and Pilar Pallete. He had four children with Josephine: Michael Wayne (November 23, 1934 – April 2, 2003), Mary Antonia "Toni" Wayne LaCava (February 25, 1936 – December 6, 2000), Patrick Wayne (born July 15, 1939), and Melinda Wayne Munoz (born December 3, 1940). He had three more children with Pilar: Aissa Wayne (born March 31, 1956), John Ethan Wayne (born February 22, 1962), and Marisa Wayne (born February 22, 1966).

Pilar was an avid tennis player. In 1973, she encouraged him to build the John Wayne Tennis Club in Newport Beach, CA. In 1995, the club was sold to Ken Stuart, former general manager, and became the Palisades Tennis Club.

Wayne with third wife Pilar Pallete at Knott's Berry Farm in 1971

Several of Wayne's children entered the film and television industry. Son Ethan was billed as John Ethan Wayne in a few films, and played one of the leads in the 1990s update of the Adam-12 television series.[122] Granddaughter Jennifer Wayne, daughter of Aissa, is a member of the country music group Runaway June.[123]

His stormiest divorce was from Esperanza Baur, a Mexican former actress. She believed that Wayne and co-star Gail Russell were having an affair, a claim which both Wayne and Russell denied. The night the film Angel and the Badman (1947) wrapped, there was the usual party for cast and crew, and Wayne came home very late. Esperanza was in a drunken rage by the time he arrived, and she attempted to shoot him as he walked through the front door.[50]

Wayne had several high-profile affairs, including one with Merle Oberon that lasted from 1938 to 1947.[124] After his separation from Pilar, in 1973, Wayne became romantically involved and lived with his former secretary Pat Stacy (1941–1995) until his death in 1979.[25] She published a book about her life with him in 1983, titled Duke: A Love Story.[125]

Wayne's hair began to thin in the 1940s, and he had begun to wear a hairpiece by the end of the decade.[126] He was occasionally seen in public without the hairpiece (such as, according to Life magazine, at Gary Cooper's funeral). During an appearance at Harvard University, Wayne was asked by a student "Is it true that your toupée is real mohair?" He responded: "Well sir, that's real hair. Not mine, but real hair."[127]

A close friend, California Congressman Alphonzo E. Bell Jr., wrote of Wayne: "Duke's personality and sense of humor were very close to what the general public saw on the big screen. It is perhaps best shown in these words he had engraved on a plaque: 'Each of us is a mixture of some good and some not so good qualities. In considering one's fellow man it's important to remember the good things ... We should refrain from making judgments just because a fella happens to be a dirty, rotten S.O.B.'"[128]

John and Ethan Wayne with Walter Knott in 1969

Wayne biographer Michael Munn chronicled Wayne's drinking habits.[21] According to Sam O'Steen's memoir, Cut to the Chase, studio directors knew to shoot Wayne's scenes before noon, because by afternoon he "was a mean drunk".[129] He had been a chain smoker of cigarettes since young adulthood and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964. He underwent successful surgery to remove his entire left lung[91] and four ribs. Despite efforts by his business associates to prevent him from going public with his illness for fear that it would cost him work, Wayne announced he had cancer and called on the public to get preventive examinations. Five years later, Wayne was declared cancer-free. Wayne has been credited with coining the term "The Big C" as a euphemism for cancer.[130]

He was a Freemason, a Master Mason in Marion McDaniel Lodge No. 56 F&AM, in Tucson, Arizona.[131][132][133] He became a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and later joined the Al Malaikah Shrine Temple in Los Angeles. He became a member of the York Rite.[134][135] During the early 1960s, Wayne traveled often to Panama, and he purchased the island of Taborcillo off the coast. It was sold by his estate at his death.

Wayne's yacht, the Wild Goose, was one of his favorite possessions. He kept it docked in Newport Beach Harbor, and it was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2011.[136]

Wayne was fond of literature, his favorite authors being Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. His favorite books were David Copperfield, and Conan Doyle's historical novels The White Company and Sir Nigel. In The Quiet Man, Wayne tells Michaeleen "Óge" Flynn he is six-foot "four and a half" (194 cm), a height which is backed up by his widow Pilar Wayne in her book John Wayne: My Life With the Duke.[137] He used the same 1873 Colt Single Action Army Revolver in many of the westerns that he appeared in.[138][139]

Legacy[edit]

Awards, celebrations, and landmarks[edit]

Wayne's enduring status as an iconic American was formally recognized by the U.S. government in the form of the two highest civilian decorations. On his 72nd birthday on May 26, 1979, Wayne was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Hollywood figures and American leaders from across the political spectrum, including Maureen O'Hara, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Mike Frankovich, Katharine Hepburn, General and Mrs. Omar Bradley, Gregory Peck, Robert Stack, James Arness, and Kirk Douglas, testified to Congress in support of the award. Robert Aldrich, president of the Directors Guild of America, made a particularly notable statement:

It is important for you to know that I am a registered Democrat and, to my knowledge, share none of the political views espoused by Duke. However, whether he is ill disposed or healthy, John Wayne is far beyond the normal political sharpshooting in this community. Because of his courage, his dignity, his integrity, and because of his talents as an actor, his strength as a leader, his warmth as a human being throughout his illustrious career, he is entitled to a unique spot in our hearts and minds. In this industry, we often judge people, sometimes unfairly, by asking whether they have paid their dues. John Wayne has paid his dues over and over, and I'm proud to consider him a friend and am very much in favor of my government recognizing in some important fashion the contribution that Mr. Wayne has made.[140]

Wayne was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 9, 1980, by President Jimmy Carter. He had attended Carter's inaugural ball in 1977 "as a member of the loyal opposition", as he described it. In 1998, he was awarded the Naval Heritage Award by the US Navy Memorial Foundation for his support of the Navy and military during his film career. In 1999, the American Film Institute (AFI) named Wayne 13th among the Greatest Male Screen Legends of Classic Hollywood cinema.

Wayne's most enduring image is that of the displaced loner uncomfortable with the very civilization he is helping to establish and preserve...At his first appearance, we usually sense a very private person with some wound, loss or grievance from the past. At his very best he is much closer to a tragic vision of life...projecting the kind of mystery associated with great acting.

– Film historian Andrew Sarris (1979)[141]

Various public locations are named in honor of Wayne, including the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, where a 9 feet (2.7 m) bronze statue of him stands at the entrance;[113] the John Wayne Marina[142] for which Wayne bequeathed the land, near Sequim, Washington; John Wayne Elementary School (P.S. 380) in Brooklyn, New York, which boasts a 38 feet (12 m) mosaic mural commission by New York artist Knox Martin[143] entitled "John Wayne and the American Frontier";[144] and over a 100 miles (160 km) named the "John Wayne Pioneer Trail" in Washington's Iron Horse State Park. A larger than life-size bronze statue of Wayne atop a horse was erected at the corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California, at the former offices of the Great Western Savings and Loan Corporation, for which Wayne had made a number of commercials. In the city of Maricopa, Arizona, part of Arizona State Route 347 is named John Wayne Parkway, which runs through the center of town.

In 2006, friends of Wayne and his former Arizona business partner, Louis Johnson, inaugurated the "Louie and the Duke Classics" events benefiting the John Wayne Cancer Foundation[145] and the American Cancer Society.[146][147] The weekend-long event each fall in Casa Grande, Arizona, includes a golf tournament, an auction of John Wayne memorabilia, and a team roping competition.[146]

Several celebrations took place on May 26, 2007, the centennial of Wayne's birth. A celebration at the John Wayne birthplace in Winterset, Iowa, included chuck-wagon suppers, concerts by Michael Martin Murphey and Riders in the Sky, a Wild West Revue in the style of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, and a Cowboy Symposium with Wayne's costars, producers, and costumers. Wayne's films ran repetitively at the local theater. Ground was broken for the New John Wayne Birthplace Museum and Learning Center at a ceremony consisting of over 30 of Wayne's family members, including Melinda Wayne Muñoz, Aissa, Ethan, and Marisa Wayne. Later that year, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Wayne into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.[148]

In 2016 Republican assemblyman Matthew Harper proposed marking May 26 as "John Wayne Day" in California.[149] This resolution was struck down by a vote of 35 to 20, due to Wayne's views on race and his support of controversial organizations such as the John Birch Society and the House Un-American Activities Committee.[149][150]

American icon[edit]

Wayne rose beyond the typical recognition for a famous actor to that of an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals.[151] Using the power of communication through silent films and radio, Wayne was instrumental in creating a national culture from disparaged areas of the US, and made the creation of a national hero possible.[152] By the middle of his career, Wayne had developed a larger-than-life image, and as his career progressed, he selected roles that would not compromise his off-screen image.[153] Wayne embodied the icon of strong American masculinity and rugged individualism in both his films and his life.[154] At a party in 1957, Wayne confronted actor Kirk Douglas about the latter's decision to play the role of Vincent van Gogh in the film Lust for Life, saying: "Christ, Kirk, how can you play a part like that? There's so goddamn few of us left. We got to play strong, tough characters. Not these weak queers."[155] However, actor Marlon Brando was notably critical of Wayne's public persona and of the cultural insensitivity of Wayne's characters, arguing on The Dick Cavett Show that, "We [Americans] like to see ourselves as perhaps John Wayne sees us. That we are a country that stands for freedom, for rightness, for justice," before adding that "it just simply doesn't apply."[156][157]

Wayne's rise to being the quintessential movie war hero began to take shape four years after World War II, when Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) was released. His footprints at Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood were laid in concrete that contained sand from Iwo Jima.[158] His status grew so large and legendary that when Japanese Emperor Hirohito visited the United States in 1975, he asked to meet John Wayne, the symbolic representation of his country's former enemy.[159] Likewise when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States in 1959, he made two requests: to visit Disneyland and meet Wayne.[160]

In the Motion Picture Herald Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars poll, Wayne was listed in 1936 and 1939.[161] He appeared in the similar Box Office poll in 1939 and 1940.[162] While these two polls are really an indication only of the popularity of series stars, Wayne also appeared in the Top Ten Money Makers Poll of all films from 1949 to 1957 and 1958 to 1974, taking first place in 1950, 1951, 1954, and 1971. With a total of 25 years on the list, Wayne has more appearances than any other star, surpassing Clint Eastwood (21) who is in second place.[163]

Wayne is the only actor to appear in every edition of the annual Harris Poll of Most Popular Film Actors, and the only actor to appear on the list after his death. Wayne was in the top ten in this poll for 19 consecutive years, starting in 1994, 15 years after his death.[164]

Mylène Demongeot declared in a 2015 filmed interview: "Gary Cooper was sublime, there I have to say, now he, was part of the stars, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, John Wayne, those great americans who I've met really were unbelievable guys, there aren't any like them anymore."[165]

John Wayne Cancer Foundation[edit]

The John Wayne Cancer Foundation was founded in 1985 in honor of John Wayne, after his family granted the use of his name (and limited funding) for the continued fight against cancer.[166] The foundation's mission is to "bring courage, strength, and grit to the fight against cancer".[166] The foundation provides funds for innovative programs that improve cancer patient care, including research, education, awareness, and support.[166]

Dispute with Duke University[edit]

Newport Beach, California-based John Wayne Enterprises, a business operated by Wayne's heirs, sells products, including Kentucky straight bourbon, bearing the "Duke" brand and using Wayne's picture. When the company tried to trademark the image appearing on one of the bottles, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, filed a notice of opposition. According to court documents, Duke has tried three times since 2005 to stop the company from trademarking the name. The company sought a declaration permitting registration of their trademark. The company's complaint filed in federal court said the university did "not own the word 'Duke' in all contexts for all purposes." The university's official position was not to object provided Wayne's image appeared with the name.[167] On September 30, 2014, Orange County, California federal judge David Carter dismissed the company's suit, deciding the plaintiffs had chosen the wrong jurisdiction.[168]

Filmography[edit]

Wayne portraying Lt. Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort in The Longest Day (1962)
Screenshot from Rio Bravo (1959)

Between 1926 and 1977, Wayne appeared in over 170 films, and became one of America's biggest box office stars. Only Clark Gable sold more tickets than Wayne, although the ticket prices paid during the span of their respective careers are not really commensurate.[citation needed][clarification needed] While both men began performing on screen at the same time, the height of Gable's celebrity preceded Wayne's by approximately fifteen years.

Missed roles[edit]

  • Wayne turned down the lead role in the 1952 film High Noon because he felt the film's story was an allegory against blacklisting, which he actively supported. In a 1971 interview, Wayne said he considered High Noon "the most un-American thing I've ever seen in my whole life", and that he would "never regret having helped run screenwriter Carl Foreman [who was later blacklisted] out of the country".[23]: 142 
  • An urban legend has it that in 1955, Wayne turned down the role of Matt Dillon in the long-running television series Gunsmoke and recommended James Arness instead. While he did suggest Arness for the part and introduced him in a prologue to the first episode, no film star of Wayne's stature would have considered a television role at the time.[169]
  • Terry Southern's biographer Lee Hill wrote that the role of Major T. J. "King" Kong in Dr. Strangelove (1964) was originally written with Wayne in mind, and that Stanley Kubrick offered him the part after Peter Sellers injured his ankle during filming; he immediately turned it down.[170]
  • In 1966, Wayne accepted the role of Major Reisman in The Dirty Dozen (1967), and asked Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for some script changes, but eventually withdrew from the project to make The Green Berets. He was replaced by Lee Marvin.[171]
  • Though Wayne actively campaigned for the title role in Dirty Harry (1971), Warner Bros. decided that at 63 he was too old, and cast the 41-year-old Clint Eastwood.[172]
  • Director Peter Bogdanovich and screenwriter Larry McMurtry pitched a film in 1971 called Streets of Laredo that would co-star Wayne along with James Stewart and Henry Fonda. They conceived it as a Western that would bring the final curtain down on Hollywood Westerns. Stewart and Fonda both agreed to appear in it, but after long consideration, Wayne turned it down, citing his feeling that his character was more underdeveloped and uninteresting than those of his co-stars, which was largely based on John Ford's recommendation after perusing the script. The project was shelved for some twenty years, until McMurtry rewrote and expanded the original screenplay co-written with Bogdanovich to make the novel and subsequent TV miniseries Lonesome Dove, with Tommy Lee Jones in Wayne's role and Robert Duvall playing the part originally written for Stewart in the extremely popular miniseries.
  • Mel Brooks offered Wayne the role of the Waco Kid (eventually played by Gene Wilder) in Blazing Saddles (1974). After reading the script Wayne declined, fearing the dialogue was "too dirty" for his family-friendly image, but told Brooks that he would be "first in line" to see the movie.[173][174]
  • Steven Spielberg offered both Wayne and Charlton Heston the role of Major General Joseph Stilwell in 1941 with Wayne also considered for a cameo in the film. After reading the script, Wayne decided not to participate due to ill health, but also urged Spielberg not to pursue the project. Both Wayne and Heston felt the film was unpatriotic. Spielberg recalled, "[Wayne] was really curious and so I sent him the script. He called me the next day and said he felt it was a very un-American movie, and I shouldn't waste my time making it. He said, 'You know, that was an important war, and you're making fun of a war that cost thousands of lives at Pearl Harbor. Don't joke about World War II'."[175]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Year Work

Category

Result
1950 Sands of Iwo Jima Best Actor Nominated
1961 The Alamo Best Picture Nominated
1970 True Grit Best Actor Won

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Year Work

Category

Result
1953 N/A Henrietta Award (World Film Favorite – Male) Won
1966 N/A Cecil B. DeMille Award Honoured[176]
1970 True Grit Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Won

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Work

Category

Result
1972 America, Why I Love Her Best Spoken Word Album Nominated[177]

Brass Balls Award[edit]

In 1973, The Harvard Lampoon, a satirical paper run by Harvard University students, invited Wayne to receive The Brass Balls Award, created in his "honor", after calling him "the biggest fraud in history". Wayne accepted the invitation as a chance to promote the recently released film McQ, and a Fort Devens Army convoy offered to drive him into Harvard Square on an armored personnel carrier.[178][179] The ceremony was held on January 15, 1974, at the Harvard Square Theater and the award was officially presented in honor of Wayne's "outstanding machismo and penchant for punching people".[180] Although the convoy was met with protests by members of the American Indian Movement and others, some of whom threw snowballs, Wayne received a standing ovation from the audience when he walked onto the stage.[178] An internal investigation was launched into the Army's involvement in the day.[179]

Additional awards and honors[edit]

  • 1970, Received the DeMolay Legion of Honor
  • 1970, Received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement[181][182]
  • 1973, Awarded the Gold Medal from the National Football Foundation
  • 1974, Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
  • 1979, Received the Congressional Gold Medal
  • 1980, Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Jimmy Carter
  • 1986, Inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes

  1. ^ After Wayne gained fame under his stage name, studio publicists erroneously referred to his birth name as Marion Michael Morrison; Wayne went along with this himself, because he "really liked the name Michael".[2] The error infected virtually every biography of Wayne, until Roberts and Olson uncovered the facts in their 1995 biography John Wayne: American, drawing on the draft of Wayne's unfinished autobiography, among other sources.

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