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John Wayne: Legend of a Cowboy

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This page is for fans of John Wayne (there may be one or two other people on the planet).

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John Wayne


Alias Name(s): The Duke, Marion Mitchell (or Michael) Morrison
Birthplace: Winterset, Iowa, USA
Birthday: 5-26-1907
Birth Name: Marion Michael Morrison
Date of Death: 6-11-1979
Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of Death: Cancer



John Wayne was born Marion Michael Morrison, to Clyde and Mary Morrison of Iowa. As a youngster he was shy, thoughtful, and modest. These terms don't evoke the image most of us have of "The Duke."

Interviews conducted early in his career suggest John Wayne grew up as a not-so-confident, not so outspoken young man. He stated his parents were an unhappy couple who had frequent, heated arguments.

For health reasons, the family moved when he was seven to a ranch in the Mojave Desert in California, where they attempted parcel ranching. Marion spent much time outdoors, often hiking through the valley. He taught himself to ride, straddling one of the plow horses his father owned. Just as the young boy was adjusting to life in the rural area, the family relocated to Glendale, California.

He avoided the disharmony between his parents by staying away from home. A bit of a loner, he spent hours exploring the area, with his Airedale, Duke. He befriended the area firefighters who took to calling him "Big Duke," and his dog, "Little Duke." This nickname stuck, and his given name Marion, which he had always disliked, was replaced with one more fitting his personality.

"The Duke" took up delivering medications for his father, who was a pharmacist by trade in Iowa. He had several odd jobs. The entire family scraped by, just barely eking out a living while John (Marion) took up his schooling.

John had an aptitude for sports. After he narrowly failed his admission to Annapolis, John opted to go to USC on a football scholarship. A severe shoulder injury when he was a sophomore cost him his athletic scholarship.

College life had become a  welcome respite from the tension-filled home he had known. His parents divorced after twenty years of marriage.

Tom Mix was an up and rising star. He managed to get Marion summer work as a prop man in exchange for USC football tickets. While on the film set, Marion became close friends with director John Ford for whom, among others, he began doing small parts in various low budget films. In some of these, he was billed as "John Wayne."

Wayne starred in his first featured film Men Without Women in 1930. With more than 70 films to his credit and nine years in front of the camera, Wayne's career was going nowhere until Ford cast him in Stagecoach (1939). After that John Wayne’s career was associated with all sorts of different entertainment venues from film, radio and television, totalling over 275 pieces.

He was bigger than life, and still is. The consummate cowboy star, he was, and is, the symbol of heroic action and the Code of the West. Of this country's noted personalities and public figures, living or deceased, John Wayne stands foremost as the embodiment of what it means to be cowboy and an American.

His off screen person identified him as an Icon of American values and integrity. John Wayne‘s name has become part of the American lexicon. His films are part of America’s screen Golden Age Of Hollywood.

For an incredible 25 years he was rated at or around the top of box office appeal. Every year Harris Polls conducts a survey of America's "Most Favorite Movie Star." In January 2006, Wayne's ranking was 3, behind only Tom Hanks and Johnny Depp.

John Wayne died from cancer. This cancer is believed to have resulted from the use of red dust during the filming of Conqueror. The dust/dirt was trucked in from a newly created and active nuclear test site. Today, experts believe that dirt was radioactive.


Some John Wayne Trivia


  • John introduced the first episode of Marshall Dillon (the original title of Gunsmoke) in 1955. The episode title was Matt Gets It.

  • John was the original choice to play Marshall Dillon when Gunsmoke made the transition to television.

  • John was listed in the #3 position in the annual Harris Poll of "America's Top Ten Favorite Movie Stars" in 2006.

  • John named his third son John Ethan, to honor the film The Searchers in which he played Ethan Edwards in 1956. 

  • John starred with his son, John Ethan Wayne, in 1971 in the film Big Jake.

  • The film North To Alaska, which followed The Alamo, was made to help pay off the debt John had fallen into while making The Alamo.

  • John, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, replied: 'Feo, Fuerte y Formal" This is a Spanish proverb meaning "He was ugly, strong, and had dignity"

  • On June 11,1979, the date of John's death, the flame of the Olympic Torch at the Coliseum in Los Angeles was lit to honor his memory. The airport in Orange County, California was renamed shortly after his death to John Wayne Airport.

  • John was honored with a square at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The Marine Corps had the sand that was used in the cement brought in from Iwo Jima.

  • In 1926, John made only $10/day for his screen debut film Bardelys the Magnificent. In 1968, he made 1 million dollars each for Hellfighters and The Green Berets.

  • John was ranked #16 in Empire (UK) Magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. (October 1997)

  • John was nominated twice for Academy Awards (Sands of Iwo Jima and True Grit). John won the Oscar for True Grit (1969).

  • John's son, Patrick Wayne, also appeared on television and in movies, including Shenandoah with Jimmy Stewart.


John Wayne Quotes


  • Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.

  • I'm the stuff men are made of.

  • I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.

  • I've had three wives, six children, and six grandchildren. And I still don't understand women.

  • Never say sorry. It's a sign of weakness.

  • 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.

  • Women have the right to work wherever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home.

  • Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.

  • I've always had deep faith that there is a Supreme Being. There has to be. To me that's just a normal thing to have that kind of faith. The fact that He's let me stick around a little longer, or She's let me stick around a little longer, certainly goes great with me. And I want to hang around as long as I'm healthy and not in anybody's way.

  • I never trust a man that doesn't drink. 

  • Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.

  • I'm an American actor. I work with my clothes on. I have to. Riding a horse can be pretty tough on your legs and elsewheres. 

  • Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much. 

  • Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid.

  • (from The Alamo) Texas is a nation unto it self...just like the sister across the way. Freedom and liberty will prevail.


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