John Wayne, the Duke.
John Wayne was born as Marion Michael Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, on May 26, 1907.
His birthplace is today definitely a must-see for all of his fans: 216 S. 2nd St., Winterset, Iowa. Phone of the John Wayne Birthplace Society: 515-462-1044. Usually open seven days / week between 10:00 am and 4:30 pm. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Small fee for guided tours.
Soon after John Wayne's family moved to California where he went to school and later studied at the University
of Southern California. He studied law and economy, but may be because of his impressive stature of 1.93 m (6ft 4inch) he soon was discovered as a football talent. He got a scholarship and became the star of the football team, but anyway he decided to quit school and to see what real life was about.
He worked a day-laborer and earned some money as a boxer on local fairs.
In 1927 he met John Ford who was his first contact to the movie industry - he had a couple of small and irrelevant roles in B-movies, which never had any success. In one of these roles he played the character 'Duke Morrison', which is allegedly the reason why he got the nickname 'The Duke'. Others say he had the nickname even before and that this was a dog's name. Anyhow, he seemed to like it and his fans, too, which is what counts.
But inspite of all these flops John Ford was probably seeing the talent in John Wayne and offered him in 1939 the leading role in his western 'Stagecoach'. John Wayne played the character 'Ringo Kid' and this movie brought the breakthrough for his career.
Further successful movies followed where he usually played a patriotic and brave character. The movies 'Alamo' (1960) and 'Green Berets' (1968), which he directed as well, made him to the ultimate American Cult figure, a national idol. His patriotism was not only played - he stood by it in real life, too.
Neraly for half of a centuruy John Wayne was one of the top stars of Hollywood. Most of his movies were directed by Howard Hawks and John Ford who was his friend, too. Altogether John Wayne's filmography counts almost 200 movies.
Shortly before he died he was honored by awarding him the Oscar in 1969 - many say that this was more than the award for his leading role in 'True Grit' but the acknowledgment for his entire career.
He died of cancer on June 11, 1979. He left behind 7 children and a huge gap in Hollywood.