Hand color tinted photo of John Wayne from the 1961 movie, The Comancheros
Marion Mitchell Morrison (May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979), born Marion Robert Morrison, better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. He epitomized rugged masculinity and has become an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive voice, walk and height. He was also known for his conservative political views and his support in the 1950s for anti-communist positions.
A Harris Poll released January 2009 placed Wayne third among America’s favorite film stars, the only deceased star on the list and the only one who has appeared on the poll every year since it first began in 1994.
In 1999, the American Film Institute named Wayne 13th among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.
Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa. His middle name was soon changed from Robert to Mitchell when his parents decided to name their next son Robert. His family was Presbyterian. His father, Clyde Leonard Morrison, (1884–1937), was of Irish, Scots-Irish and English descent, and the son of American Civil War veteran Marion Mitchell Morrison (1845–1915). His mother, the former Mary Alberta Brown (1885–1970), was from Lancaster County, Nebraska.
Wayne’s family moved to Palmdale, California, and then in 1911 to Glendale, California, where his father worked as a pharmacist. 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 dog, Duke. He preferred “Duke” to “Marion,” and the name stuck for the rest of his life.
As a teen, Wayne 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, a youth organization associated with the Freemasons. He attended Wilson Middle School in Glendale. He played football for the 1924 champion Glendale High School team. Wayne applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, but was not accepted. He instead attended the University of Southern California (USC), majoring in pre-law. He was a member of the Trojan Knights and Sigma Chi fraternities. Wayne also played on the USC football team under legendary coach Howard Jones. An injury curtailed his athletic career; Wayne later noted he was too terrified of Jones’ reaction to reveal the actual cause of his injury, which was bodysurfing at the “Wedge” at the tip of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. He lost his athletic scholarship and, without funds, had to leave the university.
Wayne began working at the local film studios. Prolific silent western film star Tom Mix had gotten him a summer job in the prop department in exchange for football tickets. Wayne soon moved on to bit parts, establishing a longtime friendship with the director who provided most of those roles, John Ford. Early in this period, Wayne 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).
While working for Fox Film Corporation for $75 a week in bit roles, he was given on-screen credit only once, as “Duke Morrison” in Words and Music (1929). In 1930, director Raoul Walsh 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 himself was not even present for the discussion. His pay was raised to $105 a week.
The Big Trail was to be the first big-budget outdoor spectacle of the sound era, made at a staggering cost of over $2 million, utilizing 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 35mm version and another in “Grandeur”, a new process utilizing innovative camera and lenses and a revolutionary 70mm widescreen process. Many in the audience who saw it in Grandeur stood and cheered. Unfortunately, only a handful of theaters were equipped to show the film in its widescreen process, and the effort was largely wasted. The film was considered a huge flop.
After the 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 appeared 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 eighty of these horse operas between 1930 – 1939. Coincidentally, he 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. He and famed stuntman Yakima Canutt developed and perfected stunts still used today.
Wayne’s breakthrough role came with director John Ford’s classic Stagecoach (1939). Because of Wayne’s non-star 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 top 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 star. He later appeared in more than twenty of John Ford’s films, including 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’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.
In 1949, director Robert Rossen offered the starring role of All the King’s Men to Wayne. Wayne refused, believing the script to be un-American in many ways. Broderick Crawford, who eventually got the role, won the 1949 Oscar for best male actor, ironically beating out Wayne, who had been nominated for Sands of Iwo Jima.
He lost the leading role 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 refused to bend for.
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).
The Searchers (1956) continues to be widely regarded as perhaps Wayne’s finest and most complex performance. In 2006 Premiere Magazine ran an industry poll in which Wayne’s portrayal of Ethan Edwards was rated the 87th greatest performance in film history. He named his youngest son Ethan after the character. John Wayne won a Best Actor Oscar for True Grit (1969). Wayne was also nominated as the producer of Best Picture for The Alamo (1960), one of two films he directed. The other was The Green Berets (1968), the only major film made during the Vietnam War to support the war.During the filming of 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. His last film was The Shootist (1976), whose main character, J. B. Books, was dying of cancer – the illness to which Wayne himself succumbed 3 years later.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Wayne played the lead in 142 of his film appearances.
Batjac, the production company co-founded by Wayne, 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.) 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 production was the highly acclaimed Seven Men From Now (1956) which started the classic collaboration between director Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott.
In later years, Wayne was recognized as a sort of American natural resource, and his various critics, of his performances and his politics, viewed him with more respect. Abbie Hoffman, the radical of the 1960s, 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.” Reviewing The Cowboys (1972), 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.”
Wayne had been a chain-smoker of cigarettes since young adulthood. In 1964, Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer, and underwent successful surgery to remove his entire left lung and four ribs. Despite efforts by his business associates to prevent him from going public with his illness (for fear 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. Despite the fact that Wayne’s diminished lung capacity left him incapable of prolonged exertion and frequently in need of supplemental oxygen, within a few years of his operation he chewed tobacco and began smoking cigars.
Wayne claimed in his Playboy interview to have been a socialist at university, and he admitted voting for Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election. However, for most of his career he was a vocal conservative Republican. He took part in creating the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in February 1944 and was elected president of that organization in 1947. He was an ardent anti-communist, and vocal supporter of the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1952, he made Big Jim McLain (1952) to show his support for the anti-communist cause. He also claimed to have been instrumental in having Carl Foreman blacklisted from Hollywood after the release of the anti-McCarthyism western High Noon (1952) and later teamed up with Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo (1959) as a right-wing response. A supporter of then Vice President Richard Nixon’s bid for the White House, he famously 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.”
Wayne used his iconic status to support conservative causes, including rallying support for the Vietnam War by producing, co-directing, and starring in the critically panned The Green Berets (1968). In the mid-1970s, however, he went against fellow conservatives by supporting the Panama Canal Treaty.
Due to his enormous popularity, and his status as the most famous Republican star in Hollywood, wealthy Texas Republican Party backers asked Wayne to run for national office in 1968, as had 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. However, he did support his friend Ronald Reagan’s runs for Governor of California in 1966 and 1970. He was also asked to be the running mate for Democratic Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1968. Wayne vehemently rejected the offer. Wayne actively campaigned for Richard Nixon, and addressed the Republican National Convention on its opening day in August 1968. Wayne also was a member of the conservative and anti-communist John Birch Society. Soviet documents released in 2003 reveal that, despite being a fan of Wayne’s movies, Joseph Stalin ordered Wayne’s assassination due to his strong anti-communist politics. Stalin died before the killing could be accomplished. His successor, Nikita Khrushchev, reportedly told Wayne during a 1958 visit to the United States that he had personally rescinded the order.
Military service controversy
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. Many established stars rushed to sign up for military service. Most notably, James Stewart, who had already enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, surmounted great obstacles in order to do so.
As the majority of male leads left Hollywood to serve overseas, John Wayne saw his just-blossoming stardom at risk. Despite enormous pressure from his inner circle of friends, he put off enlisting. 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’s secretary recalled making inquiries of military officials on behalf of his interest in enlisting, “but he never really followed up on them.” He repeatedly wrote to John Ford, asking to be placed in Ford’s military unit, but continually postponed it until “after he finished one more film.” Republic Studios was emphatically resistant to losing Wayne, especially after the loss of Gene Autry to the Army.
Correspondence between Wayne and Herbert J. Yates (the head of Republic) indicates that Yates threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract, though the likelihood of a studio suing its biggest star for going to war was minute. Whether or not the threat was real, Wayne did not test it. Selective Service Records indicate he did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but apparently Republic Pictures intervened directly, requesting his further deferment. In May, 1944, Wayne was reclassified as 1-A (draft eligible), but the studio obtained another 2-A deferment (for “support of national health, safety, or interest”). He remained 2-A until the war’s end. Thus, John Wayne did not illegally “dodge” the draft, but he never took direct positive action toward enlistment.
Wayne was in the South Pacific theater of the war for three months in 1943–44, touring U.S. bases and hospitals as well as doing some “undercover” work for OSS commander William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, who thought Wayne’s celebrity might be good cover for an assessment of the causes for poor relations between General Douglas MacArthur and Donovan’s OSS Pacific network. Wayne filed a report and Donovan gave him a plaque and commendation for serving with the OSS, but Wayne dismissed it as meaningless.
The foregoing facts influenced the direction of Wayne’s later life. By many accounts, Wayne’s failure to serve in the military during World War II was the most painful experience of his life. There were some other stars who, for various reasons, did not enlist. But Wayne, by virtue of becoming a celluloid war hero in several patriotic war films, as well as an outspoken supporter of conservative political causes and the Vietnam War, became the focus of particular disdain from both himself and certain portions of the public, particularly in later years. While some hold Wayne in contempt for the paradox between his early actions and his later attitudes, his widow suggests that Wayne’s rampant patriotism in later decades sprang not from hypocrisy but from guilt. Pilar Wayne wrote, “He would become a ‘superpatriot’ for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home.”
Controversial statements to Playboy magazine
In an interview with Playboy magazine published on May 1, 1971, Wayne made several controversial remarks about race and class in the United States. The interview became a hot topic and many stores had trouble keeping the issue in stock. He noted that, as someone living in the 20th century, he was not responsible for the way people who lived one hundred years before him had treated Native Americans, stating:
I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them if that’s what you’re asking. Our so called stealing of this country was just a question of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves…. I’m quite sure that the concept of a Government-run reservation… seems to be what the socialists are working for now — to have everyone cared for from cradle to grave…. But you can’t whine and bellyache ’cause somebody else got a break and you didn’t, like those Indians are. We’ll all be on a reservation soon if the socialists keep subsidizing groups like them with our tax money.
He then continued to discuss race relations, including his opinions regarding the current civil rights of African Americans:
I believe in white supremacy until blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people…. The academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically…. I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or ten generations ago these people were slaves. Now I’m not condoning slavery. It’s just a fact of life, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and can’t play football like the rest of us.
When asked how blacks could address the inequities of the past, Wayne replied:
By going to school. I don’t know why people insist that blacks have been forbidden to go to school. They were allowed in public schools wherever I’ve been. I think any black man who can compete with a white can get a better break than a white man. I wish they’d tell me where in the world they have it better than right here in America.
He also alluded to his distaste with the North Vietnamese Communist forces during the Vietnam War:
Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure I love my country with all her faults. I’m not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be. I was proud when President Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor, which we should have done long ago, because I think we’re helping a brave little country defend herself against Communist invasion. That’s what I tried to show in The Green Berets and I took plenty of abuse from the critics.
Wayne was married three times and divorced twice. His wives, all of them Hispanic women, were Josephine Alicia Saenz, Esperanza Baur, and Pilar Pallete. He had four children with Josephine:
• Michael Wayne (Film Producer} – Born November 23, 1934 / Died April 2, 2003
• Mary Antonia “Toni” Wayne LaCava – Born February 25, 1936 / Died December 6, 2000
• Patrick Wayne – (actor) – Born July 15, 1939
• Melinda Wayne Munoz – Born December 3, 1940
and three with Pilar:
• Aissa Wayne – (Actress, now Attorney) Born March 31, 1956
• John Ethan Wayne – (Actor) – Born February 22, 1962
• Marisa Wayne (Actress) – Born February 22, 1966
Wayne is also the great-uncle of boxing heavyweight Tommy Morrison. Wayne’s 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.
His stormiest divorce was from Esperanza Bauer, a former Mexican actress. She convinced herself that Wayne and co-star Gail Russell were having an affair. 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.
Wayne’s hair began thinning in the 1940s and he started wearing a hairpiece by the end of that decade (though his receding hairline is quite evident in Rio Grande). He was occasionally seen in public without the hairpiece (notably, according to Life Magazine photos, at Gary Cooper’s funeral). The only time he unintentionally appeared on film without it was for a split second in North to Alaska. On the first punch of the climactic fistfight, Wayne’s hat flies off, revealing a brief flash of his unadorned scalp. Wayne also has several scenes in The Wings of Eagles where he is without his hairpiece. (During a widely noted appearance at Harvard University, Wayne was asked by a student, “Is your hair real?” Wayne responded in the affirmative, then added, “It’s not mine, but it’s real!”)
Wayne had several high-profile affairs, including one with Marlene Dietrich that lasted for three years. In the years prior to his death, Wayne was romantically involved with his former secretary Pat Stacy (1941–1995). She wrote a biography of her life with him, DUKE: A Love Story (1983).
During the early 1960s John Wayne traveled extensively to Panama. During this time, the actor reportedly purchased the island of Taborcillo off the main coast of Panama. It was sold by his estate at his death and changed hands many times before being opened as a tourist attraction.
Wayne was Freemason, a Master Mason in Marion McDaniel Lodge #56 F&AM, in Tucson. He became a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and later joined the Al Malaikah Shrine Temple in Anaheim. He became a member of the York Rite.
John Wayne’s height has been perennially described as at least 6`4″ (193cm), but claims abound that he was shorter. However, Wayne’s high school athletic records indicate he was 6’3″ at age 17, and his University of Southern California athletic records state that by age 18, he had grown to 6’4″.
Although he enrolled in a cancer vaccine study in an attempt to ward off the disease, John Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979, at the UCLA Medical Center, and was interred in the Pacific View Memorial Park cemetery in Corona del Mar. According to his son Patrick, he converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death. He requested his tombstone read “Feo, Fuerte y Formal”, a Spanish epitaph Wayne described as meaning “ugly, strong and dignified”. However, the grave, unmarked for twenty years, is now marked with a quotation from his controversial 1971 Playboy interview: “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.”
A relatively large number of the cast and crew of Wayne’s 1956 film The Conqueror developed various forms of cancer. The film was shot in Southwestern Utah, east of and generally downwind from where the U.S. Government had tested nuclear weapons in Southeastern Nevada, and many contend that radioactive fallout from these tests contaminated the film location and poisoned the film crew working there. Despite the suggestion that Wayne’s 1964 lung cancer and his 1979 stomach cancer resulted from this nuclear contamination, he himself believed his lung cancer to have been a result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit. The effect of nuclear fallout on The Conqueror’s cast and crew, and particularly on Wayne, is the subject of James Morrow’s science-fiction short story Martyrs of the Upshot Knothole.
Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom
John Wayne’s enduring status as an iconic American was formally recognized by the United States Congress on May 26, 1979, when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Hollywood figures and American leaders from across the political spectrum, including 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 of the merit and deservedness of this award. Most notable was the testimony of Robert Aldrich, then president of the Directors Guild of America: “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 sharp shooting 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.”
Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s close friend, initiated the petition for the medal and requested the words that would be placed onto the medal: “It is my great honor to be here. I beg you to strike a medal for Duke, to order the President to strike it. And I feel that the medal should say just one thing, ‘John Wayne, American.'” The medal crafted by the United States Mint has on one side John Wayne riding on horseback, and the other side has a portrait of Wayne with the words, “John Wayne, American.” This Congressional Gold Medal was presented to the family of John Wayne in a ceremony held on March 6, 1980, at the United States Capitol. Copies were made and sold in large numbers to the public.
On June 9, 1980, Wayne was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter (at whose inaugural ball Wayne had appeared “as a member of the loyal opposition”, as Wayne described it in his speech to the gathering). Thus Wayne received the two highest civilian decorations awarded by the United States government.
Wayne rose beyond the typical recognition for a famous actor to that of an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals. 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. By the time of his last film The Shootist (1976), Wayne refused to allow his character to shoot a man in the back as was originally scripted, saying “I’ve made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it.”
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 cement that contained sand from Iwo Jima. 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.
Wayne was a popular visitor to the war zones in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. By the 1950s, perhaps in large part due to the military aspect of films such as the Sands of Iwo Jima, Flying Tigers, They Were Expendable, and the Ford cavalry trilogy, Wayne had become an icon to all the branches of the U.S. Military, even in light of his actual lack of military service. Many veterans have said their reason for serving was in some part related to watching Wayne’s movies. His name is attached to various pieces of gear, such as the P-38 “John Wayne” can-opener, so named because “it can do anything,” paper towels known as “John Wayne Toilet Paper” because “it’s rough and it’s tough and don’t take shit off no one,” and C-Ration crackers are called “John Wayne crackers” because presumably only someone as tough as Wayne could eat them. A rough and rocky mountain pass used by army tanks and jeeps at Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County, California, is aptly named “John Wayne Pass.”
Various public locations have been named in memory of John Wayne. They include John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, where his nine-foot bronze statue graces the entrance; the John Wayne Marina near Sequim, Washington; John Wayne Elementary School (P.S. 380) in Brooklyn, NY, which boasts a 38-foot mosaic mural commission by New York artist Knox Martin entitled “John Wayne and the American Frontier”; and a 100-plus-mile trail named the “John Wayne Pioneer Trail” in Washington state’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 & Loan Corporation, for whom Wayne had done a number of commercials. (The building now houses Larry Flynt Enterprises.)
On December 5, 2007, 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.
Celebrations and landmarks
Several celebrations took place on May 26, 2007, the centennial of John Wayne’s birth.
At the Birthplace of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa, the John Wayne Birthday Centennial Celebration was held on May 25-27, 2007. The celebration 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, a Cowboy Symposium with John Wayne co-stars, Gregg Palmer, Ed Faulkner, and Dean Smith along with Paramount producer A.C. Lyles and costumer Luster Bayless were all there to talk about their friendships with Duke. They had cavalry and trick horse demonstrations as well as many of John Wayne’s films running at the local theater.
This event also included the ground-breaking for the New John Wayne Birthplace Museum and Learning Center at his birthplace house. Over 30 family members were there including Melinda Wayne Munoz, Aissa, Ethan and Marisa Wayne. Several grandchildren and great-grandchildren were also present. An old gas station is being torn down to make way for the new museum. This groundbreaking was held with Ethan Wayne at the controls of the equipment.
In 2006, friends of Wayne’s and his former Arizona business partner, Louis Johnson, inaugurated the “Louie and the Duke Classics” events benefiting the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society. 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”.
• John Wayne desperately wanted the role of “Jimmy Ringo” in the 1950 film The Gunfighter, directed by Henry King. But the role went to Gregory Peck instead. John Wayne’s final film, The Shootist (1976), directed by Don Siegel was very similar to The Gunfighter.
• An urban legend has it that John Wayne was offered the leading role of Matt Dillon in the longtime favorite television show Gunsmoke, but he turned it down, recommending instead James Arness for the role. The only part of this story that is true is that Wayne did indeed recommend Arness for the part. Wayne introduced Arness in a prologue to the first episode of Gunsmoke.
• Wayne was approached by Mel Brooks to play the part of The Waco Kid in the film Blazing Saddles. After reading the script he said, “I can’t be in this picture, it’s too dirty … but I’ll be the first in line to see it.”
Famous movie quotes
• “I’m looking at a tin star with a … DRUNK pinned on it.” (El Dorado)
• “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 require the same from them.” (The Shootist)
• Speaking to his young cavalry lieutenants: “Don’t apologize—it’s a sign of weakness.” (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)
• “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” (True Grit)
• “That’ll be the day!” (The Searchers – Spoken several times; inspired Buddy Holly to write a song with that title.) • “Pilgrim.” (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – Reportedly he used the expression “Pilgrim”, as in “tenderfoot” or “dude” or “amateur”, 23 times in that film, and once also in McLintock!. It became a catchphrase for impressionists such as John Byner, and Rich Little)
• “I haven’t lost my temper in 40 years; but, Pilgrim, you caused a lot of trouble this morning; might have got somebody killed; and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won’t. I won’t. The hell I won’t!” (He belts him in the mouth). (To Leo Gordon in McLintock!)
• “Out here, due process is a bullet!” (To anti-war journalist David Janssen in The Green Berets)
Famous quotes outside of the movies
• “I eat as much as I ever did, I drink more than I should, and my sex life is none of your goddamned business.” (May 1971, Playboy interview)
• “If I had known this, I would’ve put that patch on thirty-five years ago.” (1969, Academy Awards speech for Best Actor in True Grit.)
• “We had a pretty good time together, when she wasn’t trying to kill me!” (1954, In an interview with Hedda Hopper regarding his marriage to Esperanza “Chata” Bauer.)