Who is John Wayne?
Marion Robert Morrison (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 Western films. His career spanned from the silent era of the 1920s, through the Golden Age of Hollywood and eventually American New Wave, appearing in a total of 179 film and television productions. He was among the top box office draws for three decades, and appeared with many other important Hollywood stars of his era.
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, 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.”
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 before succumbing to stomach cancer later that year. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States.