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John Wayne

Born: May 26, 1907
Died: June 11, 1979John Wayne

Marion Mitchell Morrison (born Marion Robert Morrison), better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. An Academy Award-winner, Wayne is the biggest box office draw of all time. An enduring American icon, he epitomized rugged masculinity and is famous for his demeanor, including his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height.

Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison at 216 South Second Street in Winterset, Iowa. His middle name was soon changed from Robert to Mitchell when his parents decided to name their next son Robert.

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 was of Scots-Irish and Scottish descent on both sides of his family, and he was brought up as a Presbyterian.

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, Duke.  He preferred "Duke" to "Marion", and the name stuck for the rest of his life.

Acting Career Begins

While working for Fox Film Corporation in bit roles, he was given on-screen credit as "Duke Morrison" only once, 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.

By Wayne's own estimation, he appeared in about eighty of these horse operas from 1930 to 1939.  In Riders of Destiny (1933) he became one of the first singing cowboys of film, albeit via dubbing. 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.  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.

Wayne's first color film was Shepherd of the Hills (1941), in which he co-starred with his longtime friend Harry Carey.

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.

Best Actor Oscar

John Wayne won a Best Actor Oscar for True Grit (1969).

Wayne was married three times and divorced twice. His wives were Josephine Alicia Saenz, 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).

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 and his grandson Matthew Mu�oz, a priest in the California Diocese of Orange, he converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death.

Where was John Wayne Buried?

Pacific View Memorial Park, Corona del Mar, California, Plot: Bayview Terrace, section 575.

He requested his tombstone read "Feo, Fuerte y Formal", a Mexican 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."

Among the 220 or so cast and crew who filmed the 1956 film, The Conqueror, on location near St. George, Utah, 91 at various times developed some form of cancer (41%), including stars Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell.  The film was shot in southwestern Utah, east of and generally downwind from the site of recent U.S. Government nuclear weapons tests in southeastern Nevada. Although the 41% incidence of cancer in the cast and crew is identical to that of the general population, many contend 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 nuclear contamination, he himself believed his lung cancer to have been a result of his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit.

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