In today’s world movie stars are ranked by what they make or how many Oscars they win, but not that many years ago we rated our movie stars more by what they stood for than what they made. One thing we lack in today’s world are heroes.
My favorite hero would have been 103 years old in May. As a child I spent countless hours watching his movies over and over with my dad. Today, I like to do the same with my kids, we all sit in the living room and put one of his movies on and I tell them stories of watching them with my dad.
In case you have not figured it out, mine and my dad’s hero was John Wayne. Here’s a little about him that you may or may not have known.
John Wayne was born in Iowa in May 1907 as Marion Robert Morrison. As a boy his parents moved to California. He got the name “Duke” from the Glendale Firefighters, as a boy Marion had a dog named “Duke” and the firefighters started calling Marion by that nickname as well.
Marion was a tackle in college at USC but his football career was cut short by a surfing accident at Newport Beach. Marion took on studio work to help pay his tuition, in a film called “The Big Trail” Marion became John Wayne and the rest is history.
John Wayne appeared in over 175 films spanning 50 years, although he made all kinds of movies it was the American Western where he made his lasting mark. Nominated three time for an Academy Award, Wayne won for Best Actor in 1969 for True Grit.
John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964, he had a lung and several ribs removed and in true “Duke” style he beat his illness and returned to do some of his finest work. 15 years later he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died at the age of 72.
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter awarded John Wayne the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he also was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Only a select few have ever been awarded both. According to the Harris Polls John Wayne still ranks as one of America’s Favorite Movie Stars, currently ranked third and he has been out of the Top 10 since the polls inception.
In 1985 John Wayne’s children honored their late father by starting the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. The JWCF supports awareness and education programs and has been committed to groundbreaking cancer research.
103 years after his birth, not a weekend goes by that the “Duke” is not riding his horse in the towns of the old west.
Here is some Trivia that you may or may not know:
John Wayne was voted “Star of the Decade” from 1950 to 1960 by the Motion Picture Herald
In California, the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. Air Support Honors John Wayne with the “Duke” helicoptors
On movie sets John Wayne enjoyed playing Chess and Cards
John Wayne pioneered in the business of energy conservation owning several companies that turned refuse and coal into high grade oil
On the American Film Institutes Top 100 Hero and Villains List, John Wayne was the most represented male actor with seven characters
On September 9th, 2004 the US Postal Service released the John Wayne Stamp as part of its Legends of Hollywood series
John Wayne holds the record for most leading roles by an actor, at 142
The Orange County Airport was renamed in 1979 to the “John Wayne Airport”
In the final scene in John Ford’s “The Searchers” in 1956, John Wayne stands in the doorway with his hand holding the elbow of his other arm, this is a tribute to his longtime co-star Harry Carey
John Wayne weighed 13 pounds at birth
Now let’s test your knowledge of the “Duke”, here are a few questions for you:
What was John Waynes Last Movie?
What was the name of his horse in that movie?
What famous Hollywood Director was cast in that movie as a child?
What brand pistol did Wayne carry in most of his westerns?
In the movie “Big Jake” what was his dogs name?
In the late 1990’s John Wayne was featured as a paint scheme on a NASCAR Race Car, can you name the Driver of the car?
How many films did John Wayne make with Director John Ford?