Marion Morrison was born on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa. His family moved to California in 1914, with his father Clyde “Doc” Morrison, a pharmacist, his mother Mary “Molly” Brown, and his brother Robert. Throughout their travels to California, Marion was followed around by his dog, Duke, gaining Marion the nickname Duke to go with his companion. Marion was much smarter, and more athletic than most of his family had ever seen, and when he graduated from Glendale High School in 1921, he gained a football scholarship to the University of Southern California. Along the way, a bodysurfing injury ended his football years.
The Great Depression was in full swing, and lasted through the year of 1929, to 1939. The Depression was the deepest, and the longest-lasting economic downturn in history, and because of this, many people were without jobs, including Marion. Marion was led to look for work at a local movie studios to gain money for him and his family.
Duke eventually found a job at Fox Film Corporation in the late 1920’s. He was used as a prop man, and extra in many short films and movies. He starred in few movies, but earned his spot in “Brown of Harvard”, in 1926, and “Drop Kick”, in 1927. It wasn’t long when John Ford, a director, noticed Duke. John Ford used him to herd geese in a 1918 film called “Mother Machree”. It wasn’t long until John and Marion became great friends, and John introduced Marion to his fellow director Raoul Walsh. Raoul gave Marion a starring role in the 1930 film, “The Big Trail”.
During the production, the producers decided to give Marion a new name, in hopes of making it easier to sell to film audiences. Marion agreed, saying that it was okay if the people who were paying his salary wanted to spruce up his name. Marion excepted the name “John Wayne” in 1931.
Throughout the 1930’s, Marion spent most of his time starring in less well-known films, and trying to learn more about his roles with stuntmen and real-life cowboys. He learned about language, on screen “fist-fighting”, and started to walk and talk like a cowboy. John Ford gave Marion his big break in 1939, and Marion gained a role as The Ringo Kid in the classic film, “Stagecoach”. This movie turned John Wayne into a star, and earned Ford an Academy Award nomination for best director.
In the 1940’s and 50’s, John Wayne developed more skills to help become a better actor. He was an important figure in the Western and War movie landscape, and helped shape Westerns into something new. He also toured the world and entertained tirelessly for the USO. USO stands for the United Service Organizations. The USO is a non-profit organization that provides services and live entertainment for United States troops and their families.
During this time, the Duke was also raising his family. He was currently married to his first wife, Josephine, and taking care of his four children Michael, Toni, Patrick, and Melinda. In the 1960’s and 70’s, John started acting in romantic comedies, police dramas, and historical dramas. He also earned three Academy Awards, and finally won an award for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit.” His final on-screen performance was in 1976’s “The Shootist,” playing a gunman who was struck with cancer.
Throughout his life, John Wayne was married three times, to Josephine Wayne from 1933 to 1945, Esperanza Baur from 1946 to 1954, and Pilar Pallete from 1954 to 1979. He had seven children overall, four with Josephine, and three with Pilar Pallete. John enjoyed his time with his kids, and five of them are still alive today.
Along the way, John Wayne was struck with lung cancer himself, in 1964. The lung cancer saw him lose a lung, several ribs, and a couple of divorces before he married Pilar Pallete in 1954, and had three more children Ethan, Marissa, and Aissa. The Duke increased his speaking about national issues, and played a central role in helping to get the United States Senate to ratify the Panama Canal Treaties in 1977.
In 1979, John Wayne was struck with stomach cancer, and died at the age of seventy-two. After his death, John Wayne was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Most people think that his greatest legacy was his dying wish, which was for his family and supporters use his name to help doctors fight cancer.In 1985, his wish came true, and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation was created to help cancer patients and their families fight to stop cancer for good. Over his acting career, John Wayne was in nearly 250 movies, including; “The Searchers,” “True Grit,” “Stagecoach,” “The Quiet Man,” “Rio Bravo,” “The Shootist,” “McLintock!,” “The Cowboys,” “The Alamo,” “Red River,” “El Dorado,” “Big Jake,” “The Green Berets,” and many more. These movies are still enjoyed today, and his legacy is still alive and well, even though he is gone.