“A man's got to do what a man's got to do.” Ain't that the truth? And who is going to argue with one and only John Wayne about it?
If there was any doubt about who was America's greatest cowboy actor of them all, Wayne cast it out with sheer hard work and tenacity. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for one of Hollywood's most famous leading men. Wayne took years to make an impact in Tinseltown, first slaving away behind the scenes before he received his first break.
That first break didn't amount to much, as the A-grade movie in which he starred quickly bombed, leading to Fox Studios dropping Wayne like a hot six-shooter. What followed was a decade in the B-grade wilderness, starring in the movies that no one really wanted to see and ones that certainly weren't going to get him noticed.
Another break followed as his friend John Ford signed him up in 1939, giving Wayne another leading man role but in an A-grade movie. And the rest, as they say, is history. But there is a lot about John Wayne you might not know. This complex man wasn't just the slow-talking, slow-walking cowboy you saw on screen
So let's test your knowledge about a man who starred in 175 movies!
Marion Robert Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907. It was Fox Studio that gave him the name of John Wayne with the surname taken from a general in the Revolutionary War, Anthony Wayne.
There is no telling how far John Wayne would have gone as an American football star. His prowess at the sport had secured him a spot at the University of Southern California but a shoulder injury while body surfing ended his career. Wayne lost his scholarship and dropped out of school.
When he left college, John Wayne started working on movie sets in Hollywood. He began in the prop department where he helped saddle horses. Wayne worked for Fox studios at the time
John Wayne loved chess and would play at every opportunity. And he chose some interesting opponents, including Marlene Dietrich, Robert Mitchum and Rock Hudson.
Hollywood referred to John Wayne as either "Duke" or "The Duke". Wayne had used Duke as his name even before he became famous in Hollywood. In fact, he preferred it to his first name, Marion.
Released in 1930, "The Big Trail" was directed by Raoul Walsh and gave John Wayne his first leading role, which was originally offered to Gary Cooper. Set on the Oregon Trail, it is one of the movies selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Released in 1962, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" was directed by John Wayne's long-time friend, John Ford. Wayne starred with James Stewart with the movie making over $7 million in the United States alone.
Cancer would ultimately cost John Wayne his life in 1979. Then it was stomach cancer, but Wayne's first bout with the dreaded disease was in 1964. Wayne lost a lung as a result.
John Wayne was offered the lead role in "High Noon" but flatly refused it. He later called the movie, "the most un-American thing I have seen in my whole life!"
Released in 1939, "Stagecoach" took John Wayne to leading man status after a few years in the B grade movie wilderness. Directed by John Ford, it started a long and successful partnership between Ford and Wayne.
John Wayne was nominated for three Best Actor Academy Awards. This included in 1950 for "Sands of Iwo Jima", 1961 for "The Alamo" in 1963 and "True Grit" in 1970. Wayne received an Oscar for his exceptional performance in "True Grit".
1949's "Sands of Iwo Jima" saw John Wayne nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He lost out to Broderick Crawford for his role in "All the King's Men." This role was initially offered to Wayne who turned it down, thinking the film to be un-American.
John Wayne was fluent in Spanish. In fact, Wayne married three times and all his wives were of Hispanic or Latino descent. His second wife was Mexican actress Esperanza Baur.
John Wayne, like many famous actors and politicians in America, was a freemason. He attained the rank of Master Mason and served at Tucson, Arizona at the Marion McDaniel Lodge.
John Wayne starred and directed 1968's "The Green Berets", a movie about the crack U.S. military unit set on a mission in Vietnam. It starred his son Patrick as well as George Takei of "Star Trek" fame.
Another John Ford-directed John Wayne movie, "The Horse Soldiers" is set in the American Civil War. It also stars Will Holden and Constance Towers. John Wayne was paid $775,000 and 20% of profits for his role. Many consider this to be the first Hollywood mega-acting deal.
Virtually a chain smoker, John Wayne would smoke up to five packs of cigarettes each day. Wayne knew that his smoking was the cause of lung cancer in 1964, which saw him forced to have one lung removed.
When John Wayne first contracted lung cancer in 1964, he was told not to disclose it to the public as it would affect his image. Wayne refused, calling a press conference at his home just two days after losing a lung and a rib to the disease. It was here that the term 'Big C' was first used by the actor.
John Wayne seemed destined to be a B-grade movie star. From his first movie till "Stagecoach" in 1939, he appeared in 50 B-grade films, most produced on what was known as "Poverty Row" in Hollywood, a place where the low-budget studios were situated.
John Wayne threw his enormous influence behind many things, including the Republican Party from time to time, especially Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater. He was a staunch supporter of American forces in Vietnam and was passionately anti-communist.
John Wayne was a massive fan of Winston Churchill, the two-time prime minister of Great Britain. In fact, Wayne could quote many of Churchill's famous speeches verbatim.
John Wayne did not serve in the U.S. military during World War II, although many Hollywood stars did. Wayne was the only A-grade actor that Republic Studio had and they were reluctant to let him off overseas. Wayne recounted that not serving was something that disappointed him for the rest of his life.
John Wayne was married three times during his lifetime. He also had numerous affairs. It is rumored that the one with Marlene Dietrich lasted for three years..
Interestingly, John Wayne was an incredibly superstitious person. His pet hates included people leaving their hats on a bed or at dinner when someone passed him the salt directly. Strange ...
Rumor has it that Joseph Stalin, the then-leader of the Soviet Union wanted John Wayne killed because of his anti-communism stance. Stalin went as far as to order KGB agents to carry out the orders. Clearly, they didn't succeed.
John Wayne appeared on "I Love Lucy" with Lucille Ball on a few occasions. The two were friends who met when Wayne was having an affair with Ball's roommate, Maureen O'Hara. .
The Congressional Gold Medal, awarded to John Wayne in 1979, was one of two accolades from the United States government. The second, awarded to him posthumously, was the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
Although John Wayne described the phrase as having meant "ugly, strong and dignified" the final word when translated from Spanish is more "formal" or "reliable". Still a great word to describe Wayne, however.
John Wayne was a Protestant for most of his life. He was influenced by Roman Catholicism due to the fact that all three of his wives were Catholic and his children were raised in the religion as well. Wayne became a Catholic before he died.
John Wayne's film career spanned almost 50 years and so the ravages of time began to take their toll toward the end of it. As his hair began to thin, Wayne used a hairpiece while acting. He didn't always wear it in public, however.
In 1971, John Wayne sat down with Playboy magazine for an interview which became quite controversial. Why? Well, Wayne expressed his conservative views with regard to race, native Americans and numerous other subjects.
Interestingly, after 9/11, "America: Why I Love Her" was re-released and again became a top seller. Set to the accompaniment of strings, "America: Why I Love Her" saw Wayne reading patriotic speeches he had written.
John Wayne made a one-off appearance in the 1960's TV show, "The Beverly Hillbillies". And his payment? Wayne just asked to be paid with a fifth of bourbon
Directed by John Ford (a long time John Wayne collaborator) and Henry Hathaway, "How the West Was Won" was released in 1962. Alongside Wayne, the movie stars Gregory Peck and James Stewart. It won three Academy Awards.
One of only two movies John Wayne ever directed (the other was "The Green Berets"), "The Alamo" tells the story of Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie as they defend the Alamo from the Mexican forces of General Santa Anna. Wayne was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award for his efforts but didn't win.