Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Legends: John Wayne "The Duke"

No one could cowboy up like the Duke himself, Mr. John Wayne. The man became an icon, a larger than life individual. Appearing in well over 150 movies and television shows. An Acadamy Award winner. Before there was Clint Eastwood and spaghetti westerns, there was John Wayne.

Marion Mitchell Morrison (Born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26th, 1907 and passed away June 11, 1979) Better known by his stage name, John Wayne. He was an American film actor, director and producer. An Academy Award winner, Wayne was a box office draw for three decades, and was named the all-time top money making star. 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 in Winterset, Iowa but his family relocated to the greater Los Angeles area when he was four years old. He found work at local film studios when he lost his football scholarship to USC as a result of a body surfing accident. Initially working for the Fox Film Corporation, he mostly appeared in small bit parts. His acting breakthrough came in 1939 with John Ford’s “Stagecoach”, making him an instant star. Wayne would go on to star in 142 pictures, primarily typecast in Western films.

Among his best known films are The Quiet Man (1952), which follows him as an Irish-American boxer and his love affair with a fiery spinster played by Maureen O’Hara; The Searchers (1956), in which he plays a Civil War veteran who seeks out his abducted niece; Rio Bravo (1959), playing a Sheriff with Dean Martin, True Grit (1969), playing a humorous U.S. Marshal who sets out to avenge a man's death in the role that won Wayne an Academy Award; and The Cowboys, Rooster Cogburn, Chism and the 1976 film, The Shootist, his final screen performance in which he plays an aging gunslinger battling cancer. (Also co-starring Ron Howard)


Wayne moved to Orange Country, California in the 1960s, and was a prominent republican in Hollywood, supporting anti-communist positions. He died of stomach cancer in 1979. In June 1999, the American Film Institute named Wayne 13th among the Greatest Male Screen Legends of All-Time.

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.


As a teen, Wayne worked in an ice cream shop for a man who shod horses for Hollywood studios. He was also active as a member of the Order of DeMolay, a youth organization associated with the Freemasons. He attended Wilson Middle School in Glendale. He played football for the 1924 champion Glendale High School team.

Wayne applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, but was not accepted. He instead attended the University of Southern California (USC), majoring in pre-law. He was a member of the Trojan Knights and Sigma Chi fraternities. Wayne also played on the USC football team under coach Howard Jones. An injury curtailed his athletic career; Wayne later noted he was too terrified of Jones's reaction to reveal the actual cause of his injury, which was body surfing at the “wedge” at the tip of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. He lost his athletic scholarship and, without funds, had to leave the university.


Wayne began working at the local film studios. Prolific silent western film star Tom Mix had found him a summer job in the prop department in exchange for football tickets. Wayne soon moved on to bit parts, establishing a longtime friendship with the director who provided most of those roles, John Ford. Early in this period, Wayne appeared with his USC teammates playing football in Brown Of Harvard (1926), The Dropkick (1927), and Salute (1929) and Columbia’s Maker Of Men (filmed in 1930, released in 1931).

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 saw him moving studio furniture while working as a prop boy and 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.


The Big Trail was to be the first big-budget outdoor spectacle of the sound era, made at a staggering cost of over $2 million, using hundreds of extras and wide vistas of the American southwest, still largely unpopulated at the time. To take advantage of the breathtaking scenery, it was filmed in two versions, a standard 35mm version and another in the new to mm Grandeur film process using innovative camera and lenses. Many in the audience who saw it in Grandeur stood and cheered. Unfortunately, only a handful of theaters were equipped to show the film in its widescreen process, and the effort was largely wasted. The film was considered a huge flop.


After the commercial failure of The Big Trail, Wayne was relegated to small roles in A-pictures, including Columbia's The Deceiver (1931), in which he played a corpse. He appeared in the serial The Three Musketeers (1933), an updated version of the Alexander Dumas novel in which the protagonists were soldiers in the French Foreign Legion in then-contemporary North Africa. He appeared in many low-budget “poverty row” westerns, mostly at Monogram Pictures and serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. 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 Musketeers 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.

America's entry into World War II resulted in a deluge of support for the war effort from all sectors of society, and Hollywood was no exception. Wayne was exempted from service due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status, classified as 3-A (family deferment). He repeatedly wrote to John Ford, asking to be placed in Ford's military unit, but consistently postponed it until "after he finished one more film", Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Studios was emphatically resistant to losing him; Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract and Republic Pictures intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne's further deferment.


Wayne toured U.S. bases and hospitals in the South Pacific for three months in 1943 and 1944. By many accounts, Wayne's failure to serve in the military was the most painful experience of his life. His widow later suggested that his patriotism in later decades sprang from guilt, writing: "He would become a 'super-patriot' for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home."



Wayne's first color film was Shepherd of the Hills (1941), in which he co-starred with his longtime friend Harry Carey. The following year, he appeared in his only film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, the Technicolor epic Reap the Wild Wind (1942), in which he co-starred with Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard; it was one of the rare times he played a character with questionable values. He would appear in more than twenty of John Ford's films throughout the next two decades, including She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), The Wings of Eagles (1957), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. One of Wayne's most popular roles was in The High And the Mighty (1954), directed by William Wellman, and based on a novel by Ernest K. Gann.

John Wayne won a Best Actor Oscar for True Grit (1969). Wayne was also nominated as the producer of Best Picture for The Alamo (1960), one of two films he directed. The other was The Green Berets (1968), the only major film made during the Vietnam War to support the war. During the filming of Green Berets, the Degar or Montagnard people of Vietnam's Central Highlands, fierce fighters against communism, bestowed on Wayne a brass bracelet that he wore in the film and all subsequent films.

An interview Wayne gave in 1971 to Playboy magazine became a hot topic, as Wayne made headlines for controversial remarks about social issues and race relations in the United States. His comments about the perceived lack of leadership experience among black people and inequities of the past made headlines.

His last film was The Shootist (1976), whose main character, J. B. Books, was dying of cancer - the illness to which Wayne himself succumbed three years later. According to the Internet Movie Database, Wayne played the lead in 142 of his film appearances.


In later years, Wayne was recognized as a sort of American natural resource, and his various critics, of his performances and his politics, viewed him with more respect. Abbie Hoffman, the radical of the 1960s, paid tribute to Wayne's singularity, saying, "I like Wayne's wholeness, his style. As for his politics, well - I suppose even cavemen felt a little admiration for the dinosaurs that were trying to gobble them up." Reviewing The Cowboys (1972), Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who did not particularly care for the film, wrote: "Wayne is, of course, marvelously indestructible, and he has become an almost perfect father figure."

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).


His stormiest divorce was from Esperanza Baur, a former Mexican actress. She convinced herself that Wayne and co-star Gail Russell were having an affair. The night the film Angel And The Bad Man (1947) wrapped, there was the usual party for cast and crew, and Wayne came home very late. Esperanza was in a drunken rage by the time he arrived, and she attempted to shoot him as he walked through the front door.

Wayne had several high-profile affairs, including one with Marlene Dietrich that lasted for three years. In the years prior to his death, Wayne was romantically involved with his former secretary Pat Stacy (1941–1995). She published a biography of her life with him entitled “Dike: A Love Story in 1983. Wayne's hair began thinning in the 1940s, and he started wearing a hairpiece by the end of that decade. He was occasionally seen in public without the hairpiece (notably, according to Life magazine, at Gary Cooper's funeral). During a widely noted appearance at Harvard University, Wayne was asked by a student, "Where did you get that phony hair?" He responded, "It's not phony. It's real hair. Of course, it's not mine, but it's real."

A close friend of Wayne's, California Congressman Alphonzo Bell, wrote of him, "Duke's personality and sense of humor were very close to what the general public saw on the big screen. It is perhaps best shown in these words he had engraved on a plaque: 'Each of us is a mixture of some good and some not so good qualities. In considering one's fellow man it's important to remember the good things ... We should refrain from making judgments just because a fella happens to be a dirty, rotten SOB.'"


Wayne biographer Michael Munn chronicled Wayne's drinking habits. According to Sam O’Steen’s memoir, Cut To The Chase, studio directors knew to shoot Wayne's scenes before noon, because by afternoon he "was a mean drunk". He had been a chain-smoker of cigarettes since young adulthood and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964. He underwent successful surgery to remove his entire left lung and four ribs. Despite efforts by his business associates to prevent him from going public with his illness for fear that it would cost him work, Wayne announced he had cancer and called on the public to get preventive examinations. Five years later, Wayne was declared cancer-free. Despite the fact that his diminished lung capacity left him incapable of prolonged exertion and frequently in need of supplemental oxygen, within a few years of his operation he chewed tobacco and began smoking cigars until the day he died.

Wayne rose beyond the typical recognition for a famous actor to that of an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals. By the middle of his career, Wayne had developed a larger-than-life image, and as his career progressed, he selected roles that would not compromise his off-screen image. By the time of his last film The Shootist (1976), Wayne refused to allow his character to shoot a man in the back as was originally scripted, saying "I've made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it."

Wayne's rise to being the quintessential movie war hero began to take shape four years after World War II, when Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949) was released. His footprints at Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood were laid in concrete that contained sand from Iwo Jima. His status grew so large and legendary that when Japanese Emperor Hirohito visited the United States in 1975, he asked to meet John Wayne, the symbolic representation of his country's former enemy.


Wayne was a popular visitor to the war zones in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. By the 1950s, perhaps in large part due to the military aspect of films such as the Sands of Iwo Jima, Flying Tigers, They Were Expendable, and the Ford cavalry trilogy, Wayne had become an icon to all the branches of the United States Armed Forces, even in light of his actual lack of military service. Many veterans have said their reason for serving was in some part related to watching Wayne's movies. His name is attached to various pieces of gear, such as the P-38 "John Wayne" can opener, so named because "it can do anything", paper towels known as "John Wayne toilet paper" because "it's rough and it's tough and don't take shit off no one," and C-ration crackers are called "John Wayne crackers" because presumably only someone as tough as Wayne could eat them. A rough and rocky mountain pass used by military tanks and jeeps at Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County, California, is aptly named "John Wayne Pass".


Wayne is the only actor to appear in every edition of the annual Harris Poll of Most Popular Film Actors, and the only deceased actor to appear on the list after his death. Wayne has been in the top ten in this poll for 19 consecutive years, starting 15 years after his death in 1979.
 

Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne

This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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