JOHN WAYNE Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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(1907-1979), actor. Born Marion Michael Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, Wayne moved with his family to southern California in 1913. It was here that he acquired the nickname “Duke.” In 1925, he entered the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. His coach arranged summer jobs for several of the players at Fox Film Studios, among them Duke Morrison. “My wages were thirty-five dollars a week,” he later recalled. “My job was to lug furniture and props around.”


His screen debut, as an unbilled stunt man in Brown of Harvard, came in 1926. The following summer, he and his teammate Ward Bond appeared in The Drop Kick. But it was in his capacity as a prop man at Fox that he first attracted the attention of John Ford. Beginning with Mother Machree (1928), Ford directed him in fourteen films over the years, including Stagecoach (1939), The Long Voyage (1940), The Quiet Man (1952), and The Searchers (1956). A father-son relationship developed between them that endured until Ford’s death in 1973.


In 1930, another Fox director, Raoul Walsh, was casting The Big Trail. When Gary Cooper refused the leading role, Ford suggested his protégé. “To be a cowboy star,” Walsh contended, “you’ve got to be six-foot-three or over, have no hips, and a face that looks right under a sombrero.” Another stipulation was a “manly” name, and for The Big Trail, Marion Michael Morrison was given the nom-de-film John Wayne.


The Big Trail launched Wayne as a leading man, but Fox did not renew his contract. For the next nine years, he toiled in a long succession of B-movies. In a 1932 serial, Singing Sandy, Wayne achieved a dubious distinction–he became Hollywood’s first singing cowboy. But Stagecoach rescued his career. It was, he later said, “my passport to fame.”