THE One and Only John Wayne
ANYONE who has ever watched a Hollywood film made from 1929 and on has seen this legendary character and icon perform and his talents showcased at one time or another. DO you recognize him? Hey isn't that the picture of "The Duke" John Wayne? Yep pardner it is! Whether your favorite type of movie is a romantic comedy, or its about gangsters, oil barons, firefighters, real western, action, adventure, spy, or somber character, or evil genius, or sports figure doing more than one football film, (I would have loved to see him do a hockey or baseball movie), you could rely on Mr John Wayne. Heck he even played a corpse in "The Deceiver" in 1931 as he was just then becoming a public figure. Only including the movies where he starred as the male lead actor encompasses 142 movies according to the Internet Database. Never mind that, how about the many films he did where he was just a character in the movie, (The Big Trail or The 3 Musketeers) to name but two, but there were many others also so that whenever you seen that tall, strong jawed icon in a movie, you could recognize him, no problem. His voice, his walk, his talk were all quite unique. Even yet today when watching the old odd black and white film, whether in a 16-32-35mm. format or on Cinemax and BluRay there he is; the Duke large as life, deep set eyes, manneurisms and a smile or a smirk that melted male and female hearts all over the world and made each and every man somewhat envious. His final film made in 1976 in a weird twist of fate, a western, in which he directed and played a gunslinger dying of stomach cancer was our final farewell to this legendary man. IN real life this very disease, stomach cancer is what killed this giant among men in June1979.
Born in May 1907 as Marion Mitchell Morrison, in the town of Winterset Iowa it is said he grew up like most kids did and worked in the folks' ice cream shop, for his dad a Scottish immigrant a struggling pharmacist. He had an old hound named Duke also and locals nicknamed him Little Duke instead of Marion. Wikipedia does a good biography on the Duke so for what is not covered here, its a must read. For me I'm a sports nut, so I started liking this tall drink of water when I first heard he had played football for USC (the University of Southern California) no less, when I was 7 yeasr old at the time, but the real interest lies in what he was to become a true legend of stage and screen. Did you know Hollywood itself rates him in the top 10 male actors ever to be in films? Popularity polls put him in the top 5 for over 40 years now, alongside Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, in that category too. Today there are still John Wayne trivia questions used on game shows everywhere in regards to his movies, life memorabilia, his quotes, his views on Communism, racism, patriotism and politics. Did you know this man even owned an Island in Panama called Taborcillo a major tourist attraction in its own right. His billboard with him on it is still there today. No other male leads from same or ensuing generation to come, not even Rock Hudson, Randall Scott or Clint Eastwood can compare with numbers like that yet...
John Wayne actor, producer, director won Academy Awards, and practically every other human Hollywood based or produced award and thanks you could mention. He was even praised by Abbie Hoffman a true cynic, a time or two. Sought ought by presidential candidates like Reagan, Nixon, and J.F.Kennedy whom he openly admitted to NOT voting for, dignitaries everywhere, world wide like Stalin (who wanted the Duke killed), to Kruschev, and the Pope to name but a few, loved this man and were loyal fans to the legend who spoke from his heart to friend, ally or foe. Also, can you think of any other Hollywood actor that 31 years after his death, still has streets, trophies, awards, t-shirts, prizes, and honors given in his name yet continously? You name it, there is a John Wayne variety available somewhere, (do a Google search sometime, it is mind blowing to say the least) including the John Wayne tool (look it up) used by marines everywhere, a type of can opener really called the P-38. I do not think I exaggerate when I say this; his life career and death accolades would fill more than one arena today. Recognized as one of the greats while alive, post humously there are still John Wayne ashtrays, statues, school awards, jewelry, scholarships, even clocks available world wide yet for us to enjoy JW today. To say he helped make Hollywood and the USA what it is today would be a grave under statement.
Did he never fail at anything you might ask after all the hype? Unfortunately he did several times. Pre-acting, this rugged giant missed the mark at times most noticeably at school where he majored in law and played football. Injured in football bad enough to curtail his career, he lost his athletic scholarship, and due to a lack of funds and support was forced to quit school. He then tried to enrol in the U.S Naval Academy where he was flat out rejected. But academia's loss soon became Hollywood and western movie lovers gain. Soon after leaving school he got a few jobs working, then getting fired often without results, until silent film actor Tom Mix supposedly got Wayne a summer job in the prop department at a local movie studio. During this time he tried out for a few roles (that were rewarded on the cutting room floor) somewhere. Ever hear of the movie "Words and Music"? But in spite of his inept failures he soon met a director, friend and mentor named John Ford, a real Hollywood icon in his own right. But that wasn't the be all end all for our hero. His very first movie as the leading man "The Big Trail" playing a character named Brett Coleman was met with harsh criticisms and mixed reviews and is yet classified as a bomb in movie making circles. Enough to break almost anone's spirit, it put John Wayne down to a two bit part actor, but stubbornly he kept at it and persevered in what I have read now were about 80 of these "horse operas" films playing lesser parts, until he finally got his first big breakthrough movie in 1939, called "StageCoach" directed by the same John Ford whom had befriended him years before that.
As for his personal life away from Hollywood, the man struggled like most of us do. He was married 3 times, divorced twice, fathered 7 kids, had a few well recorded affairs with other starlets but he always chose a Latina spouse along the way. His first wife, whom he married as a struggling actor was named Josephine Saenz. Together they had 4 kids, a son Patrick a proven celebrated actor in his own right who followed in his dad's footsteps, Maria, Michael (his oldest) and Melinda. Upon divorcing her he met, wooed and married Esparanza Baur whom allegedly tried to shoot him when she heard he was having an affair onset. Maybe its good he had no kids on record with that firey lady. His third wife a few years later was the effervescent Pilar Palette the actress better known as Pilar Wayne. A Latina beauty who became his 3rd. wife and constant life companion from 1954 until his death in 1979 and blessed him with 3 more kids. They are Aissa, another actress turned attorney, John Ethan an actor yet today carrying on the Wayne name, as is their youngest Marissa, whom would you believe it, is a struggling actress too? Word now has it some of his grandkids too will carry on the tradition, something that only time will tell.
Said to be by some a loser, a bigamist, failure, a drunk, a racist, or a prima donna, to others this prince among men, star, and legend, there will never be enough writing, print, prose, poetry or pictures to ever sum up this man's vast global achievements. Take his post humously given Congressional Medal of Honor awarded by the United States Congress. This award put forward by Maureen Ohara, and supported by presidents, actors, actresses, military people, senators, and judges testified on the Duke's behalf as to his patriotism, character, and decency and worked hard to see this award given to the man so deserving for all he had given and done. AS the US Mint medal says appropriately says "John Wayne American" on one side, while the other side is John Wayne sitting on a horse. He later received another medal from the US Government. On June 9, 1980 came the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" given to the Wayne family, presented by President Jimmy Carter. As an individual Mr. Wayne had received the two highest awards an American civilian could possibly ever receive.
Well liked, well loved, a true national treasure may he always be remembered alongside all the other greats who have left us, some way too early and far too tragic. For me, John Wayne was, is and forever will be the ultimate reason to watch any and all movies. They just don't make them like the Duke anymore, so go watch a John Wayne movie will ya? Then maybe you will understand my passion for this wonderful, talented actor because I find his movies he acted in, produced or directed can stand by themselves, Happy Trails ya all.