Marion Mitchell Morrison, known professionally as John Wayne and nicknamed “The Duke,” was an American actor and filmmaker. An Academy Award winner for “True Grit”, Wayne was among the top box office draws for three decades. Take a look below for 30 more awesome and interesting facts about John Wayne.
1. Born in Winterset, Iowa, Wayne grew up in Southern California.
2. He was president of Glendale High class of 1925.
3. He found work at local film studios when he lost his football scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of a bodysurfing accident.
4. Initially working for the Fox Film Corporation, he appeared mostly in small bit parts.
5. His first leading role came in Raoul Walsh’s widescreen epic The Big Trail, which led to leading roles in many B movies throughout the 1930s, most of them in the Western genre.
6. Wayne’s career took off in 1939, with John Ford’s “Stagecoach” making him an instant star.
7. He went on to star in 142 motion pictures altogether, including the dozens with his name above the title produced before 1939.
8. His father was a pharmacist while his grandfather was a veteran of the American Civil War.
9. His family moved around in his childhood and finally settled down in Glendale, California.
10. Wayne studied at the Wilson Middle School, located in Glendale, and was also involved with the Order of DeMolay, an off shoot of the Freemasons.
11. He had always wanted to serve the U.S. Navy, but was rejected by the U.S. Naval Academy so he took up a sporting scholarship to the University of Southern California in 1925.
12. After leaving the University of South California, his coach at the university, Howard Jones, called in a favor and got him the job of an extra with the help of actor Tom Mix.
13. Wayne acted in plenty of movies as an extra and also as a football playing extra.
14. After appearing in some minor roles in movies and television shows throughout the 1930s, Wayne got his big break in the movie “Stagecoach“, released in 1939.
15. Wayne always preferred his childhood name, “Duke Morrison,” to his eventual stage name.
16. One of Wayne’s first post-school jobs was saddling furniture as a prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927.
17. As a lifelong chess enthusiast, Wayne had a star-studded list of chess partners: Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum.
18. Wayne was the first person to publicly refer to cancer as “The Big C.” He came up with the idiom to make his struggle with the illness less “scary” to studio executives in the early 1960s.
19. In his first battle with cancer, Wayne lost a rib and half of one lung, and still managed to hold a press conference in his own living room shortly after in order to maintain his strong public image.
20. Wayne famously walked away from the lead role in “High Noon” because he felt the movie was an allegory against blacklisting, an activity which, as a staunch conservative, Wayne sup;ported.
21. Wayne’s guilt over not serving in World War II haunted him for life. Although many of his Hollywood peers volunteered to fight, Wayne himself didn’t make particularly great efforts to change his own draft exemption.
22. He rejected the starring role in “All the King’s Men” because he thought that the script was un-American.
23. Despite a long and critically acclaimed career, Wayne was only nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars twice: once for Sands of Iwo Jima, then winning 20 years later for True Grit.
24. He was fluent in Spanish and all of wives were of Latin descent.
25. Towards the end of the 1940s, Wayne’s hair began to thin, so he started wearing hairpieces.
26. He was a registered Freemason, ranking as a Master Mason in Marion McDaniel Lodge No. 56 F&AM, in Tucson, Arizona.
27. Because of Wayne’s star power and conservative views, Republican party backers frequently approached Wayne about trying his luck at public office.
28. For the first time ever, Wayne got hate mail from Republicans after he sided with President Jimmy Carter and the Democrats over the Panama Canal.
29. Contrary to much of what he did and say in his later life, Wayne identified as a Socialist during his college days as the University of Southern California.
30. Wayne converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his death by stomach cancer at the age of 72.