John Wayne (Marion Mitchell Morrison), 1907 - 1979

portrait of John Wayne
From The Shootist (1979)

Born: 26 May 1907, Winterset, Iowa
Died: 11 June 1979, Los Angeles, California

Born Marion Robert Morrison, his parents decided to name their next son Robert and changed his middle name to Mitchell. To complicate things, a publicist's error later gave his "real name" as Marion Michael Morrison, and most biographical information used that until his unfinished autobiography was discovered. Small and shy, the bullies teased him about the name Marion. His Airedale followed him to school, but as dogs weren't allowed at school he left "Duke" at a local fire station. The fire fighters had trouble remembering his name, so he became "Little Duke" and the large dog was "Big Duke". He attended Wilson Middle School at Glendale, then Glendale High School and the University of Southern California where he majored in pre-law. A surfing accident ended his football playing, which ended his scholarship. Tom Mix had gotten him a job in the Fox prop department in exchange for football tickets, giving him an entry to gaining some bit parts under director John Ford. He appeared as a football player with his former teammates in four films early in his career. In 1930 he appeared in The Big Trail and the studio settled on John Wayne for the credits. He appeared in minor roles in about eighty westerns. During this time Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, accused Wayne of taking a pass at Cohn's girlfriend and told executives at other studios that Wayne was a womanizer, troublemaker, and showed up for work drunk. Wayne never accepted another role from Columbia, even when the studio bought a script specifically for Wayne to star in years later. His breakout role came when Ford cast him in Stagecoach in 1939. From that until The Shootist in 1976 he played the lead in about 140 films. There is some dispute about his lack of service in World War II; the studio opposed his entering the service, but he did tour to appear for the troops and did some undercover work for the OSS. Having been a heavy smoker throughout his adult life, he lost his left lung to cancer in 1964, requiring him to avoid exertion in his roles. The studio tried to hush it up. Cancer returned, this time to his stomach, and he died at UCLA Medical Center. He wanted his epitaph to read "Feo, Fuente y Formal", Spanish for "ugly, strong, and dignified", but his family left the grave unmarked for twenty years and then used a quote from his 1971 Playboy interview instead.

Biography from Wikipedia and IMDB

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