When It comes to iconic cowboy figures, the Hollywood legend that is John Wayne symbolizes American values and masculinity. But while John Wayne was an inspiration to generations of boys and American men, there is a side to John Wayne that few people knew. A soft side.
Recognized far and wide as a Hollywood heartthrob, John Wayne reminded the world what a gentleman looks like and gave a face to chivalry in the mid-1900s when people were changing and rebelling against societal norms.
If you’ve always loved John Wayne, once you hear about his humble beginnings and his unwavering faith in God, you might find your love for him grows even more…
Marion Robert Morrison who was later known as “Duke” and “John Wayne” was born in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907. He was a gigantic 13-pound baby and was larger than life right from the start.
When a group of local fireman saw his with his huge Airedale Terrier, “Duke”, they started calling him “Little Duke”, which he much preferred to his girly birthname Marion.
John Wayne’s father was a rich pharmacist who finally got his business in order after several failed starts. But after too much hardship, the family gave up Iowa and moved to Glendale, California where John Wayne lived since 1914. He found odd jobs and even became a horseshoe boy for Hollywood Studios.
Duke was a hard-worker, a diligent student, and a star athlete. He excelled at everything he did. But nothing spoke to him like trying to be someone else, so he joined the school’s theatrical productions.
He was rejected from the U.S. Naval Academy, but since he was a football star, he was accepted on scholarship to the University of Southern California where he studied pre-law.
But his true love was acting. So, during his studies, he worked at Fox Studio in Los Angeles, starting from the bottom as a prop boy and laborer. He appeared as a film extra in Brown of Harvard (1926) and Drop Kick (1927).
Standing at six four, he was taller than the rest and better looking. Finally, he received his first film credit as Duke Morrison in the late 1920s.
Then tragedy struck. Duke got in an accident and his football career was over. He lost his scholarship and was too poor to pay, he left the school.
But that embarrassing bodysurfing incident would turn out to be a miracle from God, because he led him to stardom.
Finally, in 1930, Duke received his first leading role in The Big Trail, thanks to long-time friend director Raoul Walsh. And that’s when he was first called “John Wayne”, and wasn’t even present for the naming which a Fox Studios chief decided with the help of Walsh.
Wayne was often quoted saying, “You can take everything a man has as long as you leave him his dignity.”
For a decade, Wayne worked numerous B movies, including many westerns.
It took nine years before John Wayne got his next big break in Stagecoach (1939). Everyone considered the movie an amazing success, and shot John Wayne into the spotlight. The film went on to earn seven Academy Award nominations and John Wayne’s life was changed forever.
Biographer Ronald Davis once said, “John Wayne personified for millions the nation’s frontier heritage. Eighty-three of his movies were Westerns, and in them he played cowboys, cavalrymen, and unconquerable loners extracted from the Republic’s central creation myth.”
Because he worked hard and trusted that God would provide for him, he kept moving forward in the hard times and became an American icon.
John Wayne often told his children, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid… There are some things a man just can’t run away from. A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by.”
37-years after his death, in light of the surprise election results John Wayne’s grandson encouraged everyone who is upset, “My grandfather was a fighter. I think there would be a lot of things he’d be disappointed and saddened over. But I don’t think he would lose hope. I think he would look at the current time as a moment of faith. People are in crisis, and they’re looking for something more meaningful, more real.
“So, I think he would look at the situation and say, ‘Don’t get discouraged!’ I think he would say, ‘Get involved. Don’t go hiding in a shell and getting on the defensive from Hollywood. Get involved and be an agent for the good.’ I think he would do that. That’s what he did in his time.”
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