Let’s start, this time, with all of John Wayne’s accolades. The Harris Poll has conducted a survey each year, asking people to name their favorite movie star. John Wayne has been on it every year since it began in 1994, and is its only deceased star. The American Film Institute named him number 13 in its list of the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. He was also awarded both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
How did Marion Morrison make it to such a lofty reputation? He went to high school in Southern California, then played football for USC. He started getting odd jobs around the movie studios, which led to bit parts in the early 1930s, which led to a friendship with John Ford, which led to his breakthrough role in Stagecoach (1939). The film was a big hit, and Wayne went on to star in several more Ford pictures in his career, including She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
Largely due to his starring roles in Westerns and war movies, Wayne got a reputation as a “man’s man.” His most successful films during a long career include Flying Tigers (1942), They Were Expendable (1945), Fort Apache (1948), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Rio Grande (1950), Flying Leathernecks (1951), The High and the Mighty (1954), The Wings of Eagles (1957), Rio Bravo (1959), The Alamo (1960), Donovan’s Reef (1963), The Green Berets (1968), and True Grit (1969).
Wayne finally won an Oscar for his performance as “Rooster” Cogburn in True Grit. In accepting the award, he said, “Wow! If I had known, I would have put that eye patch on 35 years earlier.”
Oh, one more thing. As a kid, he had an Airedale Terrier named “Duke.” A local fireman saw the dog follow young John everywhere he went, and started calling the boy, “Young Duke.” And, as Paul Harvey said, now you know the rest of the story…