During his fifty-year career, John Wayne, “the Duke,” was a top box office draw for three decades. He appeared in almost 200 movies and television shows and won the Academy Award for “True Grit” in 1970. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 and was voted 13th (out of 100) among the Greatest Male Screen Legends of Hollywood.
But these honors did not come easily. In his younger days, a broken collarbone curtailed his sports career and led to him losing his scholarship and having to leave university. Subsequently, at the outbreak of WWII, he made every effort to enlist, however the movie studio threatened to sue him if he did so. According to his widow, Wayne spent the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home.
When he was in his late fifties, he had surgery that removed one lung and four ribs. Yet he still “saddled up” to do 25 more movies before retiring in 1976. And if that weren’t enough, Wayne’s second wife, apparently in a drunken rage, tried to shoot him because of jealousy. Yet, true to his quote, the Duke “saddled up” yet again and married a third time!
According to a close friend, “Duke’s personality and sense of humor in real life were very close to what the public saw on the big screen.” Perhaps it is most fitting that The John Wayne Cancer Foundation’s mission is to “bring courage, strength, and grit to the fight against cancer.”
Born exactly 116 years ago this month in south-central Iowa, Marion Morrison was an American icon who lived his entire life like the characters he portrayed on screen. On a final note, he got the name “Duke” as a youngster because he never went anywhere without his Airedale terrier by his side - whose name was Duke.