John Wayne An American Icon Essay Research

John Wayne: An American Icon Essay, Research Paper

Marion Morrison, also known as John Wayne, is perhaps one of the most popular movie personalities ever. He began as a mere stagehand, but by the end of his career he had developed himself as a very successful actor, producer, and director.

Marion Michael Morrison was born on May 26, 1907, in Winterest, Iowa. His father, Clyde, worked as a pharmacist, and John Wayne thought of his father as the ?kindest, most patient man I ever knew.? Later on in life, John Wayne?s father developed a critical lung disease. Wayne said that his mother, Mary was ?a tiny, vivacious redheaded bundle of energy.? John Wayne was nicknamed ?The Duke? after his pet as a child that was named Airedale. Early in his life, John and his parents moved to California. After graduating from high school and failing admission to Annapolis, John Wayne went to the University of Southern California (USC) and played on a football scholarship from 1925-27.

During this time, Tom Mix, a friend of John?s, got him a job as a prop man for a director by the name of John Ford. Ford and Wayne became close friends and Ford used Wayne for small parts in some of his movies. Then finally in 1930, Ford suggested to Raoul Walsh that Wayne star in The Big Trail. The film bombed, but it was a start to Wayne?s career as an actor in leading roles. Wayne?s first feature film was also in 1930. It was titled Men Without Women. After more than seventy low-budget adventures, John Ford cast Wayne in Stagecoach in 1939. This movie is where John Wayne emerged as a major star. From this point on, there was no turning back for ?The Duke.? But in 1963, Wayne began to have health problems. He had a cancerous lung removed during in 1963. Then in 1978, he had open-heart surgery. He then had his stomach removed in 1979, just before dying from lung and stomach cancer on June 11, 1979.

Throughout his career as an actor, John Wayne won a variety of different awards, achievements and accomplishments. In 1950, at the Photoplay Awards, John Wayne won his first award when he received the award for the Most Popular Male Star because of his work in the 1949 film, Sands of Iwo Jima. Also in 1950, ?The Duke? was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for Sands of Iwo Jima. In 1953, Wayne was named the World Film Favorite male actor at the Golden Globe Awards. Seven years later, John Wayne made a film called The Alamo, and in 1961 this film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Then in 1966, Wayne received the Cecil B. Demille Award at the Golden Globe Awards. ?The Duke? would go on to make one more appearance at the Golden Globes, as well as he Academy Awards in 1970. In 1970, at the Golden Globes, John Wayne won Best Motion Picture Actor in a drama for the movie True Grit. At the Academy Awards, he won Best Actor, also for True Grits. Then in the 1970?s Wayne managed to win the same award at the People?s Choice Awards for four consecutive years. Through the years of 1975-78, he won the Favorite Motion Picture Actor award. This is a lot of accomplishments for one actor. But Wayne was not just any actor though. When discussing his acting talents once, Wayne stated, ?I don?t act, I react.? Years after Wayne?s death, he is still being recognized. He was named number sixteen of the ?Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time? by Empire Magazine in October of 1997. Wayne also helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, and later became the president. Also, just one month before Wayne died, President Jimmy Carter and Congress a special medal honoring ?The Duke.?

Outside of acting, producing, and directing, John Wayne was an avid fisherman, explorer, who truly enjoyed his trips to the Pacific Northwest and Southeastern Asia. Wayne loved to play poker and liked to drink whiskey. Wayne was once quoted saying, ?I never trust a man that doesn?t drink.? Many people even saw John Wayne as quite the ladies man. ?The Duke? was married three different times in his life. His first marriage was to Josephine Saenz. They were married from 1933-1945, before they were divorced. During that time, though he had two sons: Michael Wayne I, who is now a producer, and Patrick Wayne, who is an actor. They also had two daughters together: Toni Wayne and Melinda Wayne. His second marriage was to Esperanza Bauer. They were married in 1946 and became divorced in 1954. Then later on in 1954, Wayne married his third and final wife, Pilar Palette. They were married up until John Wayne died on June 11th, in 1954. In their marriage, though, they did have three children: Aissa, John Ethan, and Marisa Wayne.

John Wayne, in his career, played in an astounding number of movies. He appeared in nearly two hundred fifty movies. He played the leading role in one hundred forty-two. Some of Wayne?s most remembered films are: Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950). After Wayne filmed She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, his director, John Ford, sent him a cake that stated ?You?re an actor now,? said Wayne to a reporter once. John Wayne wasn?t just known as an actor though. He produced and directed some of his finest films. He produced such films as: The Alamo (1960), The Fighting Kentuckian (1949), and The High and the Mighty (1954). On his directing resume were such movies as: The Green Berets (1968), The Alamo (1960), Blood Alley (1955), and The Comancheros (1961). ?The Duke?s? last role was in 1976, where he played a dying gunslinger that was just coming to terms with his legend. This movie was called The Shootist. Many people felt that this was an appropriate type of film for Wayne to retire on.

John Wayne?s work did not solely consist of films though. In 1979, ?The Duke? showed that just because he typically did western and war movies, didn?t mean he had no sense of humor. Wayne appeared on the show ?Laugh In? dressed in a pink fluffy bunny costume. He also once released a solo music/spoken album in the late 1970?s entitled ?America, Why I Love Her.? He also has done a few television commercials. In 1966, Wayne did a commercial for Ronald Reagan while he was running for the governor of California. Even today, you can still see ?The Duke? doing television commercials. Since 1999, he has appeared in a number of Coors Beer commercials. Of course, this was done through the use of computerized virtual images. But, it?s still nice to see that he still has an influence on us.

It is still very common to see ?The Duke?s? face lingering around on television. Perhaps, he paved the way for such movie stars as Clint Eastwood, who also has made a name for himself through western films. Without a doubt, there will never be anyone quite as influential and all-American as ?The Duke?. Everyone respected John Wayne. You might even say that some people were frightened by the rugged western and the war roles that he played. When our country was off fighting World War II, John Wayne was unable to be in the military because of an inner ear problem, but reports say that his movies about war kept everyone?s spirits up. He was a very patriotic man in real life, not only in film, and in my opinion, he is definitely an American icon.


Internet Movie Database. 11 Oct. 2000,+John

American Movie Classics. 10 Oct. 2000

?The Wages of Virtue.? Time Magazine 3 Mar. 1952: 64-69

Freer, Ian and Hamilton, Jake. ?The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time.? Empire

Magazine Oct. 1997: 190

Nardo, John. John Wayne. Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.



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