John Wayne, pseudonym of Marion Robert Morrison (Winterset, May 26, 1907 – Los Angeles, June 11, 1979), was an American actor. Nicknamed Duke, he began his career in silent cinema in the 1920s, becoming one of the most popular stars of world cinema between the 1940s and 1970s, especially for his roles in westerns and war films.
Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, with the name Marion Robert Morrison. His father, Clyde Leonard Morrison (1884-1937), was the son of Civil War veteran Marion Mitchell Morrison (1845-1915). His mother, Mary Alberta Brown (1885-1970), was a homemaker. Wayne had an older brother, Robert, and a younger sister, Mary.
Wayne grew up in Glendale, California. As a boy, he was a fan of sports, especially American football. In 1925, he enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he played on the football team. In 1926, he was noticed by a film agent and began his acting career.
Wayne began with small parts in silent films, but his career took off in the 1930s, when he began acting in Westerns. Wayne became one of the most popular Western actors of all time, and played some of the genre’s most iconic characters, including John Wayne in The Plainsman (1936), Ringo Kid in Shadowfell (1939), and Ethan Edwards in The Wild Ones (1956).
In the 1940s, Wayne also began acting in war films. His most famous role in this genre was that of Colonel John T. “Mad Dog” Mallory in Iwo Jima, Desert Fire (1945). Wayne’s other successful Western films of the 1940s include Red River (1948) and Valley of Vengeance (1949).
In the 1950s, Wayne continued to star in westerns and war films. Some of his most memorable performances from this period include those of Hondo Lane in Hondo (1953), Ethan Edwards in The Wild (1956), and Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969).
In the 1960s, Wayne also began acting in action and adventure films. Some of his most famous performances from this period include those of Jim Bowie in Alvarez Kelly (1966), Ben Trane in The Battle of Midway (1976), and J.B. Books in The Shooter (1976).
Wayne earned two Oscar nominations for Best Actor, for Red River (1948) and Valley of Vengeance (1949). In 1979, he received an Oscar for lifetime achievement.
Wayne married three times. His first marriage was to Josephine Alicia Saenz in 1933. The couple had four children: Michael, Patrick, Melinda and Toni. The marriage ended in divorce in 1945.
In 1946, Wayne married Esperanza Baur. The couple had a son, Ethan. The marriage ended in divorce in 1954.
In 1954, Wayne married Pilar Pallete. The couple had a child, Aissa. The marriage lasted until Wayne’s death in 1979.
Wayne was a conservative Republican. He was a supporter of militarism and American foreign policy. He was also a supporter of racial segregation.
Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979, aged 72. He was buried in Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, California.
John Wayne is one of the most popular and influential actors of all time. He is considered an American icon and his acting style has been imitated by generations of actors. His work helped define the image of the American cowboy and the American soldier.
John Wayne Movies to Watch
“Stagecoach” is a 1939 western masterpiece directed by the legendary filmmaker John Ford. The plot follows a diverse group of characters traveling together on a stagecoach through the perilous American West. Among the passengers are a fugitive gunslinger, a drunken doctor, a prostitute, a whiskey salesman, and other colorful characters.
The film is an epic adventure that explores not only external threats like Indian attacks but also internal dynamics and conflicts among the passengers. It’s considered one of the early examples of psychological westerns as it delves deep into characterizations.
“Stagecoach” has significantly influenced the subsequent western cinema and helped make John Wayne, who portrays the Ringo Kid, a household name. This film remains an iconic piece of cinema and is a must-see for fans of the genre.
Sands of Iwo Jima (1945)
“Sands of Iwo Jima” is a film released in 1945 and directed by Allan Dwan. This film is set during World War II and focuses on the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the pivotal clashes between American and Japanese forces in the Pacific theater.
The protagonist is Sergeant John Stryker, portrayed by John Wayne, a tough Marine drill instructor who trains a group of new recruits. As the film follows their rigorous training, they prepare for the impending battle on the island of Iwo Jima. The narrative explores the relationship between Sergeant Stryker and his men, showcasing how his authoritarian style influences their development as soldiers.
“Sands of Iwo Jima” is known for being one of the early films to capture the heroism of Marines during World War II and is one of John Wayne’s most iconic roles. The film provides a gripping immersion into the brutality of war and the challenges faced by American soldiers on the Pacific front.
Red River (1948)
“Red River” is a film released in 1948 and directed by Howard Hawks. This is a classic Western, also known for being one of the pivotal films in John Wayne’s career.
The plot revolves around Thomas Dunson, portrayed by John Wayne, a determined man leading a vast cattle drive through the perilous Texas territory to reach the market for sale. Along the way, conflicts arise between Dunson and his adopted son, played by Montgomery Clift, who clash over issues of leadership and morality.
“Red River” is an epic Western that explores themes of authority, loyalty, and the challenges of the wilderness. John Wayne’s performance is particularly notable, showcasing his versatility as an actor. The film is renowned for its evocative cinematography and its mastery in depicting the rugged landscape of the American West.
The Searchers (1956)
“The Searchers” is a film released in 1956 and directed by John Ford. This is one of the masterpieces of the Western genre and represents one of John Wayne’s most iconic roles.
The plot follows Ethan Edwards, portrayed by John Wayne, a former Confederate soldier who embarks on a solitary mission to find his niece, Debbie, who has been kidnapped by a Comanche Indian tribe. The film explores the themes of revenge and racial hatred as Ethan relentlessly pursues Debbie across the Texas desert.
“The Searchers” is known for its deep character complexity and its exploration of intercultural tensions between white settlers and indigenous tribes. It is also celebrated for its breathtaking cinematography of Monument Valley, an iconic location that has become a symbol of Western films. This film is a milestone in the genre and represents one of John Ford’s most significant works.
“Hondo” is a 1953 Western film directed by John Farrow and based on a story by Louis L’Amour. This film is notable for being one of the early Westerns to use 3D technology.
The plot follows the protagonist Hondo Lane, portrayed by John Wayne, a lone messenger and scout who becomes embroiled in a conflict between white settlers and the local Apache tribe. Hondo forms a bond with a woman and her son, who are isolated from the Apache threat, and he endeavors to protect them from imminent attacks.
The film provides an authentic glimpse into life on the frontier and addresses themes of cultural conflict and loyalty. John Wayne’s performance is notable, as is often the case in his Western roles. “Hondo” is a classic of the genre and represents another significant contribution to John Wayne’s career in Western films.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is a film released in 1962 and directed by John Ford. This is another masterpiece by director John Ford and features a remarkable cast, including John Wayne and James Stewart.
The story is set in the Wild West and follows Ransom Stoddard, portrayed by James Stewart, an idealistic lawyer who moves to a small town to bring law and order. He encounters Tom Doniphon, played by John Wayne, a man with a mysterious past who becomes his ally in the fight against the violent outlaw Liberty Valance, played by Lee Marvin.
The film explores themes of justice, courage, and the struggle for values. It is known for its political undertones and reflection on the mythology of the American West. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is a Western that goes beyond genre stereotypes and offers a profound meditation on civilization and violence on the American frontier.
True Grit (1969)
“True Grit” is a film released in 1969 and directed by Henry Hathaway. This film is known for being one of the most iconic Westerns and earned John Wayne his first Academy Award for Best Actor.
The plot follows Mattie Ross, a determined young girl portrayed by Kim Darby, who hires the tough sheriff Rooster Cogburn, played by John Wayne, to help her capture the man who killed her father. Joining them is La Boeuf, portrayed by Glenn Campbell, a Texas ranger. The story is an epic adventure set in the wilds of the Old West as they track down the criminal Tom Chaney.
“True Grit” is known for its blend of adventure, drama, and humor, and John Wayne delivers one of his most memorable performances as the rough yet honorable Rooster Cogburn. The film is a classic of the Western genre and has left an indelible mark on the history of cinema.
“Chisum” is a film released in 1966 and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. This film is a Western inspired by the true story of John Chisum, a renowned cattle rancher of the Old West.
The plot follows John Chisum, portrayed by John Wayne, as he tries to protect his cattle ranching interests from the growing threat of outlaws and rival ranchers, especially Lawrence Murphy, played by Forrest Tucker. Chisum forms an alliance with Billy the Kid, portrayed by Geoffrey Deuel, to confront the escalating violence.
“Chisum” is an action-packed Western with John Wayne in the role of a tough yet just man who fights to defend his land and cattle. The film provides a romanticized look at life in the Old West and the tensions between cattle ranchers and the forces of law.
The Longest Day (1962)
“The Longest Day” is a film released in 1962 and directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki. This film is an epic historical reconstruction of the events of the Normandy landings during World War II.
The plot features an ensemble cast of actors, including John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, and many others, portraying a variety of characters involved in Operation Overlord. The film follows the crucial events of the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day, when Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.
“The Longest Day” is known for its historical accuracy in depicting the events and its vast scope. It is one of the most celebrated war films about the Normandy invasion and provides a compelling look at the drama and heroism of that pivotal day during World War II.
“McLintock!” is a 1963 film directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. This film is a Western comedy that provides a mix of action, humor, and romance.
The plot follows George Washington McLintock, portrayed by John Wayne, a wealthy and tough ranch owner in Arizona territory. McLintock is known for his strong character and direct manner. When his wife, played by Maureen O’Hara, returns to town seeking a divorce, hilarious and chaotic situations ensue.
“McLintock!” is known for its spectacular shootouts, infectious laughter, and charismatic performances by John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It’s a light and entertaining film that offers an unconventional take on the Western genre.
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
“The Sons of Katie Elder” is a film released in 1965 and directed by Henry Hathaway. This is a Western that features a notable cast, including John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Earl Holliman.
The plot follows the four adult sons of Katie Elder, a respected woman in their hometown of Clearwater. After their mother’s death, the Elder brothers return to town to avenge her death and restore the family’s honor. The story is a combination of adventure, revenge, and family bonds as the four brothers face challenges and enemies to seek justice.
“The Sons of Katie Elder” is known for its engaging pace and John Wayne’s performance as the eldest Elder. The film provides a tale of revenge and redemption in a Western setting, with the value of family honor at the heart of the narrative.
The Green Berets (1968)
“The Green Berets” is a film released in 1968 and directed by Ray Kellogg and John Wayne. This film is known for being one of the early movies that directly addressed the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.
The plot follows Colonel Mike Kirby, portrayed by John Wayne, and his Green Berets team, a U.S. Army Special Forces unit. They are sent to Vietnam to train South Vietnamese forces and engage in combat operations against the Viet Cong.
“The Green Berets” provides a perspective on part of the Vietnam War, presenting the viewpoints of the American soldiers involved and addressing themes such as patriotism, courage, and the horrors of war. It’s a film that sparked discussions for its portrayal of the war and its historical significance in the context of the era.
“Hellfighters” is a film released in 1968 and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. This film is an action-drama with John Wayne in the leading role.
The plot follows the life of Chance Buckman, portrayed by John Wayne, an expert in the field of firefighters specializing in extinguishing fires caused by oil well blowouts. The film explores the challenges and dangers of their work, including battling fires and explosions in highly hazardous oilfield environments.
“Hellfighters” is known for its breathtaking action scenes and its portrayal of an extremely dangerous and courageous job. John Wayne delivers a solid performance as the heroic Chance Buckman. The film provides an intriguing look into the world of specialized firefighters in the oil industry.
Big Jake (1971)
“Big Jake” is a film released in 1971 and directed by George Sherman and John Wayne. This is a Western that features John Wayne in the lead role.
The plot follows Jake McCandles, portrayed by John Wayne, a retired former outlaw who must spring back into action when his grandson is kidnapped by a gang of criminals during an attack on his family. Jake assembles a team to rescue his grandson and seek vengeance against the kidnappers.
“Big Jake” is known for its classic Western style and John Wayne’s charismatic performance. The film combines action, adventure, and elements of revenge in a typical Western setting. It’s another example of John Wayne’s talent in the Western genre.
The Cowboys (1972)
“The Cowboys” is a film released in 1972 and directed by Mark Rydell. This is a dramatic Western that features John Wayne in one of his most memorable roles.
The plot follows Wil Andersen, portrayed by John Wayne, an aging cattle rancher who, due to a lack of available hands during the rodeo season, decides to hire a group of teenage boys as cattle drivers. Together, they face challenges and dangers along the journey to drive the cattle through the perilous Montana territory.
“I Cowboys” is known for its touching coming-of-age story and the friendship between Wil and the young cattle drivers. The film captures the essence of the Old West and delivers an iconic performance by John Wayne. It’s a poignant and engaging narrative that combines elements of adventure and drama.
The Shootist (1976)
“The Shootist” is a film released in 1976 and directed by Don Siegel. This is one of the iconic films in John Wayne’s career.
The plot follows John Bernard Books, portrayed by John Wayne, a famous gunslinger who retires to a small Western town to spend the last days of his life, afflicted by a terminal illness. While trying to live out his final days in peace, Books becomes entangled in complex situations related to his past as a lawman.
“The Shootist” is known for John Wayne’s poignant and reflective performance as a man facing the end of his life with courage. The film explores themes of death, honor, and the difficult transition from the Old West to the modern era. It serves as a moving epitaph to John Wayne’s career and the Western genre.