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John Wayne, real name Marion Mitchell Morrison, was born on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa. Around age seven his family moved to Lancaster, California. They moved again after his father failed in his attempt to become a rancher. The family settled in Glendale, California, where Wayne received his nickname of “Duke”. The name arose because he and his dog, Duke, spent so much time together that the duo became “Little Duke” and “Big Duke”. He did well in school both academically and athletically. Wayne also participated in school government and a number of student theatrical productions. He started college in the fall of 1925, with a football scholarship to the University of Southern California. He was a strong student, but an injury ended his football scholarship two years later.
While attending college Wayne had worked at the Fox studio in Los Angeles, California doing various odd jobs. He had established a longtime friendship with up and coming director John Ford, who gave him a number of parts in his films. After he was out of school, Wayne kept in the film industry, building up his career.
Ford cast him in many of his pictures, and also introduced him to director Raoul Walsh, who gave him the name of John Wayne. After nearly a decade of playing roles in B-movies, the actor finally began getting more substantial parts and making a name for himself in Hollywood.
In his later career, after already establishing himself as a superstar actor, he began to direct films. He got his first taste by serving as second unit director in John Ford’s romantic comedy “The Quiet Man” (1952) filmed on location in County Mayo, Ireland. His first directorial effort came soon after. “Blood Alley” (1955) exemplified his well-known political stance of conservative and anti-communist, by depicting an American who helps a village escape from the Communist Chinese mainland.
He did not direct another picture until 1960’s “The Alamo”, one of his bigger films. It also revealed the political ideals that Wayne had, as it reenacts the Battle of the Alamo. It was a story of a band of soldiers who sacrifice their lives in tireless combat against a massive army in order to stop a tyrant from taking over the new Republic of Texas. Critical response was mixed, although it garnered seven Academy Award nominations.
John Wayne next directed “The Comancheros” (1961) alongside Michael Curtiz, a typical western flick. In 1968 he once again made his conservative political views apparent by directing “The Green Berets”, a film that was so heavy handed some considered it propaganda. It was set in Vietnam as American troops attack the North Vietnamese – a clear medium for outspoken support of American involvement in the war. The drama was a complete miss with critics, but fared well at the box office. The director’s last effort was the action packed westerner “Big Jake” (1971), which he worked on with George Sherman.
In September 1964 he publicly announced his victory over lung cancer. In March 1978 he successfully had heart valve replacement surgery. In January 1979 part of his stomach was removed due to stomach cancer. His ailments caught up with him on June 11, 1979, however, and he passed away. He was survived by his seven children from his first and third marriages.
Shortly before he died, the U.S. Congress approved the Congressional Gold Medal for John Wayne, which was given to his family in 1980. As well, the Orange Country Airport in California was renamed after the director. In 1985, in honor of his charitable work for the fight against cancer, his children set up the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Director Filmography

1971   Big Jake
1968   The Green Berets
1961   The Comancheros
1960   The Alamo
1955   Blood Alley
1952   The Quiet Man

Matinee Classics - The Alamo starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O'Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis and Carlos Arruza
Matinee Classics - The Longest Day starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Robert Wagner, Richard Beymer, Mel Ferrer, Jeffrey Hunter, Paul Anka, Sal Mineo, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowall and George Segal
Matinee Classics - The Alamo starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O'Brien and Chill Wills
Matinee Classics - The Alamo starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O'Brien and Chill Wills
Matinee Classics - The Comancheros starring John Wayne, Stuart Whitman, Ina Balin, Nehemiah Persoff, Lee Marvin, Michael Ansara, Patrick Wayne, Edgar Buchanan, Joan O'Brien, Bruce Cabot and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
Matinee Classics - The Great K & A Train Robbery starring Tom Mix, John Wayne, Harry Grip, Dorothy Dawn, Will Walling, Carl Miller, Edward Pail, Curtis 'Snowball' McHenry and Sammy Cohen
Matinee Classics - The Quiet Man starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick and Francis Ford and filmed in Ireland
Matinee Classics - The Red Skelton Show starring Red Skelton
Matinee Classics - Legend of the Lost starring John Wayne, Sophia Loren, Rosanno Brazzi and Kurt Kasznar
Matinee Classics - John Wayne's Congressional Gold Medal

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