John Duke Wayne
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Updated: 10-6-2002

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DUKE's Birthday Countdown

Sands of Iwo Jima

"I don't act....I react."

With those words, the familar powerful figure, the plain talking man of action, the seemingly indestructible hero blazed an extraordinary trail across the silver screens of America to a record of popularity unmatched by any movie star. And as the years passed, he ultimately became a symbol of the American spirit to the entire world.

John Wayne's incredible career spanned a half a century and more than two hundred films. His first break came when director John Ford, who would become his lifelong friend and mentor, gave the young 6-foot, 4-inch college tackle a summer job as forth- assistant prop boy. Bit parts followed, and during the next decade Wayne paid his dues in many small westerns, even doing a stint as a singing cowboy long before Roy Rogers and Gene Autry rode that profitable musical range.

Then in 1938, John Ford came back into Wayne's life and offered him the lead role in "Stagecoach." It became a hit and John Wayne became a star. Although most people think of Wayne as the consummate cowboy, many of his top movies took place far from the Wild West. But whether he was playing a tough-as nails squadron leader in "Flying Leathernecks" or a good-natured boxer in "The Quiet Man," John Wayne always played himself--honest...patriotic...strong.

In 1969, Hollywood finally honered the Duke with his first Oscar for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit." The U.S.Congress also honored him with a special bronze medal designed in his likeness, to be sold by U.S.Mint--a tribute shared by only a few others in our country's history.

John Wayne's courage and heroism were not only apparent on the big screen, but in his personal life as well. He fought a long and valiant battle with cancer, but he took it square on the chin and lived life to the fullest.

He was born "Marion Robert Morrison" on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa, to parents, Clyde L. Morrison and Mary A. Brown Morrison. All published records of his birth name, all school records, publicity releases, and by Duke's own words refer to it as "Marion Michael Morrison". Yet his birth certificate gives his name as "Marion Robert Morrison".

But regardless of what he was called, the "Duke" was, and is, much more than a movie star; he is a legend. The simple dedication inscribed on the bronze medal says it all:


America, Why I Love Her

(The photo above is from The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). He was nominated for an Oscar for this one.)


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