Great American From Cinema Still Going Strong at 103


John Wayne: American

Marion Morrison on the USC gridiron

On this Date in History:  John Wayne got fired on April 5, 1931 by Fox studios.   He mainly grew up in Lancaster, CA which later became known as Glendale.  He had a dog named Duke and, for some reason, the local firefighters would see the kid and his dog and so they started calling the youngster “Duke.”    He was a star football player at Glendale High School and went to USC on a scholarship.   But, he suffered an injury while body surfing at Newport Beach, CA and his athletic career came to an end.  To help pay his tuition, the now former tackle took a job at the Fox Hollywood movie studios.  He intially did manual labor at  but,  after two years, he quit school and in 1928 signed on with Fox. I guess the honchos at Fox didn’t see much of a future for him as he had several small roles but did star in The Big Trail in 1930.  

Jimmy Stewart, John Ford and John Wayne

He had been using the name Duke Morrison, taking the name of the dog and the nickname that the firemen had given him.   A director at Fox, Raoul Walsh claims he “discovered” Wayne and suggested he use Anthony Wayne, after a Revolutionary War Hero. Fox studios thought it sounded “too italian” so Walsh suggested John Wayne.  The first movie in which “John Wayne” appeared was The Big Trail.   He had befriended John Ford early in his career and after making several lousy movies for several years for Lonestar/Monogram pictures, including parts as a singing cowboy, Ford cast him in Stagecoach in 1939. The legend of John Wayne was born.

Dern as the Notorious Longhair

Dern as the Notorious Longhair

Duke Gives Dern ("Longhair") Some Real Justice

Duke Gives Dern ("Longhair") Some Real Justice

In short, Fox blew it. But they can claim to have at least given him his final name. See, he was initially given the name Marion Robert Morrison. But his parents had another child and they wanted to call him Robert. So, they changed Marion’s middle name to Michael. Then he became Duke and finally John Wayne. I suppose Fox probably trumpets that they gave John Wayne his name and Raoul Walsh claims he “discovered” Wayne but the truth is that Fox fired a treasure, both in culture and at the box office, and John Ford created Wayne. In my book, Fox Studio chief Winfield R. Sheehan and Bruce Dern and the bartender in The Shootist are all linked together in the netherworld. Sheehan fired John Wayne, Bruce Dern shot him in the back in The Cowboys as did the bartender in The Shootist. The trio are definitely the biggest scoundrels in cinematic history!!! 

Can You Believe that Someone is Trying to do a remake of True Grit? A travesty and a mistake.

The biography says that the legend of John Wayne was born with The Big Trail.   Nevertheless, the fact is that on this date in 1907, Marion Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa and so the man we know as  John Wayne turned 103 today. I would say that “if he were still alive” but through his films, he is still alive and always will be. He’s been dead since 1979 but his name still shows up on the top ten of movie goers favorite movie stars. On some lists, he is the only deceased star to still be a top-ten star.   However, AFI only lists him as the 13th biggest male star of all time.  What do they know?  I have been watching lots of John Wayne movies over the past few weeks. I’ve seen Chisum three times in recent weeks…like I already don’t know all of the lines.  Alot of the same guys in that movie were also in Big Jake, including Robert Mitchum’s son.  Wayne’s own son, Patrick Wayne was in Big Jake.

John Wayne Legacy Lives On in Film and the John Wayne Cancer Institute(click for profile)

Of his 175 films,  John Wayne’s character only died in 7 of them.  As I mentioned,  he was killed in the most dastardly of manners in The Cowboys and The Shootist.  He goes down as a hero as Davy Crockett in The Alamo as well as in Sands of Iwo Jima.  Wayne’s character also takes the deep six in Wake of the Red Witch, The Fighting Seabees and Reap the Wild Wind in which he is taken out by a giant squid.  But, most of the time, he played heroic figures that inspired patriotism, toughness and doing the right thing.   I think there is the implication that he went down with the ship in Sea Chase.  He dies in a few others but no one sees it.  In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,   we see him kill Lee Marvin to save Jimmy Stewart but he’s last seen all bent out of shape because Stewart stole his girl.  I don’t count this one because we only see his coffin as he died from old age.  But still, he was a heroic, self sacrificing figure.  He did not serve in World War II but did his part at home by raising money for bonds and also performing in films showing the heroism and dedication of the American soldier.  Off screen, he was diagnosed with cancer but fought it publically.  He had part of his lung removed and continued to  make films as well as public service commercials highlighting the dangers  of smoking.  He finally succumbed in 1979 and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.  He did not serve in the armed forces but he inspired many an American in life and death. It’s probably pretty fitting that his birthday is on or near Memorial Day; a life memorial to all that America has been and can be again. 

Thursday Evening

Weather Bottom Line:  If you noticed on Wednesday afternoon there was quite a bit more vertical development of the cumulus clouds than in previous days.  That tells me that any cap that was out there has been eroded somewhat and I would think that with the approach of a frontal system on Thursday that a combination of heating and moisture with the weak front in the region would elevate our rain chances from the isolated category to scattered.  Now the front is pretty lame and so it will be slow to move through.  Most of the energy associated is well north so severe prospects would be limited.  I would think that Thursday evening will be our best chance for rain and t’storms with perhaps some gusty winds.  Because the boundary is hanging around to our south, we may get some stuff Friday afternoon with the heat of the day.  Saturday there is still somewhat of an inverted trof nosing into the Ohio Valley but I’d pretty much discount this because high pressure will be building in.  It should be a tad cooler with highs in the low 80’s and humidity levels decreased.  In short, the Memorial Day Weekend looks pretty good. 

I’m not even going to mention Invest 90. It was bogus and still is.

4 Responses

  1. John Wayne is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve got quite a collection of his movies. My favorite is El Dorado.

  2. Is that the one with James Caan and Robert Mitchum?

  3. Yes. Robert Mitchum is great in that movie. James Caan is just a kid! Rio Bravo is another good movie with a very similar plot. It stars Rickie Nelson and Dean Martin. I’ll get those two movies mixed up if I’m not careful.

  4. The best guy in El Dorado is “Bull” and his bugel. Then there is Christopher George, who was the gunfighter and who also was Sheriff Nodine in Chisum. Seems to me that Wayne had him in some other movies too. Glenn Corbett shows up in Big Jake and also Chisum. John Wayne seemed to have his “stock” actors. A guy named Bruce Cabot was in a whole bunch with the most silly casting him being the Indian Sam in Big Jake. But, other actors whom Wayne seemed to like, such as Corbett and George, managed to make a little extra cash and have their careers helped out. Clint Eastwood is kinda the same way, though not so much to the same degree. An example of that would be the bartender “skinny” in Unforgiven…he shows up in a bunch of Clint’s westerns

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