True Grit Wiki
John "The Duke" Wayne
John wayne.jpg
Marion Robert Morrison
Winterset, Iowa
May 26, 1907
(died June 11, 1979)
1926 - 1979

Marion Mitchell "Duke" Morrison - born Marion Robert Morrison - and better known by his stage name John "The Duke" Wayne played Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn in True Grit 1969 and Rooster Cogburn. He was an Academy Award-winning American film actor, director and producer. He became an enduring American icon, epitomizing rugged masculinity and the American spirit. He is famous for his distinctive voice and walk. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Wayne 13th among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.

Personal life[]

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa. He was of Presbyterian Scots-Irish descent. His family moved to Palmdale, California, and then to Glendale, California in 1911, where his father worked as a pharmacist. Wayne received his famous nickname, "Duke," from a local fireman because he never went anywhere without his huge Airedale Terrier dog, Duke. He preferred "Duke" to "Marion," and the name stuck for the rest of his life.

As a teenager, Wayne got a job at a local ice cream shop and attended Wilson Middle School in Glendale. He played football for the 1924 champion Glendale High School team. He applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, but was not accepted. He instead attended the University of Southern California (USC), majoring in pre-law. Wayne also played on the USC football team under legendary coach Howard Jones. An injury curtailed his athletic career and he lost his athletic scholarship.

Out of money, he dropped out of USC and began working at the local film studios. Prolific silent western film star Tom Mix got him a job in the prop department in exchange for football tickets. Wayne's career in Hollywood had begun. He was soon moved to bit parts where he developed a longtime friendship with director John Ford.


Wayne started his career at Fox Film Corporation performing bit roles. He got his big break in 1930 when director Raoul Walsh cast him in his first starring role in The Big Trail. For the role he was given a new screen name, John Wayne, and a raise to $105 a week. Unfortunately the big budget picture was considered a flop. Wayne was relegated to small roles in large pictures after The Big Trail debacle. He appeared in many low-budget "Poverty Row" westerns, mostly at Monogram Pictures and serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. By his own estimate, Wayne appeared in about eighty of these horse operas between 1930-1939. During his time on set he was mentored by stuntmen on how to ride and other western skills. He and famed stuntman Yakima Canutt developed and perfected stunts still used today.

Wayne's real break out role was in director John Ford's classic Stagecoach in 1939. The film was a huge critical and financial success, and Wayne became a star. He later re-teamed with Ford more than twenty times including The Searchers in 1956.

He passed on the starring role in All the King's Men because he felt it was to un-American. Broderick Crawford eventually got the role and ironically beat Wayne, who had been nominated for Sands of Iwo Jima, out of an Academy Award.

One of Wayne's most popular roles of the time was in The High and the Mighty. His portrayal of a heroic copilot won widespread acclaim. He later went on to portray aviators in Flying Tiger, Flying Leathernecks, Island in the Sky, The Wings of Eagles, and Jet Pilot.

Wayne's finest performance came when he re-teamed with John Ford in The Searchers (1956). Based on the 1954 novel by Alan Le May, The Searchers is the story of an obsessive Civil War veteran, Ethan Edwards, who spends years searching for his kidnapped niece. When he finally finds the young woman captured by Indians, he is disgusted to find that she has become one of them. While the film was a commercial success it was not nominated for any Academy Awards. Many have said that because of his Oscar snub for The Searchers he was later awarded the Best Actor for True Grit, which is considered an inferior role.

Wayne took on producing and directing, creating The Green Berets and The Alamo which he also stared in. The Alamo was nominated for Best Picture. The Green Berets in 1968 became the only major film made during the Vietnam Was that supported it.

His final film, The Shootist (1976), featured a main character who was dying of cancer, much like the aging star. He died 3 years later.


Movie Listing[]

Selected Filmography

Year Movie Character
1930 The Big Trail Breck Coleman
1939 Stagecoach Ringo Kid
1948 Red River Thomas Dunson
1949 Sands of Iwo Jima Sgt. John M. Stryker
1950 Rio Grande Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke
1952 Big Jim McLain Jim McLain
1956 The Searchers Ethan Edwards
1959 Rio Bravo Sheriff John T. Chance
1960 The Alamo Col. Davy Crockett
1960 North to Alaska Sam McCord
1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Tom Doniphon
1962 The Longest Day Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
1963 McLintock! George Washington McLintock
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Centurion at crucifixion
1966 El Dorado Cole Thornton
1968 The Green Berets Colonel Mike Kirby
1969 True Grit Marshall Reuben J. 'Rooster' Cogburn
1970 Chisum John Chisum
1970 Rio Lobo Col. Cord McNally
1971 Big Jake Jacob McCandles
1972 The Cowboys Wil Andersen
1973 The Train Robbers Lane
1975 Brannigan Lt. Brannigan
1975 Rooster Cogburn Rooster Cogburn
1976 The Shootist J.B.Books