Tommy Lee Jones
Date of Birth
26 May 1907, Winterset, Iowa, USA
Date of Death
11 June 1979, Los Angeles, California, USA (lung & stomach cancer)
Marion Robert Morrison
JW (family nickname)
6' 4" (1.93 m)
John Wayne (born Marion Morrison) was the son of pharmacist Clyde Morrison and his wife Mary. Clyde developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California, where they tried ranching in the Mojave Desert. Until the ranch failed, Marion and his younger brother Robert E. Morrison swam in an irrigation ditch and rode a horse to school. When the ranch failed, the family moved to Glendale, California, where Marion delivered medicines for his father, sold newspapers and had an Airedale dog named "Duke" (the source of his own nickname). He did well at school both academically and in football. When he narrowly failed admission to Annapolis he went to USC on a football scholarship 1925-7.
Tom Mix got him a summer job as a prop man in exchange for football tickets. On the set he became close friends with director John Ford for whom, among others, he began doing bit parts, some billed as John Wayne. His first featured film was Men Without Women (1930). After more than 70 low-budget westerns and adventures, mostly routine, Wayne's career was stuck in a rut until Ford cast him in Stagecoach (1939), the movie that made him a star. He appeared in nearly 250 movies, many of epic proportions. From 1942-43 he was in a radio series, "The Three Sheets to the Wind", and in 1944 he helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a right-wing political organization, later becoming its President. His conservative political stance was also reflected in The Alamo (1960), which he produced, directed and starred in.
His patriotic stand was enshrined in The Green Berets (1968) which he co-directed and starred in. Over the years Wayne was beset with health problems. In September 1964 he had a cancerous left lung removed; in March 1978 there was heart valve replacement surgery; and in January 1979 his stomach was removed. He received the Best Actor nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and finally got the Oscar for his role as one-eyed Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969). A Congressional Gold Medal was struck in his honor in 1979. He is perhaps best remembered for his parts in Ford's cavalry trilogy - Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950).
IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan
Pilar Wayne (1 November 1954 - 11 June 1979) (his death) 3 children
Esperanza Baur (17 January 1946 - 1 November 1954) (divorced)
Josephine Alicia Saenz (24 June 1933 - 25 December 1945) (divorced) 4 children
Slow talk and distinctive, gravelly voice
Distinctive cat-like walk
His movies frequently reflected his conservative values
Often starred with Maureen O'Hara
Holds the record for the actor with the most leading parts - 142. In all but 11 films he played the leading part.
Ranked #16 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. (October 1997)
Born at 1:00pm-CST.
Children with Pilar Wayne: Aissa Wayne, Ethan Wayne and Marisa Wayne.
Sons with Josephine: Michael Wayne (producer) and Patrick Wayne (actor); daughters Toni Wayne and Melinda Wayne.
Most published sources refer to Wayne's birth name as Marion Michael Morrison. His birth certificate, however, gives his original name as Marion Robert Morrison. According to Wayne's own statements, after the birth of his younger brother in 1911, his parents named the newborn Robert Emmett and changed Wayne's name from Marion Robert to Marion Michael. It has also been suggested by several of his biographers that Wayne's parents actually changed his birth name from Marion Robert to Marion Mitchell. In "Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne" (1985), Donald Shepherd and Robert F. Slatzer state that when Wayne's younger brother was born, "the Duke's middle name was changed from Robert to Mitchell. . . . After he gained celebrity, Duke deliberately confused biographers and others by claiming Michael as his middle name, a claim that had no basis in fact."
His production company, Batjac, was originally to be called Batjak, after the shipping company owned by Luther Adler's character in the film Wake of the Red Witch (1948). A secretary's typo while she was drawing up the papers resulted in it being called Batjac, and Wayne, not wanting to hurt her feelings, kept her spelling of it.
In the comic "Preacher", his ghost appears in several issues, clothed in his traditional gunfighter outfit, as a mentor to the hero of the series, Jesse Custer.
Great-uncle of boxer/actor Tommy Morrison, aka "The Duke.".
An entry in the logbook of director John Ford's yacht "Araner", during a voyage along the Baja peninsula, made a reference to one of Wayne's pranks on Ward Bond: "Caught the first mate [Wayne] pissing in [Ward] Bond's flask this morning - must remember to give him a raise."
He and his drinking buddy, actor Ward Bond, frequently played practical jokes on each other. In one incident, Bond bet Wayne that they could stand on opposite sides of a newspaper and Wayne wouldn't be able to hit him. Bond set a sheet of newspaper down in a doorway, Wayne stood on one end, and Bond slammed the door in his face, shouting "Try and hit me now!" Wayne responded by sending his fist through the door, flooring Bond (and winning the bet).
His favorite drink was Sauza Commemorativo Tequila, and he often served it with ice that he had chipped from an iceberg during one of his voyages on his yacht, "The Wild Goose.".
He was offered the lead in The Dirty Dozen (1967), but went to star in and direct The Green Berets (1968) instead. The part was eventually given to Lee Marvin.
The evening before a shoot he was trying to get some sleep in a Las Vegas hotel. The suite directly below his was that of Frank Sinatra (never a good friend of Wayne), who was having a party. The noise kept Wayne awake, and each time he made a complaining phone call it quieted temporarily but each time eventually grew louder. Wayne at last appeared at Sinatra's door and told Frank to stop the noise. A Sinatra bodyguard of Wayne's size approached saying, "Nobody talks to Mr. Sinatra that way." Wayne looked at the man, turned as though to leave, then backhanded the bodyguard, who fell to the floor, where Wayne knocked him out by crashing a chair on top of him. The party noise stopped.
He was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
His spoken album "America: Why I Love Her" became a surprise best-seller and Grammy nominee when it was released in 1973. Reissued on CD in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it became a best-seller all over again.
Pictured on one of four 25¢ US commemorative postage stamps issued on Friday, March 23rd, 1990 honoring classic films released in 1939. The stamp featured Wayne as The Ringo Kid in Stagecoach (1939). The other films honored were Beau Geste (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Gone with the Wind (1939).
Upon being cast by Raoul Walsh in Fox's The Big Trail (1930) the studio decided his name had to be changed. Walsh said he was reading a biography on General "Mad" Anthony Wayne and suggested that name. The studio liked the last name but not the first and decided on "John Wayne" as the final rendition.
He once made a cameo appearance on "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962). In episode, "The Beverly Hillbillies: The Indians Are Coming (#5.20)" (1967). And when asked how he wanted to be paid, his answer, in return, was "Give me a fifth of bourbon - that'll square it.".
In 1973 he was awarded the Gold Medal from the National Football Foundation for his days playing football for Glendale High School and USC.
Arguably Wayne's worst film, The Conqueror (1956), in which he played Genghis Kahn, was based on a script that director Dick Powell had every intention of throwing into the wastebasket. According to Powell, when he had to leave his office at RKO for a few minutes during a story conference, he returned to find a very enthused Wayne reading the script, which had been in a pile of possible scripts on Powell's desk, and insisting that this was the movie he wanted to make. As Powell himself summed it up, "Who am I to turn down John Wayne?".
Among his favorite leisure activities were playing bridge, poker, and chess.
He was buried at Pacific View Cemetery in Corona del Mar, California, (a community within his hometown of Newport Beach). His grave finally received a plaque in 1999.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1974.
Grandfather of actor Brendan Wayne.
Because his on-screen adventures involved the slaying of a slew of Mexicans, Native Americans and Japanese, he has been called a racist by his critics. They believe this was strengthened by a Playboy Magazine interview in which he suggested that blacks were not yet qualified to hold high public office because "discrimination prevented them from receiving the kind of education a political career requires". Yet all of his three wives were of Latin descent.
He was voted the 5th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Just on his sheer popularity and his prominent political activism, the Republican party in 1968 supposedly asked him to run for President of the USA, even though he had no previous political experience. He turned them down because he did not believe America would take a movie star running for the President seriously. He did however support Ronald Reagan's campaigns for governor of California in 1966 and 1970, as well as his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.
Wayne was initiated into DeMolay in 1924 at the Glendale Chapter in Glendale California.
Received the DeMolay Legion of Honor in 1970.
He was a Master Mason. In other words, he was a good man who became a member of the Masonic Fraternity.
Pictured on a 37¢ USA commemorative stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued on Thursday, September 9th, 2004. The first-day ceremonies were held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Was a member of the first class to be inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on Monday, November 13th, 1986.
Although he complained that High Noon (1952) was "un-American", when he collected Gary Cooper's Oscar on his behalf, he also complained that he wasn't offered the part himself. He later teamed up with director Howard Hawks to tell the story his way in Rio Bravo (1959).
Despite his association with being solely Irish, he was equal parts Scottish, Irish and English.
While making The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958), he apparently became so enraged with director John Huston (who was something of a tough guy himself and was nearly as tall as Wayne but not as massive) that he throttled and punched him out. It is unknown what Huston did to earn the beating, but the director was known to have a mean streak. Wayne later re-enacted the incident for Peter Bogdanovich, who was somewhat terrified to be used as a substitute for Huston.
He was voted the 4th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
Was named the #13 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute
Eagerly sought the role of Gen. George S. Patton in Patton (1970), but was turned down by the producer.
Posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Brother of Robert E. Morrison.
Addressed the Republican National Convention on its opening day in 1968.
On Monday, June 11th, 1979, the flame of the Olympic Torch at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, was lit for honoring him, in memory. It remained lit until the funeral four days later, Friday, June 15th, 1979.
Maureen O'Hara presented him with the People's Choice Award for most popular motion picture actor in 1976.
During the filming of The Undefeated (1969), he fell from his horse and fractured three ribs. He couldn't work for almost two weeks. Then he tore a ligament in his shoulder and couldn't use one arm at all. The director, Andrew V. McLaglen, could only film him from an angle for the rest of the picture. His only concern throughout was not to disappoint his fans, despite being in terrible pain.
According to movie industry columnist James Bacon, Wayne's producers issued phony press releases when he was hospitalized for cancer surgery in September 1964, claiming the star was being treated for lung congestion. "Those bastards who make pictures only think of the box office," he told Bacon, as recounted in 1979 by the columnist. "They figure Duke Wayne with cancer isn't a good image. I was too doped up at the time to argue with them, but I'm telling you the truth now. You know I never lie." After Bacon broke the story of the Duke's cancer, thousands of cancer victims and their relatives wrote to Wayne saying that his battle against the disease had given them hope.
He underwent surgery to have a cancerous left lung removed on Wednesday, September 16th, 1964, in a six-hour operation. Press releases at the time reported that Wayne was in Los Angeles' Good Samaritan Hospital to be treated for lung congestion. When Hollywood columnist James Bacon went to the hospital to see Wayne, he was told by a nurse that Wayne wasn't having visitors. According to a Monday, June 27th, 1978, "Us" magazine article, Wayne said to his nurse from his room, "Let that son of a bitch come in." When Bacon sat down in his room, Wayne told him, "Well, I licked the Big C." Wayne confessed that his five-packs-a-day cigarette habit had caused a lung tumor the size of a golf ball, necessitating the removal of the entire lung. One day following surgery, Wayne began coughing so violently he ruptured his stitches and damaged delicate tissue. His face and hands began to swell up from a mixture of fluid and air, but the doctors didn't dare operate again so soon. Five days later they drained the fluid and repaired the stitches. On Tuesday, December 29th, 1964, Wayne held a press conference at his Encino ranch, against the advice of his agent and advisers, where he announced, "I licked the Big C. I know the man upstairs will pull the plug when he wants to, but I don't want to end my life being sick. I want to go out on two feet, in action." Before he had left the hospital on 19 October 19th, Wayne received the news that his 52-year-old brother Robert E. Morrison had lung cancer.
Regretted playing Temujin in The Conqueror (1956) so much that he visibly shuddered whenever anyone mentioned the film's name. He once remarked that the moral of the film was "not to make an ass of yourself trying to play parts you're not suited for."
In 1978, after recovering from open heart surgery, he had a script commissioned for a film called "Beau John" in which he would star with Ron Howard, but due to his declining health it never happened.
In November 2003 he once again commanded a top-ten spot in the annual Harris Poll asking Americans to name their favorite movie star. No other deceased star has achieved such ranking since Harris began asking the question in 1993. In a 2001 Gallup Poll, Americans selected Wayne as their favorite movie star of all time.
Increasingly by the early 1960s Wayne used to wear three or four-inch lifts in his shoes, a practice that mystified friends and co-stars like Bobby Darin's Capucine's and Robert Mitchum's because he stood 6'4". It was possibly due to his increasing weight, health problems, and age that he wasn't able to loom as tall without lifts.
He made several films early in his career as a "singing" cowboy. His singing voice was supplied by a singer hidden off camera.
In 1971 he displayed a sense of humor when he appeared on "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" (1969) in his usual western screen costume, flashing the peace sign to the show's other guests that week, the then-hot rock band Three Dog Night.
Of his many film roles, his personal favorite was that of Ethan Edwards from The Searchers (1956). Wayne even went so far as to name his son Ethan after that character.
In 1979, as it became known that Wayne was dying of cancer, Barry Goldwater introduced legislation to award him the Congressional Gold Medal. Maureen O'Hara and Elizabeth Taylor flew to Washington to give testimony, and signed statements in support of the motion from Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Kirk Douglas, James Stewart and Katharine Hepburn were read out. The bill was passed unanimously, and the medal was presented to the Wayne family in the following year.
In 1974, with the Vietnam war still continuing, The Harvard Lampoon invited Wayne to The Harvard Square Theater to award him the "Brass Balls Award" for his "Outstanding machismo and a penchant for punching people". Wayne accepted and arrived riding atop an armored personnel carrier manned by the "Black Knights" of Troop D, Fifth Regiment. Wayne took the stage and ad-libbed his way through a series of derogatory questions with adroitness, displaying an agile wit that completely won over the audience of students.
On Saturday, June 9th, 1979, the Archbishop of Panama arrived at the hospital and baptized Wayne into the Roman Catholic Church. Wayne was given a Catholic funeral service, but his grave went unmarked until 1999 when he finally received a headstone.
Mentioned in many songs, including Jimmy Buffet's "Incommunicado", Tom Lehrer's "Send The Marines", Ray Stevens' "Beside Myself", Paula Cole's "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?", Queen's "Bicycle Race" and Bruce Dickinson's (of Iron Maiden fame) "Sacred Cowboys".
Along with Charlton Heston, Wayne was offered and turned down the role of Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell in Steven Spielberg's 1941 (1979), because he felt the film was an insult to World War II veterans, and also due to his own declining health.
Underwent surgery for an enlarged prostate in December 1976.
According to "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows" (8th Edition, pg. 495), Wayne was the first choice to play Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" (1955), but declined because he did not want to commit to a weekly TV series. He did, however, recommend his friend James Arness for the role, and gave the on-camera introduction in the pilot episode.
His performance as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956) is ranked #87 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
After meeting the late Superman (1978) star Christopher Reeve at the 1979 Academy Awards, Wayne turned to Cary Grant and said, "This is our new man. He's taking over.".
In 1973 Clint Eastwood wrote to Wayne, suggesting they star in a western together. Wayne wrote back an angry response criticizing the revisionist style and violence of Eastwood's latest western, High Plains Drifter (1973). Consequently Eastwood did not reply and no film was made.
His final public appearance was to present the Best Picture Oscar to The Deer Hunter (1978) at The 51st Annual Academy Awards (1979) (TV). It was not a film Wayne was fond of, since it presented a very different view of the Vietnam War than his own movie, The Green Berets (1968), had a decade earlier.
He allegedly turned down Dirty Harry (1971) because he felt the role of Harry Callahan was too far removed from his screen image. When he saw the movie he realized it wasn't so different from the roles he had traditionally played, and made two cop dramas of his own, McQ (1974) and Brannigan (1975). Director Don Siegel later commented, "Wayne couldn't have played Harry. He was too old. He was too old to play McQ which was a poor copy of Bullitt.".
He made three movies with Kirk Douglas, despite the fact that the two men did not like each other and had very different political ideologies. Wayne was a conservative Republican while Douglas was a very liberal Democrat. Wayne criticized Douglas for playing Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956), and publicly criticized him for hiring blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the "Hollywood Ten", to write the screenplay for Spartacus (1960). Douglas later praised Wayne as a true professional who would work with anybody if he felt they were right for the part.
One of the most unusual Oscar moments happened when major liberal Barbra Streisand presented Vietnam war hawk Wayne with his Best Actor Oscar at The 42nd Annual Academy Awards (1970) (TV).
Wayne publicly criticized director Sam Peckinpah for his film The Wild Bunch (1969), which he claimed "destroyed the myth of the Old West".
The inscription on the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to him in 1979 reads, simply, "John Wayne, American."
Although never hailed as a great actor in the classic sense, Wayne was quite accomplished on stage in high school. He even represented Glendale High School in the prestigious 1925 Southern California Shakespeare Competition, performing a passage from "Henry VIII".
Despite being best known as a conservative Republican, Wayne's politics throughout his life were fluid. He later claimed to have considered himself a socialist during his first year of college. As a young actor in Hollywood, he described himself as a liberal, and voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election. In 1938 he attended a fund raiser for a Democratic candidate in New York, but soon afterwards "realized Democrats didn't stand for the same things I did". Henry Fonda believed Wayne called himself a liberal just so he wouldn't fall out with director John Ford, an activist liberal Democrat. It really wasn't until the 1940s that Wayne moved fully to the right on the political spectrum. But even then, he was not always in lockstep with the rest of the conservative movement - a fact that was nonetheless unknown to the public until 1978, when he openly differed with the Republican Party over the issue of the Panama Canal. Conservatives wanted America to retain full control, but Wayne, believing that the Panamanians had the right to the canal, sided with President Jimmy Carter and the Democrats to win passage of the treaty returning the canal in the Senate. Carter openly credited Wayne with being a decisive factor in convincing some Republican Senators to support the measure.
According to Michael Munn's "John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth", in 1959, Wayne was personally told by Nikita Khrushchev, when the Soviet Premier was visiting the United States on a goodwill tour, that Joseph Stalin and China's Zedong Mao had each ordered Wayne to be killed. Both dictators had considered Wayne to be a leading icon of American democracy, and thus a symbol of resistance to Communism through his active support for blacklisting in Hollywood, and they believed his death would be a major morale blow to the United States. Khrushchev told Wayne he had rescinded Stalin's order upon his predecessor's demise in March 1953, but Mao supposedly continued to demand Wayne's assassination well into the 1960s.
His performance as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956) is ranked #23 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
After seeing Wayne's performance in Red River (1948), directed by rival director Howard Hawks, John Ford is quoted as saying, "I never knew the big son of a bitch could act."
During his right-wing political speeches in the late 1960s and early 1970s, students opposed to his political stances would often walk out of or boycott university film classes that screened his films.
Returned to Harvard in January 1974, at the height of his political activism, for a celebrity roast of himself. During the ceremony, the head said, "We're not here to make fun or you, we're here to hurt your feelings." Later, Wayne said jokingly, "You know, I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to a Jane Fonda rally."
Wore a toupee in every film from Wake of the Red Witch (1948) onwards. For some scenes towards the end of The Wings of Eagles (1957) he left it off in order to play his character in later life. Wayne's hairpiece can be seen to fall off during a fight scene in North to Alaska (1960).
Following his retirement from making movies in 1976, Wayne received thousands of letters from fans who accused him of selling out by advertising insurance in television commercials. Wayne responded that the six-figure sum he was offered to star in the advertisements was too good to refuse.
It was no surprise that Wayne would become such an enduring icon. By the early 1970s, his contemporaries Humphrey Bogart, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Paul Muni and Gary Cooper were dead. James Cagney and Cary Grant both retired from acting at 62. The careers of other stars declined considerably - both Henry Fonda and James Stewart ended up working on television series which were canceled on them. Wayne however continued to star in movies until 1976, remaining one of the top ten stars at the US box office until 1974.
The fact that all three of his wives were Latin American surprised Hollywood; this was the only "non-American" aspect in his life. "I have never been conscious of going for any particular type," Wayne said in response to a challenge from the press, "it's just a happenstance."
Wayne's westerns were full of action but usually not excessively violent. "Fights with too much violence are dull," claimed Wayne, insisting that the straight-shooting, two-fisted violence in his movies have been "sort of tongue-in-cheek." He described the violence in his films as "lusty and a little humorous," based on his belief that "humor nullifies violence." His conservative taste deplored the increasing latitude given to violence and sex in Hollywood. In the 1960s he launched a campaign against what he termed "Hollywood's bloodstream polluted with perversion and immoral and amoral nuances." Most of his westerns steered clear of graphic violence.
Wayne tried not to make films that exploited sex or violence, deploring the vulgarity and violence in Rosemary's Baby (1968), which he saw and did not like, and A Clockwork Orange (1971) or Last Tango in Paris (1972) which he had no desire to see. He thought Deep Throat (1972) was repulsive - "after all, it's pretty hard to take your daughter to see it." And he refused to believe that Love Story (1970) "sold because the girl went around saying 'shit' all the way through it." Rather, "the American public wanted to see a little romantic story." He took a strong stance against nudity: "No one in any of my pictures will ever be served drinks by a girl with no top to her dress." It was not sex per se he was against. "Don't get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman are concerned, I'm awfully happy there's a thing called sex," he said, "It's an extra something God gave us, but no picture should feature the word in an unclear manner." He therefore saw "no reason why it shouldn't be in pictures," but it had to be "healthy, lusty sex."
During a visit to London in January 1974 to appear on "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" (1969) and "Parkinson" (1971), Wayne caught pneumonia. For a 66-year-old man with one lung this was very serious, and eventually he was coughing so hard that he damaged a valve in his heart. This problem went undetected until March 1978, when he underwent emergency open heart surgery in Boston. Bob Hope delivered a message from the The 50th Annual Academy Awards (1978) (TV), saying, "We want you to know Duke, we miss you tonight. We expect you to amble out here in person next year, because there is nobody who can fill John Wayne's boots." According to Loretta Young, that message from Hope made Wayne determined to live long enough to attend the Oscars in 1979.
On Friday, January 12th, 1979, Wayne entered hospital for gall bladder surgery, which turned in a nine and a half hour operation when doctors discovered cancer in his stomach. His entire stomach was removed. On May 2nd, Wayne returned to the hospital, where the cancer was found to have spread to his intestines. He was taken to the 9th floor of the UCLA Medical Center, where President Jimmy Carter visited him, and Queen Elizabeth II sent him a get well card. He went into a coma on Sunday, June 10th, 1979, and died at 5:35 P.M., in the late afternoon the next day, Monday, June 11th, 1979.
Although it has often been written that Wayne was dying of cancer when he made The Shootist (1976), his final film, this is not actually true. Following the removal of his entire left lung in 1964, he was cancer-free for the next 12 years. It wasn't until Christmas 1978 that he fell seriously ill again, and in January of the following year the cancer was found to have returned.
Recorded an advertisement for Camel cigarettes on the set of Big Jim McLain (1952).
Ranked in the top four box office stars, as ranked by Quigley Publications' annual poll of the Top Ten Money Making Stars, an astounding 19 times from 1949 to 1972. (Only Clint Eastwood, with 21 appearances in the Top 10 to the Duke's 25, has been in the Top 10, let alone the top four, more times.) He made the top three a dozen times, the top two nine times, and was the #1 box office champ four times (1950, '51, '54 and 1971).
Was named the #1 box office star in North America by Quigley Publications, which has published its annual Top 10 Poll of Money-Making Stars since 1932. In all, the Duke was named to Quigley Publications' annual Top 10 Poll a record 25 times. (Clint Eastwood, with 25 appearances in the Top 10, is #2, and Wayne's contemporary Gary Cooper, with 18 appearances, is tied for #3 with Tom Cruise.) Wayne had the longest ride on the list, first appearing on it in 1949 and making it every year but one (1958) through 1974. In four of those years he was No. 1.
In a 1960 interview Wayne criticized the homosexual themes of Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and They Came to Cordura (1959).
As a member of the right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, Wayne gave himself the role of super-personnel chief - ostensibly acting on behalf of political virtue, in "reviewing" the hiring of writers, actors and technicians with known or suspected left-wing sympathies.
Wayne appeared in a very uncomplimentary light in the Public Enemy song "Fight the Power," from the 1990 album "Fear of a Black Planet". Wayne has frequently come under fire for racist remarks he made about black people and Native American Indians in his infamous Playboy magazine interview from May 1971. He was also criticized for supporting Senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, after Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act, and for supporting segregationist former Alabama governor George Wallace during his presidential campaign in 1968.
Wayne denounced the subject of homosexuality in Tennessee Williams' Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) as "too disgusting even for discussion"--even though he had not seen it and had no intention of seeing it. "It is too distasteful," he claimed, "to be put on a screen designed to entertain a family, or any member of a decent family." He considered the youth-oriented, anti-establishment film Easy Rider (1969) and Midnight Cowboy (1969), which to his dismay won the Best Picture Oscar in 1970, as "perverted" films. Especially when early in "Midnight Cowboy" Jon Voight dons his newly acquired Western duds and, posing in front of a mirror, utters the only words likely to come to mind at the moment one becomes a cowboy: "John Wayne!" Wayne told Playboy magazine, "Wouldn't you say that the wonderful love of these two men in 'Midnight Cowboy', a story about two fags, qualifies as a perverse movie?".
In 1971, owing to the success of Big Jake (1971), Wayne was Number 1 at the US Box Office for the last time.
By the early 1960s, 161 of his films had grossed $350 million, and he had been paid as much as $666,000 to make a movie.
Due to his political activism, in 1968 Wayne was asked to be the segregationist Governor of Alabama George Wallace's running mate in that year's presidential election. Wayne's response made headlines: "Wayne Wallace candidates? Wayne SAID 'B------t!'", as if he was shouting to the reporters.
While visiting the troops in Vietnam in June 1966, a bullet struck Wayne's bicycle. Although he was not within a hundred yards of it at the time, the newspapers reported he had narrowly escaped death at the hands of a sniper.
In December 1978, just a month before he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he joined Bob Hope and Johnny Carson in offering his services to speak out publicly against government corruption, poverty, crime and drug abuse.
Producer-director Robert Rossen offered the role of Willie Stark in All the King's Men (1949) to Wayne. Rossen sent a copy of the script to Wayne's agent, Charles K. Feldman, who forwarded it to Wayne. After reading the script, Wayne sent it back with an angry letter attached. In it, he told Feldman that before he sent the script to any of his other clients, he should ask them if they wanted to star in a film that "smears the machinery of government for no purpose of humor or enlightenment", that "degrades all relationships", and that is populated by "drunken mothers; conniving fathers; double-crossing sweethearts; bad, bad, rich people; and bad, bad poor people if they want to get ahead." He accused Rossen of wanting to make a movie that threw acid on "the American way of life." If Feldman had such clients, Wayne wrote that the agent should "rush this script . . . to them." Wayne, however, said to the agent that "you can take this script and shove it up Robert Rossen's derrière." Wayne later remarked that "to make Huey Long a wonderful, rough pirate was great, but, according to this picture, everybody was shit except for this weakling intern doctor who was trying to find a place in the world." Broderick Crawford, who had played a supporting role in Wayne's Seven Sinners (1940), eventually got the part of Stark. In a bit of irony, Crawford was Oscar-nominated for the part of Stark and found himself competing against Wayne, who was nominated the same year for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Crawford won the Best Actor Oscar, giving Rossen the last laugh.
His image was so far-reaching that when Emperor Hirohito visited America in 1975, he asked to meet the veteran star. Wayne was quoted in the Chicago Sun Times as saying, "I must have killed off the entire Japanese army."
Allegedly thrust his Best Actor Oscar for True Grit (1969) to Richard Burton at the The 42nd Annual Academy Awards (1970) (TV), telling the Welsh actor, "You should have this, not me."
During the Vietnam War he was highly critical of teenagers who went to Europe to dodge the draft, calling them "cowards", "traitors" and "communists".
Despite his numerous anti-gay remarks in interviews over the years, Wayne co-starred with Rock Hudson in The Undefeated (1969), even though he knew of the actor's homosexuality. In this Civil War epic, the champion of right-wing political conservatism worked well with and even became good friends with Hudson, Hollywood's gayest (although it wasn't publicly known at the time) leading man.
In 1971 Wayne and James Stewart were traveling to Ronald Reagan's second inauguration as Governor of California when they encountered some anti-war demonstrators with a Vietcong flag. Stewart's stepson Ronald had been killed in Vietnam in 1969. Wayne walked over to speak to the protesters and within minutes the flag had been lowered.
In the final years of his life, with the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the end of the Vietnam War, Wayne's political beliefs appeared to have moderated. He attended the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter on 20 January 1977, and along with his fellow right-winger James Stewart he could be seen applauding Jane Fonda at AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Henry Fonda (1978) (TV). Later in 1978, Wayne uncharacteristically sided with the Democrats and President Carter against his fellow conservative Republicans over the issue of the Panama Canal, which Wayne believed belonged to the people of Panama and not the United States of America.
Offered Charlton Heston the roles of Jim Bowie and Colonel William Travis in his film The Alamo (1960), saying the young actor would be ideal for either part. Heston declined the offer because he did not want to be directed by Wayne, and because he feared the critical response to the right-wing movie. Wayne intended the epic to be an allegory for America's Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Separated from his wife Pilar Wayne in 1973, though they never divorced. When Louis Johnson, his business partner, sold all of their holdings in Arizona, The 26 Bar Ranch and the Red River Land and Cattle Company, Wayne's children got one half of it, $24,000,000. Pilar had already been taken care of at their separation.
Although media reports suggested he was to attend Elvis Presley's funeral in August 1977, Wayne didn't show up for it. Presley had once been considered for Glen Campbell's role in True Grit (1969).
Re-mortgaged his house in Hollywood in order to finance The Alamo (1960). While the movie was a success internationally, it lost him a great deal of money personally. For the next four years he had to made one film after another, including The Longest Day (1962) for which he was paid $250,000 for four days work. By early 1962 his financial problems were resolved.
Honored with an Army RAH-66 Helicopter, named "The Duke". Many people attended the naming ceremony in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, May 12th, 1998, including his children and grandchildren, congressmen, the president of the USO Metropolitan Washington, dignitaries and many military personnel. His eldest son Michael Wayne said at the ceremony, "John Wayne loved his country and he loved its traditions".
In 1973 he was honored with the Veterans of Foreign Wars highest award - The National Americanism Gold Medal.