Monthly Trivia Answer:
John Wayne

Born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa in 1907, Wayne’s family moved to California in 1914.  It was there that a local firefighter began calling him “Duke” as he never went anywhere without his beloved dog Duke.  He preferred this moniker to his actual name, so the nickname stuck.  As a young man, Wayne applied to the US Naval Academy but was denied.  He attended the University of Southern California (USC) with the help of a football scholarship instead.  However, his athletic career came to an end when a bodysurfing accident caused a collar bone injury.  As a result, Wayne lost his football scholarship and had to leave the school.  As a favor to the USC football coach, director John Ford hired Wayne as a prop man and extra in order to help him make ends meet.  Ford introduced Wayne to director Raoul Walsh and it was Walsh who offered Wayne his first starring role as cowboy Breck Coleman in the 1930 film “The Big Trail”.  During production of the film, in an effort to make Wayne more appealing to film audiences, he was given the name “John Wayne” by the studio chief and director.

Wayne’s big break came in 1939 when John Ford casted him as Ringo Kid in the film “Stagecoach”.  This solidified his acting career and made him a bona fide star.  Wayne went on to appear in over 170 films and earned three Academy Award nominations in the process, eventually winning in 1969 for his performance in “True Grit”. 

Wayne was heavily involved in politics and considered himself a patriot.  He toured the world entertaining troops for the USO and was even asked to run for national office by Republican Party backers despite some of his controversial beliefs which made headlines. 

He survived a bout with lung cancer despite losing a lung and a few ribs but eventually succumbed to stomach cancer in 1979.

John Wayne’s status as an American icon was recognized by the government when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1979 and 1980 respectively.  


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