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John Wayne


A photo of John Wayne from the 1940 film, “The Long Voyage Home.”Courtesy | Wikimedia Commons
When a tycoon tried to take a family’s land in the movie “El Dorado,” an alcoholic sheriff did nothing to help – but John Wayne did.
“Your gun hand’s no good,” gunman Nelse McLeod said.
“Just give me time to get down off of this wagon and we’ll find out,” Wayne replied.
While Wayne embodied the character of the American frontier, few Americans know the story behind his own character.
Wayne was born in 1907 to a pharmacist in the small town of Winterset, Iowa. His parents, who struggled financially and often fought, gave him the name Marion Michael Morrison at age five.
His grandfather, a Union Civil War veteran, bought a homestead in California’s Mojave Desert, and his father moved there to help tend the land in 1914. The rest of the family followed soon after and lived on a farm in what Wayne called a “glorified shack.”
“Didn’t have gas nor electricity nor water,” Wayne said, according to The Washington Post. “A stranger visiting from Iowa wouldn’t have believed he was in the 20th century.”
Wayne rode a horse to school until his family moved to Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb, in 1916. He went to Glendale Union High School, where he was president of the Latin society, on the debate team, on the football team, and wrote sports news for the school paper. During these years, his dog Duke never left his side. Locals started calling him “Duke,” and the name stuck.
Wayne’s family kept struggling with finances, which strained the relationship between his mother and father.
“Mom was just not a happy woman,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “No matter what I did, or what Dad did, it was never enough.”
He went to study at the University of Southern California in 1925, where he continued playing football. He worked for the Fox Film Corp. during the summer, where he made inroads and eventually got minor roles in Western films under the name “John Wayne.” He made his first major appearance in the 1939 movie “Stagecoach.”
When America entered World War II, however, he never enlisted. The Japanese struck Pearl Harbor when he was 34 years old, and he was the sole provider for his family, so he got an exemption from the draft.
When the Army later changed its mind, film studios threatened legal action against Wayne should he enlist. They convinced the military he would be more useful making war movies. So he served from the studio, making movies including “The Fighting Seabees” and “Back to Bataan.”
Wayne’s only field experience came from entertaining soldiers in the Pacific with the USO. Army Lt. Col. Fred Stofft, however, served with Wayne in the New Britain Campaign, and recalled him sneaking onto a landing craft to join soldiers invading an island.
“I turned around and there alongside me was Duke. I said, ‘What the devil are you doing here?’ And he said, ‘I want to go and see what’s going on,’” Stofft said. “There was actual fighting and he was part of that.”
Wayne applied to the CIA’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, but was  never accepted. His wife Pilar wrote that he would become a “superpatriot” to atone for this.
He starred in patriotic films like “The Green Berets” and “The Alamo,” and classic Westerns like “El Dorado” and “Rio Bravo.” He brought a new grit to the industry, which had been stuck in the habit of simply pitting “white hats” against “black hats.”
“The heavy was allowed to hit the hero in the head with a chair or throw a kerosene lamp at him or kick him in the stomach, but the hero could only knock the villain down politely and then wait,” Wayne said. “I changed all that. I threw chairs and lamps. I fought hard and I fought dirty. I fought to win.”
Wayne applied this in other areas of his life, supporting conservative causes and pushing against Hollywood’s left-wing current.
“I thought I was a liberal,” he said. “I came up terribly surprised one time when I found that I was a right-wing, conservative extremist.”
Wayne founded the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals in 1944 to obstruct efforts by “communist, fascist, and other totalitarian-minded groups to pervert this powerful medium.” He strongly supported Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, even playing the role of a HUAC investigator in the 1952 movie “Big Jim McClain.” Wayne criticized communist teaching in schools.
“You’re being conned into Keynesian socialism,” Wayne said. “It isn’t going to stop the selfishness of human behavior. It isn’t going to stop the greed.”
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, a film buff, allegedly tried to kill Wayne for his on-screen persona and his off-screen anti-communism, according to the book “John Wayne – The Man Behind the Myth.” Author Michael Munn wrote that Stalin sent two KGB assassins after Wayne in 1951, but the FBI intercepted them in Hollywood, according to The Guardian. They brought the men to Wayne, who made them defect by staging a mock execution on the beach. Munn wrote that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev apologized to Wayne in 1958 for the plots.
While these claims are disputed, Munn cited popular actor Orson Welles, who supposedly heard of the plots from imprisoned Soviet filmmakers. Welles disliked Wayne, so would have nothing to gain from spreading these rumors.
Wayne’s status as an American icon, however, is undisputed. He acted consistently with principle and true grit.
“I want to play a real man in all my films, and I define manhood simply,” Wayne said. “Men should be tough, fair, and courageous. Never petty, never looking for a fight, but never backing down from one either.”

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

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