For years there has been quite a bit of talk (and not a little controversy) regarding John Wayne’s real name. As most know, he received the name “John Wayne” after winning the part of Breck Coleman in Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail in 1930. Walsh and studio head Winfield Sheehan sat down to discuss the name and impending name change. Sheehan thought the name Marion (Wayne’s real first name) wasn’t manly enough. Walsh, an admirer of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, offered up the name “Tony Wayne.” Sheehan didn’t like it, but did like the name “John,” and the rest is history. John Wayne didn’t even have an opportunity to offer up his opinion on the matter.
Wayne never really got used to the name “John Wayne,” and often would not answer when someone called his name. And when he introduced himself, he often said, “My name is John Wayne, but my friends call me Duke.” Indeed, his nickname was Duke – a name he had been given while still a young boy. According to history, he had an Airedale dog named Duke, who would follow him to school. Local firefighters who had befriended the boy, would proclaim “here comes big Duke and little Duke” when they would see the pair walking down the street, and the name stuck. And to clarify a point, his nickname is “Duke,” not “The Duke.” Just Duke.
In fact, Wayne used his real last name and his nickname during his early years in Hollywood, and his first on-screen credit (for 1929’s Words and Music) was as “Duke Morrison.”
Now, most folks know that John Wayne’s real name was Marion Morrison, and there is really no doubt about that. The questions that eventually arise regarding his real name, is just what was his middle name – his “real” middle name, or his full legal name?
According to his birth certificate, John Wayne’s full legal name at birth was Marion Robert Morrison, as evidenced by the birth certificate and accompanying affidavit shown below; as well as his signature on his 1943 application to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), also shown below.
Click on any image to enlarge it.
According to biographers, when Wayne’s brother Robert was born, his mother changed his name to either Marion “Michael” Morrison, or Marion “Mitchell” Morrison, in order to gain some favor with a wealthy relative; and it is here the controversy arises. Is his name “Robert,” “Michael” or “Mitchell”?
Although Wayne’s mother may have told him that his name was no longer “Robert,” the fact is, she never legally changed his middle name. From the day he was born until the day his died, John Wayne’s legal name was Marion Robert Morrison. Although Wayne knew this (as evidenced by his OSS application shown above), he still tried to keep the peace with his mother, by using either Michael or Mitchell as his middle name. According to the same OSS application noted above, Which he legally signed as Marion Robert Morrison, Wayne notes that he also uses the name Marion Michael Morrison.
Also, in a letter written by Wayne’s eldest son, Michael Wayne, to comedienne Phyllis Diller, Michael Wayne writes (regarding a photo he sent with the letter), “The photo is of Marion Michael Morrison playing football at U.S.C.” So, the use of the name Marion Michael Morrison was common enough that his family was aware of it, and considered this to be his actual name.
But where does the middle name of Mitchell come into play, you may ask? Actually from John Wayne himself, who not only used the name Marion Michael Morrison, but also the name Marion Mitchell Morrison. In fact, when he signed his marriage certificate to Josephine Saenz in 1933, he signed it as Marion Mitchell Morrison.
Click on either image to enlarge it.
We may never really know with 100% certainty just why he used both Michael and Mitchell as his middle name, but I suspect it had more to do with keeping his mother happy by not using the name Robert which she had taken away from him to give to his brother, than anything else. He was a dutiful son who loved and respected his mother without question, and who also felt the same about his younger brother. How difficult would it have truly been to capitulate to his mothers wishes regarding his middle name, and what harm could come of it? And in the end, it likely gave him some small amount of amusement to watch people try and guess his full name. In an industry such as his, where every aspect of one’s life is brought into the light, examined under a public microscope, and questioned by more than a few, it was probably kind of nice to have at least one small part of that life that remained somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Oh, by the way, I know I mentioned that his first on-screen credit was as Duke Morrison, but did you know that he used (at least once) a name other than Duke Morrison or John Wayne in his on-screen credits? Yep, he sure did. In the 1960 episode of Wagon Train titled The Colter Craven Story, Duke played General William Tecumseh Sherman in a very brief cameo appearance. During his brief time on-screen, he is shown only in shadow. The only recognizable feature being his distinctive voice. The reason for this was simply to give the viewers something of a small mystery – “Was that John Wayne? Was that really John Wayne?” they would ask. And watching the credits roll by at the end of the episode would not answer that question, because he was credited as “Michael Morris.”
On April 7, 1970, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, John Wayne was finally recognized by his peers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 42nd Academy Awards presentation. It had been ten years since his previous nomination as producer of The Alamo (nominated for Best Picture), and twenty years since his nomination for best actor in Sands of Iwo Jima. Both of which he should have won.
Duke accepting his Oscar April 7, 1970
It has long been my admittedly biased opinion, that John Wayne was a highly underrated actor. To be sure, over his fifty year career he made a few films that didn’t quite measure up to what we have come to expect from a John Wayne film, but what actor hasn’t made a few bad films? Throughout that half century career, however, The Duke turned out some mighty fine performances, including some that I think were quite worthy of at least an Oscar nomination.
Aside from Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo (both of which, as I said, he should have won Academy Awards), consider his portrayal of Captain Brittles in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, or Tom Dunson in Red River? Or how about his performance as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, easily one of the greatest films ever made. His roles as Bob Hightower in 3 Godfathers, Rusty Ryan in They Were Expendable, Dan Roman in High and the Mighty, Hondo Lane in Hondo, Chance in Rio Bravo, Tom Doniphon in Liberty Valance, Sean Thornton in The Quiet Man, Wil Anderson in The Cowboys, and J.B. Books in The Shootist, all are, in my opinion, Oscar worthy performances, and yet, the great man only won the one Academy Award.
Over the years, John Wayne made several appearances at the Academy Awards, and I thought it would kind of nice to take a brief look at those appearances.
John Wayne accepts Best Director Oscar for an absent John Ford from Olivia DeHavilland on stage at the 25th annual Academy Awards presentation in 1953, as well as accepting the Best Actor Award for his friend Gary Cooper. This was the first televised Academy Award show.
At his last televised public appearance on April 9, 1979, Duke presented the Best Picture Oscar to Michael Cimino for the film The Deer Hunter.
I found a few minutes to do some aimless internet surfing today, and I came across these two videos featuring the great Maureen O'Hara and Stephanie Powers talking about the film McLintock! which they both starred in alongside John Wayne. I enjoyed them very much, and thought I would share them with you. If you haven't seen them before, you're in for a treat! Enjoy!
The following review of Rio Bravo was written by Colin over at the "Riding The High Country - Reviews and Ramblings" blog, back on March 24, 2008. I have to tell y'all, if you get the chance (no pun intended!), take some time and check out Colin's blog (just click on the above link). Not only is he a first rate writer and reviewer, but his blog is Top Notch! Thanks Colin for allowing me to re-blog this!
“A game-legged old man and a drunk. Is that all you got?”
“That’s what I’ve got.”
When Sheriff John T Chance (John Wayne) hands that laconic reply to the question from his friend Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond), it more or less sums up what the whole film is trying to say. Anybody who has ever seen a few Howard Hawks movies will know just how much store he set by the idea of professionalism. The small group of self-contained professionals is a recurrent theme in his work, and Rio Bravo may be the best example of this.
I won’t go into the plot in great detail here since it is, frankly, a little thin for a film with a running time creeping up towards two and a half hours. Chance arrests Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) for murder and must hold him in the town jail until the Marshal arrives. All the time, the town is under a virtual state of siege from the hired gunmen of Joe’s brother, Nathan (John Russell). Throw in a typically Hawksian romance between Chance and a poker playing drifter called Feathers (Angie Dickinson), and that’s it. However, this is really a character driven movie, and the plot functions mainly to provide the necessary circumstances to allow the characters to interact. It is this interaction that elevates Rio Bravo to the status of one of the great westerns. I’d challenge anyone to sit through this and not feel for these people by the end; more than that, you actually get the sense of coming to know them. Think about Chance’s coolly competent lawman who’s reduced almost to an awkward schoolboy when confronted with a sassy, attractive woman; Dude’s (Dean Martin) drunken deputy who must face down his personal demons if he’s ever to retrieve his self-respect from the whiskey bottle where he left it; and let’s not forget Stumpy (Walter Brennan), the trigger-happy cripple whose cackling and complaining adds so much warmth and humour to it all.
John Wayne gives one of his most relaxed performances in this film and while this has been criticised by some, I think it fits the pace of the piece. The acting is understated and just plain likable from a man whose talents many are quick to criticise and slow to acknowledge. It’s hard to imagine any other actor playing this part with the natural confidence displayed by Wayne. Dean Martin’s Dude remains convincing as the character gradually transforms himself from a pitiful rummy fishing for drink money in spittoons into a man proud enough to enter by the front door once again. When the doubts and temptations assail him and threaten to haul him back into oblivion, you can’t help rooting for him. The great Walter Brennan has a high time with his role as Stumpy and manages to steal nearly every scene he appears in. The only weak performances come from Angie Dickinson and Ricky Nelson. But if you remember that Dickinson was meant to provide eye candy, Nelson was there to draw in contemporary youth, and that the real focus was on Chance, Dude and Stumpy then it doesn’t seem so important.
While most western directors liked to get out into the wide open spaces, Hawks opted to shoot the entire film within the confines of the town. This has the effect of creating both a claustrophobic tension and a comfortable coziness. In keeping with the theme of professional lawmen, the film itself exudes a slick professional feel. The maturity of Hawks direction can be seen in the first five minutes of the movie, when the status of the main characters and the basis of the plot are presented clearly and explicitly without one word of dialogue being spoken. The script by Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett may develop at a leisurely pace, but it’s always logical and it’s packed full of memorable lines. Mention should also be made of the score by Dimitri Tiomkin; it complements the action perfectly and the use of the Deguello is yet another of the joys the film has to offer.
I can’t finish this piece without referring to the fact that Rio Bravo was Howard Hawks’ riposte to High Noon. Hawks took exception to the idea of a lawman running around town desperately seeking help from a scared and apathetic citizenry. This was anathema to a man who worshipped at the altar of the professional ethic. To Hawks, a man ought to play the cards dealt to him regardless of the odds stacked against him. Now I have no interest in discussing the politics, either implicit or explicit, of these two films but I do find myself drawn more often to Rio Bravo. While I like and admire High Noon, it concentrates on the selfish fears of men where Rio Bravo celebrates the camaraderie and warmth of humanity – I know which I find more appealing.
For a long time Rio Bravo was only available on DVD on a bare-bones edition. Last year saw the release of a 2-disc SE with a commentary and lots of special features. Initial reports were that the transfer was significantly darker than the old version and I was wary of the upgrade. However, I eventually decided to take a chance and was pleasantly surprised. The new transfer is darker but then the old one was too washed out and faded anyway. It’s not perfect but I do feel it’s an improvement on the original and I have no regrets whatsoever about purchasing it. Maybe Rio Bravo isn’t the best western ever made but, if not, it’s only a few paces behind. Over the years, I’ve probably viewed this film more than any other and I continue to enjoy it – that’s as good a recommendation as I can offer.
Posted by Colin on March 24, 2008
If you’re a fan of John Wayne films, then there is a very good chance that you know just who Hal Needham is – the veteran stunt man, actor, and author has worked on and appeared in 11 of John Wayne’s movies. He was the man who not only planned and worked out the details of that amazing car crash in McQ, but he drove the car a well! Mr. Needham is going to honored today (Saturday, December 1, 2012) with an honorary Academy Award at the 4th annual Governor’s Awards at the private ceremony at the Hollywood Highland Center.
From the Washington Times: “HAL NEEDHAM was behind the wheel of a car flying 30 feet in the air when he realized he’d put too much gunpowder in the cannon he’d used to make the vehicle flip in the 1974 John Wayne film, “McQ.” Needham broke his back and punctured a lung when he landed, but still felt his Cannon Turnover invention was a success.
“I just backed the powder way down and it became a real slick way of turning a car over,” the 81-year-old said in a recent interview.
The veteran stuntman and inventor, who went on to write and direct action classics including “Smokey and the Bandit,” won the academy’s Scientific and Engineering Award in 1986 for another of his creations: The Shotmaker Elite, a camera car and crane equipped with its own generator.
“That just goes to show you that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the world to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
He quit performing stunts when he made “Smokey” in 1977. He regards the film among his proudest achievements. His last film credit was in 1999 for the TV movie “Hard Time: Hostage Hotel.”
For the past year, Needham has been traveling the country promoting his memoir, “Stuntman!: My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Death-Defying Hollywood Life.”
He said he was “in a little shock” when he learned he’d be receiving an honorary Oscar for his entertainment contributions: “I never figured someone like me, with my background and everything, I didn’t figure it would get to this point, but I’m happy it did.”
Still, he says stuntmen don’t need annual recognition from the Academy Awards, as some have suggested.
“Stuntmen bring a lot to the film industry, especially in action films, but if you start trying to give an Oscar for a stuntman, say he doubled a star, I think that takes away from the star’s value,” Needham said.”
You can read more about the other honorees and the ceremony by clicking here.
(Mr. Needham worked on and appeared in McQ, Rio Lobo, Chisum, The Undefeated, The Hellfighters, In Harm’s Way, The War Wagon, McLintock!, Donovan’s Reef, How The West Was Won, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.)
Photo Blog for the week of November 25, 2012.
This weeks photo blog is The Bog Trail. First, though, an apology. I missed last weeks photo blog and I do apologize for that. Things happen and I really have no excuse, so...
This week, however, I did remember and here we go, The Big Trail - Enjoy! (Remember, you can click on any image to enlarge it)
I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Graham Leggett of England, a fellow John Wayne fan and an artist of exceptional talent. Graham creates beautiful watercolor portraits, and also what he calls “Cariactraits”, or caricature portraits, of famous westerners, and regular folks like you and me. One of my most prized possessions is a portrait he did with me standing beside John Wayne. It is now displayed in a place of honor above our fireplace for everyone to see.
Graham is completely self-taught, and his natural talent is obvious in his attention to detail, and accuracy. His style of painting is admittedly influenced by Charlie Russell, though some have said it is reminiscent of Norman Rockwell.
Graham has been in love with the American west, and western movies since childhood, and he discovered early on that he could express his interest in the west through his ability to draw and paint incredibly lifelike images of historical westerners, western film heroes, and fellow old west and “reel” west enthusiasts.
One of his favorite subjects, both to paint and talk about, is John Wayne. Graham told me, “I’ve been a fan of John Wayne, or as most fans call him, ‘The Duke,’ since I was about five years old. Like most kids, I loved cowboys and Indians, and my favorite star was, of course, the big man himself, ‘the Duke.’ You could guarantee that his films would be full of action. He was a great man. I wasn’t bothered by his politics, but I do think he was a kind and gentle man with a heart of gold. I love painting the Duke. He has a wonderful face for painting, plenty of character and easy to paint. I remember my first John Wayne sketches. I did six of seven small circular pen and ink sketches. I was about ten or so, and my family was great, they were very encouraging. I then did a painting of him on horseback from True Grit, and from then on if I was down or needed inspiration, out would come my paper and I would either paint or draw the Duke, and that would lift me up and bring a glow inside.
I still paint the Duke, and I always will. He’s the one man I would have loved to have met. There will never be another Duke. He was unique, a big man in many ways, and sadly missed by me and his many fans the world over.”
If you are interested in contacting Graham to inquire about any of his art, or if you would like to know more about having your portrait done, he can be contacted through his website, BrushWest Water Colours.
Here are some of the great pieces that Graham has created, click on any image to enlarge it. Enjoy!
The Art of Graham Leggett
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