John Wayne's senior photo in the 1925 yearbook from Glendale High when he was known as Marion Morrison. (Courtesy of Glendale High / January 17, 2014)
In honor of one of the most famous icons who has ever lived in the city, Glendale High School will change the name of its auditorium to the John Wayne Performing Arts Center, after the legendary actor who is not otherwise recognized in the city where he came of age.
Before he took on his stage name, Marion Morrison attended what was then Glendale’s only high school, then called Glendale Union High School.
The future western film star played on the school’s football team, served as class president during his senior year and acted in school productions before graduating in 1925.
Glendale Unified officials announced this week they have received permission from John Wayne Enterprises to use the actor’s name for the school’s performing arts center.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for years,” said Glendale school board member Greg Krikorian.
Well, at least one of them is. During the nine years they lived in Glendale, the Morrison family lived in eight different houses. The one for sale is located at 404 North Isabel Street in Glendale. The house was built in 1914, and it was purchased by Duke’s father, Clyde Morrison, in 1918. It is believed to be the only home ever purchased by Clyde (all their other homes were rentals). Unfortunately, Clyde lost the home the same year he purchased it – 1918. Duke was 11 years old at the time.
After moving out of 404 N. Isabel, the family moved into a small apartment located above the Glendale Pharmacy, where Clyde worked. Duke worked delivering prescriptions for Clyde and on Saturday’s he worked at the Palace Grand Theater, which had opened its doors in 1914, the same year their home had been built.
404 N. Isabel is now on the market, and can be purchased for a mere $599,000. Of course, it has been completely remodeled since Duke lived there, and he likely would not recognize the place. It was originally a three-bedroom, one-bath home. In 1947 an addition was built that added two more bedrooms and a second bath. It is being listed as a duplex. The listing reads as follows:
“Astonishing craftsman duplex in the heart of Glendale. The front house has been completely remodeled including a new kitchen, restrooms and flooring. The back house is approximately 720 sq ft 2+1. Must come to see. John Wayne's Childhood home. Open house Saturday April 6th and Sunday April 7th 12:00 to 4:00pm.”
Unfortunately, the open house is over (I would have liked to just walk through the house and imagine Duke living there!), but I would expect a realtor would be happy to show any “perspective buyers” around the place. And probably wouldn’t object to any photos being taken of John Wayne’s boyhood home. And I hope I am not being too subtle – hint – hint! (Just kidding!)
The complete listing can be read here: http://www.redfin.com/CA/Glendale/404-N-Isabel-St-91206/home/7159335
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.”
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