John Wayne: Summary Image

John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa, but grew up in Southern California. He lost a football scholarship to the University of Southern California as a result of a bodysurfing accident, and began working for the Fox Film Corporation.

He appeared mostly in small parts, but his first leading role came in Raoul Walsh’s Western The Big Trail (1930), an early widescreen film epic which was a box-office failure. He played leading roles in numerous B movies during the 1930s, most of them also Westerns, without becoming a major name.

It was John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) that made Wayne a mainstream star, and he starred in 142 motion pictures altogether (excluding silents)

John Wayne personified the nation’s frontier heritage.

John Wayne’s image draws together his bigness in size and height, his association with the West (and Western genre), his patriotic support for right-wing politics, his male independence of women yet courtliness towards women.

These elements are mutually reinforcing, legitimizing a certain way of being a “real man” in American society.