Before John Wayne Was “John Wayne” – His Early Years

  A sales manager for the heating and air conditioning firm Aire Serv, Jeremiah Caughron also owns a construction company located in the southwest. When he is not at work, Jeremiah Caughron enjoys the many films of John Wayne.

Wayne’s early life gave no hint of his future stardom. He was born Marion Morrison in Iowa in 1907. But 4 years later, his family moved to Glendale, California, where he acquired a terrier named “Little Duke,” giving rise to his preferred nickname of Duke.

He attended the University of Southern California, and had a brief football career that was cut short by injury. Wayne found work in a props department in the new community of Hollywood. In the late 1920s, he met director John Ford, who cast him in bit parts in his silent films. It was also the start of a lifelong friendship.

Wayne’s substantial physical presence helped him win a leading role in a major western, The Big Trail, where he learned the riding skills that lent credibility to his portrayals. Director Raoul Walsh renamed Marion Morrison, calling him John Wayne after the colonial-era general Mad Anthony Wayne.

The 1930s saw Wayne appear in numerous B westerns and serials. He occasionally played other types of roles, including one opposite Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face. The decade ended with a breakout role as the Ringo Kid in John Ford’s Stagecoach, which was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Firmly established in the public eye, Wayne made hit westerns and took heroic roles in World War II films. Ever conscious of his public image as a decent man, Wayne refused to be shown shooting a man in the back in his final film, The Shootist. He died of lung cancer in 1979.