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  • Writer's pictureDr Chan Abraham


In a world that looks for stardom, celebrity and promo-value in the tacky veneer of external appearance and virtue-signalling (bolstered by Hollywood and the mainstream media) it's refreshing to recover the true stories of some of recent history's most admired men.

The man who would become movie legend John Wayne started out as a prop boy and extra for the Fox Film Corporation, working his way up to bit parts before he would be cast in his first leading role, in 1930's The Big Trail.

The film's director, Raoul Walsh, wanted an unknown who could bring to life the rugged, unpolished quality of life in the Old West. The man-who-would-be-John-Wayne first caught Walsh's eye lugging furniture across a soundstage. Walsh recalled:

"The expression on his face was so warm and wholesome that I stopped and watched. I noticed the fine physique of the boy, his careless strength, the grace of his movement."

The problem was that this particular up-and-coming actor was named Marion Morrison, and having a macho Western leading man named Marion Morrison simply wouldn't do. Walsh and studio head Winfield Sheehan came up with "John Wayne," partly because Sheehan admired American Revolution Gen. Anthony Wayne, and partly because the name seemed suitably masculine.

There's still some disagreement over whether Sheehan or Walsh had the larger part in coming up with the name, but it's pretty clear Marion Morrison himself had no input, and didn't much care either.

Photo: Fox Film Corporation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Credit: Gordon Cameron

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