The Working Actor EDITOR'S INTRO
This is the forty fifth in a continuing feature at IndustryCentral profiling "The Working Actor". (See Archives below)
William Shakespeare said "There are no small parts--.". William Shatner may have said it too, but the longhair with the tights was first, or so the reports go. In this feature we will explore what it really means to be an actor working in Motion Pictures and Television.
Broad public acknowledgment may have eluded some who find their way to these pages, or perhaps they may have brushed against what is referred to as stardom by virtue of one or more remarkable performances. However for many, the rewards of plying their craft in a field which has allowed them to earn a living may exceed the burdens of public acclaim. Given the chance, some in this clan might prefer the longevity offered by anonymity over the potential for short lived fame.
These individuals, either by design or fate, have managed to sustain a career by crafting performances which rendered them a good casting choice. They are usually thought of as a face you recognize, but you just can't get the name past the tip of your tongue.
Most of these folks have spent countless hours on stage in theaters ranging from 20 seats to 2000, building characters from the works of Ibsen, to Eliot, to Williams, to yes even Shakespeare, and so many of the modern Playwrights. They have rounded their skills doing drama, comedy, & musicals. Their work is a serious venture.
These people have given us screen performances which quite often were the catalyst that brought an Oscar or Emmy to another and yet they continue to work as "Characters" or "Co-Stars" without the trophies and plaques adorning their mantle.
John Wayne
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Note: This Profile is clearly a departure from our typical Working Actor Profiles as it's subject, during his long and prolific career, reached the pinnacle of success in the Movie Industry. However in reviewing his massive body of work, clearly he deserves some recognition under the "Working Actor" classification. Were it not for a bit of luck early on, this Hollywood Icon may have earned a fair living only in co-starring roles ........ who can say?

Marion Michael Morrison's father Clyde was a pharmacist who because of a lung condition decided to move his wife Mary and family to the southern California where the climate was warmer. At first he tried ranching near the Mojave desert, but the ranch failed he and his younger brother Robert swam in an irrigation ditch and rode a horse to school. Next the family moved to Glendale where Marion delivered medicines for his father, sold newspapers, and had an pet dog named "Duke" (the source of his own nickname). He did well at school both academically and in football. He went to USC on a football scholarship 1925-7. Tom Mix got him a summer job as a prop man in exchange for football tickets. Working on the set he became close friends with director John Ford for whom, among others, he began doing bit parts, where he took on the screen name for which he became famous. His first featured film was Men Without Women (1930). After more than 70 low-budget adventures, Ford cast him in Stagecoach (1939), from which ehe became a major star. He appeared in close to 250 movies, From 1942-43 he appeared in a radio series called "The Three Sheets to the Wind" and in 1944 he helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, later becoming its president. His right-wing political stance was also reflected in Alamo, The (1960) which he produced, directed and starred in. His superhawk stand was enshrined in Green Berets, The (1968) which he co-directed and starred in. In 1963 he had a cancerous lung removed; in 1978 there was open-heart surgery; in 1979 his stomach was removed. He received the Best Actor nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and the Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969). A Congressional Medal was struck in his honor. He is perhaps best remembered for his parts in the cavalry trilogy -- Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950).

He has come to represent the archetypal American of our country's formative period: honest, direct, decisive, solitary, and reverent; one whose faith in his own ability enables him to take action when it's needed, and whose belief in justice spurs him to right wrongs when they're discovered. John Wayne, nicknamed "Duke," played that character-or variations on it-in almost every movie he made, and it became so much a part of him that most people couldn't separate the real Wayne from his screen persona.

Duke Morrison was a USC football player who often worked, as did many Southern California college students, for filmmakers as extras and/or grips. He can be spotted in several late 1920s silents, including Brown of Harvard (1926), The Drop Kick, Mother Macree (both 1927), Hangman's House and Four Sons (both 1928). Several of those were directed by John Ford, who gave Duke and his football pal Wardell Bond bit parts in his 1929 talkie Salute Ford also recommended he be tested for the lead in Fox's upcoming Western epic The Big Trail to be directed by Raoul Walsh.

Duke won the role, and his name was changed to John Wayne. Making the rugged frontier drama The Big Trail (1930) was an arduous experience for everybody, especially novice stars Wayne and Marguerite Churchill. It was also a flop at the box office, prompting Fox to drop him after he did a few minor programmers. He took bits wherever he could, supporting Western stars Buck Jones (in 1931's Range Feud and Tim McCoy (1931's Texas Cyclone and 1932's Two Fisted Law and starring in three cheap but action-packed serials, The Shadow of the Eagle, The Hurricane Express (both 1932), and The Three Musketeers (1933).

By the time those serials hit theaters, Duke had already landed a contract with Warner Bros., where he starred in six lowbudget Westerns, and got bit parts in such A-level features as The Life of Jimmy Dolan, Central Airport, College Coach and Baby Face (all 1933). Out in the cold again, he won the lead in a Poverty Row quickie, His Private Secretary then spent the next two years starring in B Westerns for Monogram Pictures. (The first, 1933's Riders of Destiny cast him as "Singin' Sandy," although his warbling was dubbed by the son of director Robert N. Bradbury.)

He spent the rest of the 1930s headlining Westerns and grade-B action features, first for Republic and then for Universal. He returned to Republic in 1938 to replace Bob Livingston as Stony Burke in eight entries of the long-running "Three Mesquiteers" series, including Pals of the Saddle, Overland Stage Raiders (both 1938), The Night Riders, Wyoming Outlaw and New Frontier (all 1939). Between "Mesquiteer" shoots, Wayne was called by his old friend John Ford to test for the leading role of the Ringo Kid in his groundbreaking "adult" Western Stagecoach (1939). After a decade in front of the camera, this film made him an "overnight" star. He remained eternally grateful to Ford.

He continued to work out his contract at Republic, starring in B-plus vehicles at the studio, but he was also in demand, for the first time, as a leading man in Hollywood. He paired off with Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott in both The Spoilers and Pittsburgh shared starring honors with Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard in Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind (all 1942), romanced Joan Crawford in Reunion in France (also 1942), Jean Arthur in A Lady Takes a Chance (1943), and Claudette Colbert in Without Reservations (1946), and forged a lifelong association with war movies by starring in Flying Tigers (1942), The Fighting Seabees (1944), Back to Bataanand John Ford's They Were Expendable (both 1945). (Ironically, he was exempted from military service in real life because of an ear infection developed during underwater shooting on Reap the Wild Wind

In 1948 Duke starred in Howard Hawks' Red Riverdelivering an eye-opening performance as an unforgiving cattle baron who squares off against his adopted son (Montgomery Clift). For the first time, critics sat up and took notice. He continued to do impressive work in Ford's 3 Godfathers and Fort Apache (both 1948), the first of the director's cavalry trilogy. Then in 1949 Ford gave him one of his best roles, in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as aged Capt. Nathan Brittles, who's slated to retire just as an Indian war is looming. Mustached and bespectacled, Wayne convinced audiences that his bones creaked every time he moved. That same year he made war-movie history as the tough-as-nails Marine drill instructor (who has a heart, after all) in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), which earned him his first Academy Award nomination. Ford and Wayne made one more Cavalry film, Rio Grande (1950), as a payback to Republic boss Herbert J. Yates; by turning out this surefire box-office film, they earned the right to make Ford's pet project, The Quiet Man

Wayne first encountered Maureen O'Hara onscreen in Rio Grande and it was immediately clear that they had a special chemistry. They reunited in The Quiet Man (1952), a charming, romanticized view of Ireland as seen by an American. It was one of Wayne's most endearing performances, and one of the first that allowed audiences to enjoy his lighter side.

When Wayne brought Ford to Republic, the star secured a promise from Yates to let him film the story of the Alamo, a longtime dream. Yates later reneged, and Wayne never worked on a Republic film again. Wayne formed his own production company, Batjac (the name of the shipping company in 1948's Wake of the Red Witch to develop projects both for him and for other stars. Having produced Budd Boetticher's Bullfighter and the Lady (1951) at Republic, he hired the director again for the Randolph Scott Western Seven Men From Now (1956). He also put strapping James Arness under personal contract, and recommended him to CBS for the lead in the "Gunsmoke" TV series, even introducing the first episode oncamera.

Wayne coproduced and starred in Big Jim McLain (1952), Island in the Sky, Hondo (both 1953), The High and the Mighty (1954), Blood Alley (1955), and Legend of the Lost (1957). He worked again with Ford on what many consider to be the finest of their collaborations, The Searchers (1956), with Duke as an avenging angel in pursuit of Indians who've murdered his family and kidnapped his niece. The two friends also teamed for The Wings of Eagles (1957), which cast Wayne as Navy aviator-turned-screenwriter "Spig" Wead, and The Horse Soldiers (1959), a Civil War story.

Often accused of simply "playing himself" onscreen, Wayne tried to stretch in the 1950s, but his choices were ill advised, to say the least, and both The Conqueror (1956, in which he played Genghis Khan) and The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958, in which he played 19th-century American ambassador Townsend Harris) were major fiascos. In the years to follow he stuck to the tried-and-true, and who can blame him? Audiences lined up to see a "John Wayne movie" and he gave them what they wanted.

His last "personal" projects, which he directed and starred in, were the sprawling, extravagant super-production The Alamo (1960), in which he played Davy Crockett, and The Green Berets (1968), which reinforced his real-life image as a Hawk during the Vietnam era. These aside, Wayne continued working with Howard Hawks, in Rio Bravo (1959), the terrific African adventure Hatari! (1962), the Rio Bravo paraphrase El Dorado (1967), and Rio Lobo (1970), and John Ford in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valanceone segment of How the West Was Won (both 1962, in the latter as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman), and Donovan's Reef (1963). His son Michael took the producer's reins on McLintock! (1963), directed by onetime Ford assistant Andrew McLaglen, which reunited Wayne with Maureen O'Hara. He repeatedly surrounded himself with such friends and colleagues in his remaining films, giving such otherwise uninspired Westerns as The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), The War Wagon (1967), Chisum (1970), Big Jake (1971), The Train Robbers and CahillUnited States Marshal (both 1973) a welcome feeling of continuity for his fans.

True Grit (1969) gave him his first character role in years, as a boozy, one-eyed, over-the-hill lawman, and it won him his only Academy Award. He reprised the character in Rooster Cogburn (1975), a mediocre film distinguished by his genial performance opposite Katharine Hepburn, in an "odd couple" teaming meant to kindle thoughts of The African Queen In later years Wayne appeared in a few nonWestern movies, even trying his hand at a more contemporary cop story (ê la Clint Eastwood): McQ (1974) was pretty embarrassing, but Brannigan (1975) at least had the novelty of putting brawny American Wayne in a London setting. The Shootist (1976) was a fitting valedictory to his career. The story of an aging gunfighter who learns he's dying of cancer, it featured a thoughtful, mature lead performance that suggested Wayne knew all too well the parallels between himself and his character. His last public appearance, at the 1979 Oscar ceremony, was itself an act of courage for the cancer-ridden star, who died just a few months later. His eldest son Michael produced many of his father's later films; another son, Patrick Wayne, had small parts in a number of his films and went on to a modest career as leading man in movies and television. A much younger son from a later marriage, John Ethan Wayne, launched an acting career of his own in the 1980s.

~~ Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

A John Wayne quote:

"I'm an American actor. I work with my clothes on. I have to. Riding a horse can be pretty tough on your legs and elsewheres."

John Wayne's Amazing Credits (partial)
  • La Classe américaine, (1993) .... Georges Abitbol
  • The Shootist (1976) .... John Bernard Books
  • Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend (1976) .... Narrator
  • Rooster Cogburn (1975) .... Rooster Cogburn
  • Brannigan (1975) .... Lt. Jim Brannigan Chicago PD
  • McQ (1974) .... Detective Lieutenant Lon McQ
  • The Train Robbers (1973) .... Lane
  • Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973) .... J.D. Cahill
  • The Cowboys (1972) .... Wil Andersen
  • Big Jake (1971) .... Jacob 'Big Jake' McCandles
  • Rio Lobo (1970) .... Col. Cord McNally
  • Chisum (1970) .... John Simpson Chisum
  • The Undefeated (1969) .... Colonel John Henry Thomas
  • True Grit (1969) .... Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben J. 'Rooster' Cogburn
  • Hellfighters (1968) .... Chance Buckman
  • The Green Berets (1968) .... Colonel Mike Kirby
  • El Dorado (1967) .... Cole Thornton
  • The War Wagon (1967) .... Taw Jackson
  • Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) .... General Mike Randolph
  • The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) .... John Elder
  • In Harm's Way (1965) .... Captain/Rear Admiral Rockwell Torrey
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) .... The Centurion
  • Circus World (1964) .... Matt Masters
  • Donovan's Reef (1963) .... Michael Patrick 'Guns' Donovan
  • McLintock! (1963) .... George Washington McLintock
  • Flashing Spikes (1962) (TV) .... Sergeant-Umpire in Korea
  • The Longest Day (1962) .... Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort
  • How the West Was Won (1962) .... General William Tecumseh Sherman
  • Hatari! (1962) .... Sean Mercer
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) .... Tom Doniphon
  • The Comancheros (1961) .... Ranger Capt. Jake Cutter
  • North to Alaska (1960) .... Sam McCord
  • The Alamo (1960) .... Colonel Davy Crockett
  • The Horse Soldiers (1959) .... Colonel John Marlowe
  • Rio Bravo (1959) .... Sheriff John T. Chance
  • The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958) .... Townsend Harris
  • Jet Pilot (1957) .... Colonel Jim Shannon USAF
  • Legend of the Lost (1957) .... Joe January
  • The Wings of Eagles (1957) .... Frank W. 'Spig' Wead
  • The Searchers (1956) .... Ethan Edwards
  • The Conqueror (1956) .... Temujin, later Genghis Khan
  • Rookie of the Year (1955) (TV) .... Mike Cronin, a Reporter
  • Blood Alley (1955) .... Capt. Tom Wilder
  • The Sea Chase (1955) .... Capt. Karl Ehrlich
  • The High and the Mighty (1954) .... Dan Roman
  • Hondo (1953) .... Hondo Lane
  • Island in the Sky (1953) .... Captain Dooley
  • Trouble Along the Way (1953) .... Steve Williams
  • Big Jim McLain (1952) .... Jim McLain
  • The Quiet Man (1952) .... Sean Thornton
  • Flying Leathernecks (1951) .... Major Dan Kirby
  • Operation Pacific (1951) .... Lcdr. Duke E. Gifford, Executive Officer Thunderfish
  • Rio Grande (1950) .... Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Yorke
  • Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) .... Sergeant John M. Stryker
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) .... Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles
  • The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) .... John Breen
  • Wake of the Red Witch (1948) .... Captain Ralls
  • 3 Godfathers (1948) .... Robert Marmaduke Sangster Hightower
  • Red River (1948) .... Thomas Dunson
  • Fort Apache (1948) .... Capt. Kirby York
  • Tycoon (1947) .... Johnny Munroe
  • Angel and the Badman (1947) .... Quirt Evans
  • Desert Command (1946) .... Tom Wayne
  • Without Reservations (1946) .... Rusty Thomas
  • Dakota (1945) .... John Devlin
  • They Were Expendable (1945) .... Lieutenant (jg) 'Rusty' Ryan
  • Back to Bataan (1945) .... Colonel Joseph Madden
  • Flame of Barbary Coast (1945) .... Duke Fergus
  • Tall in the Saddle (1944) .... Rocklin
  • The Fighting Seabees (1944) .... Wedge Donovan
  • In Old Oklahoma (1943) .... Daniel F. 'Dan' Somers
  • A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) .... Duke Hudkins
  • Reunion in France (1942) .... Pat Talbot, RAF
  • Pittsburgh (1942) .... Charles 'Pittsburgh' Markham/Charles Ellis
  • Flying Tigers (1942) .... Captain Jim Gordon
  • In Old California (1942) .... Tom Craig
  • The Spoilers (1942) .... Glennister
  • Reap the Wild Wind (1942) .... Captain Jack Stuart
  • Lady for a Night (1941) .... Jackson 'Jack' Morgan
  • The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) .... Young Matt
  • Lady from Louisiana (1941) .... John Reynolds
  • A Man Betrayed (1941) .... Lynn Hollister
  • Seven Sinners (1940) .... Lieutenant Dan Brent
  • The Long Voyage Home (1940) .... Ole Olsen
  • Three Faces West (1940) .... John Phillips
  • Dark Command (1940) .... Bob Seton
  • Allegheny Uprising (1939) .... Jim Smith
  • New Frontier (1939) .... Stony Brooke
  • Wyoming Outlaw (1939) .... Stony Brooke
  • Three Texas Steers (1939) .... Stony Brooke
  • The Night Riders (1939) .... Stony Brooke
  • Stagecoach (1939) .... The Ringo Kid
  • Red River Range (1938) .... Stony Brooke
  • Santa Fe Stampede (1938) .... Stony Brooke
  • Overland Stage Raiders (1938) .... Stony Brooke
  • Pals of the Saddle (1938) .... Stony Brooke, aka Ezeckial Saunders
  • Born to the West (1937) .... Dare Rudd
  • Adventure's End (1937) .... Duke Slade
  • Idol of the Crowds (1937) .... Johnny Hansen
  • I Cover the War (1937) .... Bob Adams
  • California Straight Ahead (1937) .... Biff Smith
  • Sea Spoilers (1936) .... Bob Randall
  • Conflict (1936) .... Pat
  • Winds of the Wasteland (1936) .... John Blair
  • The Lonely Trail (1936) .... Captain John Ashley
  • King of the Pecos (1936) .... John Clayborn
  • The Lawless Nineties (1936) .... John Tipton
  • The Oregon Trail (1936) .... Captain John Delmont
  • Lawless Range (1935) .... John Middleton, aka John Allen
  • The New Frontier (1935) .... John Dawson
  • Westward Ho (1935) .... John Wyatt/John Allen
  • Paradise Canyon (1935) .... Federal Agent John Wyatt
  • The Dawn Rider (1935) .... John Mason
  • The Desert Trail (1935) .... John Scott, aka John Jones
  • Rainbow Valley (1935) .... John Martin
  • Texas Terror (1935) .... Sheriff John Higgins
  • 'Neath the Arizona Skies (1934) .... Chris Morrell
  • The Lawless Frontier (1934) .... John Tobin
  • The Trail Beyond (1934) .... Rod Drew
  • The Star Packer (1934) .... U.S. Marshal John Travers
  • Randy Rides Alone (1934) .... Randy Bowers
  • The Man from Utah (1934) .... John Weston
  • Blue Steel (1934) .... Marshal John Carruthers
  • West of the Divide (1934) .... Ted Hayden, aka Gat Ganns
  • The Lucky Texan (1934) .... Jerry Mason
  • Sagebrush Trail (1933) .... John Brant, using Alias John Smith
  • College Coach (1933) (uncredited) .... Football Player
  • Riders of Destiny (1933) .... Singin' Sandy Saunders
  • The Man From Monterey (1933) .... Captain John Holmes
  • Baby Face (1933) .... Jimmy McCoy, Jr. Executive Gotham Trust Co.
  • The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) .... Smith
  • His Private Secretary (1933) .... Dick Wallace
  • Somewhere in Sonora (1933) .... John Bishop
  • Central Airport (1933) (uncredited) .... Co-pilot in Wreck
  • The Three Musketeers (1933/I) .... Tom Wayne
  • The Telegraph Trail (1933) .... John Trent
  • Haunted Gold (1932) .... John Mason
  • The Big Stampede (1932) .... Deputy Sheriff John Steele
  • That's My Boy (1932) .... Football Player
  • The Ride Him, Cowboy aka Hawk (1932) .... John Drury
  • The Hollywood Handicap (1932)
  • The Hurricane Express (1932) .... Larry Baker, The Pilot
  • Lady and Gent (1932) .... Buzz Kinney
  • Two-Fisted Law (1932) .... Duke
  • Texas Cyclone (1932) .... Steve Pickett
  • Shadow of the Eagle (1932) .... Craig McCoy
  • The Voice of Hollywood No. 13 (1932) .... Announcer
  • Maker of Men (1931) .... Dusty Rhodes
  • Range Feud (1931) .... Clint Turner
  • The Deceiver (1931) .... Richard Thorpe as a corpse
  • Men Are Like That (1931) .... Lt. Bob Denton
  • Three Girls Lost (1931) .... Gordon Wales
  • Girls Demand Excitement (1931) .... Peter Brooks
  • The Big Trail (1930) .... Breck Coleman, Wagon Train Scout
  • Rough Romance (1930) .... Lumberjack
  • Born Reckless (1930) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • Men Without Women (1930) (uncredited) .... Radioman on Surface
  • The Forward Pass (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • Salute (1929) (uncredited) .... Bill, a Midshipman
  • Words and Music (1929) (as Duke Morrison) .... Pete Donahue
  • Noah's Ark (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • The Black Watch (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • Speakeasy (1929) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • Hangman's House (1928) (uncredited) .... Horse Race Spectator/Condemned Man in Flashback
  • Four Sons (1928) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • Mother Machree (1928) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • The Drop Kick (1927) .... USC Football Player
  • Annie Laurie (1927) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926) (uncredited) .... Extra
  • Bardelys the Magnificent (1926) .... Guard

  • For more info and credits see IMDb

    -- End ---

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