John Wayne

(1907—1979) American actor

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US film star, known all over the world as ‘Duke’ or ‘Big John’. Wayne spent fifty years in films bringing a vicarious enjoyment to millions as the virile quick-drawing hero of the American West.

Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, and educated at the University of Southern California. Vacation jobs at Fox led to bit parts by 1928 until John Ford secured him the lead in The Big Trail (1930). A host of minor westerns followed, but in 1939 came the major breakthrough to stardom with Ford's Stagecoach. Red River (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), for which he was nominated for an Oscar, The Quiet Man (1952), and The Alamo (1960), which Wayne also produced and directed, are a few of the more notable of his many films.

Wayne received an Academy Award for True Grit (1969), the film with which he became most closely associated. His last film was The Shootist (1976), in which, somewhat ironically, he played an old gunslinger dying of cancer, the disease that killed Wayne himself. At his death the US Congress authorized the striking of a special gold medal in his honour.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Military History.

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