John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa. His middle name was soon changed from Robert to Mitchell when his parents decided to name their next son Robert
Wayne's family moved to Palmdale, California, and then in 1911 to Glendale, California, where his father worked as a pharmacist.
Wayne applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, but was not accepted. He instead attended USC, majoring in pre-law. Wayne also played on the USC football team.
A broken collarbone injury caused by a bodysurfing incident ended his athletic career; He lost his athletic scholarship and, without funds, had to leave the university.
Wayne began working at the local film studios. Prolific silent western film star Tom Mix had found him a summer job in the prop department in exchange for football tickets.
Wayne was married three times and divorced twice. He was fluent in Spanish and his three wives, each of Hispanic descent, were Josephine Alicia Saenz, Esperanza Baur, and Pilar Pallete.
His stormiest divorce was from Esperanza Baur. She convinced herself that Wayne and his co-star were having an affair. The night the film “Angel and the Badman” debut there was the usual party for cast and crew, and Wayne came home very late. Esperanza was in a drunken rage by the time he arrived, and she attempted to shoot him as he walked through the front door.
Wayne was exempted from service during WW2 due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status, classified as 3-A. He repeatedly wrote John Ford saying he wanted to enlist, on one occasion enquiring whether he could get into Ford's military unit. By many accounts, Wayne's failure to serve in the military was the most painful experience of his life
In 1930, director Raoul Walsh saw him moving studio furniture while working as a prop boy and cast him in his first starring role in The Big Trail.
Walsh is responsible for changing Marion Mitchel Morrison’s name to John Wayne.
The Big Trail was to be the first big-budget outdoor spectacle of the sound era, made at a staggering cost of over $2 million, using hundreds of extras and wide vistas of the American southwest. Unfortunately, only a handful of theaters were equipped to show the film in its widescreen process, and the effort was largely wasted
By Wayne's own estimation, he appeared in about eighty western films from 1930 to 1939. And In Riders of Destiny he became one of the first singing cowboys of film.
Wayne's breakthrough role came with director John Ford's classic Stagecoach
Stagecoach was a huge critical and financial success, and Wayne became a mainstream star.
Wayne's first color film was Shepherd of the Hills (1941)
While working for Fox Film Corporation in bit roles, he was given on-screen credit as "Duke Morrison" only once, in Words and Music. They are responsible for creating his on screen name of John Wayne.
He was originally a prop man for Fox Studios and was an extra for 2 years until he made his debut in The Big Trail, but this film was unsuccessful. After 2 more films his contract was dropped.
Wayne was relegated to smaller parts in several productions and starring roles in some low-budgeted B films, most of them westerns for "poverty row" studios Monogram and Republic. He was halfway through a Republic contract for eight "Three Mesquiteer" westerns when John Ford offered him the lead role of the Ringo Kid in Stagecoach
Republic Studios was resistant to losing Wayne to WW2; Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract and…