John Wayne fans know that the Duke sports a stage name. However, many admirers of the Western icon don’t know the origin of the moniker.
Wayne is known as one of Hollywood’s iconic American actors. Few know his real name: Marion Robert Morrison. Universally recognized as the king of Western cinema, he adopted the stage name John Wayne. But how did he come up with a name so different from his given one?
The Origin of John Wayne’s Stage Name
It all started with 1930’s The Big Trail, John Wayne’s first starring role. Before that, the future icon served as a humble prop boy and extra for the Fox Film Corporation during the 1920s. In his pursuit of an actor with the perfect physical appearance for the lead role in his film, director Raoul Walsh came across Wayne as he was moving furniture between soundstages.
“He was in his early 20s,” Walsh remembered first seeing Wayne, “[T]he 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…What I needed was a feeling of honesty, of sincerity, and [he] had it”.
However, envisioning Marion Robert Morrison’s name on a movie poster was challenging. It didn’t exactly scream Western Star. Therefore, Walsh and the studio devised a fresh appellation for the up-and-coming luminary. Unable to alter his given name, Walsh and studio head Winfield Sheehan crafted the pseudonym John Wayne, drawing inspiration from General Anthony Wayne, a prominent figure from the American Revolution. The name John Wayne went on to become synonymous with Western films, but also traditional American values.
General Anthony Wayne Also Has An Interesting Alias
War hero Anthony Wayne himself has an interesting nickname. With remarkable military achievements and a charismatic persona, he quickly rose to the rank of brigadier general, earning the nickname “Mad Anthony”. He later became the Senior Officer of the Army on the Ohio Country frontier and commanded the Legion of the United States.
Of course, John Wayne wasn’t the only alias for Marion Robert Morrison. As Wayne progressed in his career, his childhood nickname ‘The Duke’ gained popularity. This moniker originated from his early days when a local fireman, whom he encountered on his way to school, affectionately referred to him as ‘Little Duke’. The name stemmed from Wayne’s constant companionship with his beloved Airedale Terrier named Duke.
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