John Wayne: Here’s Who Came Up With the Duke’s Stage Name

by Joe Rutland
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Over the years, actors have not always used their real names onscreen. John Wayne happens to fall in that category. So, how did he get his name? After all, Marion Morrison wasn’t going to cut it in Hollywood or in movies. The decision to change that name actually happened through Wayne’s movie studio at the time, Fox Studios.

John Wayne Gets Help On Stage Name Thanks To His Movie Studio At The Time

The story goes that Fox Studios didn’t like his birth name. At first, director Raoul Walsh tossed out the name of a war general named Anthony Wayne. Studio exec Winfield Sheehan said nope, sounds “too Italian.” Then John Wayne gets tossed out there and everyone says yes.

Did they not think about using “Duke”? Not for his movie name. That nickname came from a childhood Airedale Terrier named Duke. People apparently would call Wayne “Big Duke” and his dog “Little Duke.” So, there you go. And yes, Wayne didn’t have any input about his new name. It was going to be that way and, thankfully, he would become a motion picture superstar for decades to come.

Over the years, Wayne played many different types of roles. Westerns, military movies, even a cop sometimes. What roles would he turn down in his career? “Anything mean and petty,” he said according to an article from Express. “I think I’ve established a character on a screen that may be rough, may be cruel, may have a different code than the average person, but it’s never been mean and petty or small.”

Actor Shares Some Of His Favorite Movies From His Career

That’s focusing on the type of role that he would turn down. Back in 1976, Wayne sat down in Chicago for an in-depth interview and questions from audience members with Phil Donahue. He was asked what were some of his favorite movies to appear in at that time.

“Well, you like different pictures for different reasons,” Wayne said. “I loved Stagecoach, naturally because I stepped on that stagecoach and it’s carried me a long way. I like Hatari! which was a picture we made in Africa because I had a three-month safari free. I mean rich men don’t get that, you know. And The Quiet Man because I got to work with all the Abbey Players and some forebears of my own family.”

John Wayne died in 1979 after battling cancer throughout his life. His movie legacy is broad, wide, and about as big as he was in life. The fact that Wayne remains a piece of American entertainment to this very day speaks volumes about the man and his fans.

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