CBC Digital Archives

John Wayne's start was a fluke for the Duke

They were some of the most rugged heroes of the big screen, leading men who thrilled audiences with bravery, action and adventure. From Errol Flynn's adventures in revolutionary Cuba to Sylvester Stallone's struggles to become Rocky, CBC Digital Archives presents interviews with some of Hollywood's most enduring action heroes.

media clip
From an unassuming props assistant to one of the brightest stars on the big screen, John Wayne has come a long way in Hollywood. In 1929 he was carrying a table across the lot when a studio boss spotted him and cast him in the western The Big Trail. Ten years later, he began working with the legendary director John Ford, and Wayne's path to stardom was an easy ride. Countless westerns later, Wayne reflects on his career and his craft in this 1961 interview from CBC Radio's Assignment.
• John Wayne was born with the name Marion Mitchell Morrison in Iowa in 1907. He acquired the nickname Duke as a boy, and it would stick with him throughout his life. The stage name John Wayne was bestowed on him by a director.
• Wayne won his first Academy Award in 1969 for his role as a one-eyed marshal in True Grit. He had been nominated two decades earlier for Sands of Iwo Jima.

• Wayne died of stomach cancer in 1979, having survived a 1964 bout with lung cancer.

• "[Wayne's] essential character - strong, self-reliant, stingy with words, alternately leader and loner, but always true to his own code of honour - was actually a work in progress, sketched with broad outlines at first, rendered in increasing detail as years went by. It has become a familiar and comforting image, the idealized spirit of America's rugged individualism." -- Entertainment Weekly, March 1995

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: June 29, 1961
Guest(s): John Wayne
Interviewer: Tony Thomas
Duration: 7:54
Photo: Still photo from Stagecoach, 1939

Last updated: September 13, 2013

Page consulted on June 12, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Robert Lepage: Canada's Renaissance Man

Director, writer, actor Robert Lepage is one of Canada's most renowned figures in performing a...

1914: NFB animator Norman McLaren born in Sco...

In the cutting room with one of Canada's most celebrated filmmakers.

Leading Ladies of Hollywood

They are some of the brightest stars in old Hollywood, leading ladies who lit up the silver sc...

And the Oscar goes to...

A behind the scenes look at how the Academy votes.

A whirlwind of Oscar fetes for Denys Arcand

Glowing in the aftermath of Barbarian Invasions' Oscar win.

Denys Arcand's push for an Oscar

The three-time nominated director chases the golden statuette.