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Today In History (1979) – Iconic American Film Actor John Wayne Dies

On this day in 1979, John Wayne, an iconic film actor and patriotic American, died at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade.

Wayne’s first acting jobs were bit parts in which he was credited as Duke Morrison, a childhood nickname derived from the name of his beloved pet dog. Wayne’s first starring role came in 1930 with The Big Trail. In 1939, Wayne had his big break when his friend John Ford cast him as the Ringo Kid in the Oscar-winning Stagecoach. Wayne went on to play larger-than-life heroes in dozens of movies and came to symbolize a type of rugged, strong, straight-shooting American man.

John Ford directed Wayne in some of his best-known films, including Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950),The Quiet Man (1952) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). Off-screen, Wayne came to be known for his conservative political views. He produced, directed and starred in The Alamo (1960) and The Green Berets (1968), both of which reflected his patriotic, conservative leanings. In 1969, he won an Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Wayne’s last film was The Shootist (1976), in which he played an infamous gunslinger who was dying of cancer. Ironic, the role had particular meaning, as the actor was fighting the disease in real life.

Watch one of the Duke’s last PSA for the ACS after filming The Shootist:

What was your favorite memory of Duke?

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