Tuesday, June 28, 2016
John Wayne Museum
Iowa museum offers a heavy dose of 'Duke'
A life-size figure of John Wayne stands in front of a mural of Monument Valley, where many of his movies were filmed, inside the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum in Winterset, Iowa.
Aissa Wayne, who was present when the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum opened in May 2015 in Winterset, Iowa, introduces a short film about her father to welcome museum visitors.
The legendary actor John Wayne was born May 26, 1907, as Marion Robert Morrison. Long after his death in 1979, Wayne remains atop numerous public surveys regarding favorite actors.
The first film excerpts focus on John Wayne as the tough hero, using his fists and guns to get results. He famously quipped, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” The latter half of his filmography shows him as a warm hero taking care of women and children.
John Wayne noted that his father, Clyde Morrison, a pharmacist, was “the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” He described his mother, Mary Morrison, a telephone operator, as “a tiny, vivacious red-headed bundle of energy.” Marion Robert Morrison weighed 13 pounds at birth, and our tour guide pointed to a picture of the female physician who delivered young Marion and probably saved his mother’s life. The family moved to California when he was 7 years old.
It was not until Wayne became a film actor that he changed his name. His friends and many others continued to call him “Duke,” his childhood nickname. He had a dog named Duke as a boy, and the two constant companions were known as “Little Duke” and “Big Duke.” The museum includes his personal 1972 Pontiac station wagon with a special raised roof to allow his 6-foot-4 frame to drive in comfort.
The modern, 6,000-square-foot museum was built to give visitors access to the largest collection of Wayne artifacts and movie posters. The museum was necessary because the nearby four-room house where he had been born already had hosted more than a million visitors since it opened in 1982. The John Wayne Birthplace Society moved the items from the house and restored it as closely as possible to its appearance from 1907. The house had running water and a small hand pump in the kitchen sink.
Wayne, who loved reading, was an outstanding student and received a football scholarship to attend the University of Southern California. He suffered a surfing injury after about a year and lost his scholarship. As the Great Depression set in, he left college to explore working in the theater.
Between 1926 and 1976, Wayne appeared in more than 170 motion pictures, 78 of which were cowboy films. Despite his great box office draw, he was nominated for an Academy Award only three times before finally winning an Oscar in 1969 for his performance in “True Grit.”
One display showcases the costumes and weapons he used in that film along with a black eye patch that was made to be somewhat transparent so Wayne could see with both eyes. The clothes he wore, even in his early movies, were more realistic and rough in appearance compared with those worn by other stars of the 1930s, such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
We were amused by a exhibit of a horse cart from “The Quiet Man” that had a large TV screen on the seat showing all the excerpts from the film in which the cart appeared. We were able to see images of his co-stars — Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald and Ward Bond — who had appeared in several other films with him.
Inside the museum, a life-size model of John Wayne stands in front of a mural of Monument Valley, where many of his movies were filmed. A massive bronze statue of Wayne is outside the museum, and stone inlays around the edges of the museum entrance list the names of many of his more revered films.