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c. 1969

Behind-the-scenes with the Undefeated John Wayne

The Duke was a powerful screen presence

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1969: Actor John Wayne during filming of western movie "The Undefeated." (Photo by John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Whatever became of Marion Morrison? He became a Duke — or rather, THE Duke.

When these pictures were taken — behind-the-scenes shots for his film The Undefeated — the Duke (just to be clear, we’re talking about John Wayne, here) was 62, married for the third time, with 15 grandchildren, and three children under 13 of his own.

Hardest worker in the room

Wayne famously stated, baldly ‘I don’t act, I react’. He later came to regret the reductive statement, saying that reacting was a form of acting, and ‘damned hard work’.

John Wayne was a physically big man — 6′ 4″ — which, combined with his gravelly voice, created a powerful screen presence. But he was also academically strong. At school, he was president of the Latin Society, and at college, majored in pre-law.

In The Undefeated — a so-so Western that was not a great success, making a loss for its studio — Wayne starred alongside Rock Hudson. Also not his birthname — “Rock Hudson” had been christened Roy Scherer.

Becoming John Wayne

So who was John Wayne, then, really? His nickname “Duke” was given to him because, as a child, he was so often with his dog, also called Duke.

He certainly preferred it to Marion, and in 1929, received an on-screen credit as Duke Morrison. But for his first lead role — 1930’s The Big Trail, the film producer, together with the studio boss, decided on “John Wayne”.

Wayne himself wasn’t even present for the conversation.

John Wayne behind the scenes

1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1969
John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

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