Monday, February 15, 2016
How Marion Michael Morrison Became Michael Burn, Duke Morrison and, Eventually, John Wayne; Part II of Wayne’s Amazing, 1971 Playboy Interview
Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
[Previously, at WEJB/NSU Part I: “John Wayne: ‘I believe in white supremacy…’ Wayne’s Famous, Amazing, 1971 Playboy Interview, Uncut.”]
PLAYBOY: At what point in your career were you nicknamed Duke?
WAYNE: That goes back to my childhood. I was called Duke after a dog—a very good Airedale out of the Baldwin Kennels. Republic Pictures gave me a screen credit on one of the early pictures and called me Michael Burn. On another one, they called me Duke Morrison. Then they decided Duke Morrison didn't have enough prestige. My real name, Marion Michael Morrison, didn't sound American enough for them. So they came up with John Wayne. I didn't have any say in it, but I think it's a great name. It's short and strong and to the point. It took me a long time to get used to it, though. I still don't recognize it when somebody calls me John.
Marion Michael Morrison, at 11 or 12 years old, with his Airedale terrier, Duke. Local firemen became fond of the young Marion, whom they saw delivering his newspapers with his Airedale, Duke, and nicknamed them “Big Duke and Little Duke.” The firemen would give the penurious boy milk. Biographers disagree as to which one was “Big Duke.”
PLAYBOY: After giving you a new name, did the studio decide on any particular screen image for you?
WAYNE: They made me a singing cowboy. The fact that I couldn't sing—or play the guitar—became terribly embarrassing to me, especially on personal appearances. Every time I made a public appearance, the kids insisted that I sing The Desert Song or something. But I couldn't take along the fella who played the guitar out on one side of the camera and the fella who sang on the other side of the camera. So finally I went to the head of the studio and said. "Screw this, I can't handle it." And I quit doing those kind of pictures. They went out and brought the best hillbilly recording artist in the country to
Hollywood to take my place. For the first couple of pictures, they had a hard time selling him, but he finally caught on. His name was Gene Autry. It was 1939 before I made Stagecoach—the picture that really made me a star.