John Wayne (1907-1979)

Today marks the 104th birthday of my favorite movie star (and Catholic convert), John Wayne (1907-1979). Born Marion Michael Morrison in Iowa, he grew up in California and attended the University of Southern California, where he played football. A surfing accident ended his football career and he got into the movie business as a prop boy. From there he found leading roles, mainly in B-Westerns, until his 1939 breakthrough role in Stagecoach. His work with director John Ford resulted in some of the greatest Westerns ever made: Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). He won an Oscar in 1969 for his role in True Grit. From 1949 to 1974, he was on the top ten box office list every year but one, a record still unequaled.

Wayne was raised a Presbyterian, but all three of his wives were Catholic, and all his children were raised Catholic, attending Catholic schools. Several attended what is now Loyola-Marymount University. The Wayne family numbered many priests, religious and bishops among their friends. Toward the very end of his life, John Wayne was received into the Roman Catholic Church. His funeral Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Manning of Los Angeles.

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