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.

Happy Birthday, Duke!

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  • Anonymous

    I don't want to spoil the lovely story of John Wayne being baptised Catholic before his death; but I had read several biographies on the Duke, and one of them indicated that he was hospitalized and strongly sedated when he was baptised, and this was at the insistance of his first wife and children. On the other hand, Cary Cooper, suffering from terminal throat cancer, also had been baptised a Cathoi, after his wife and daughter had implored him to do so – BUT, he lived for a few months before he died, and had told friends that becoming a Catholic was the best thing he ever did, and that he found great peace after he entered the Church. I strongly admired both of them and I pray that they are nestled in the bosom of God.

  • Anonymous

    Additionally, John Wayne's grandson, Matt Munoz, became a priest for the Diocese of Orange, California.

  • Michael

    He was "Catholic" and twice divorced? I'm confused.

  • Anonymous

    I was a member of the parish when Wayne was baptized and buried. You have never heard the like of the carping! Why live a "good Catholic life" if a hard drinking womanizer could get a Catholic funeral, with the Cardinal to boot!?!?!I always use it as a way to talk about the workers who came late to the vineyard. And also a good reminder that we are lucky that God judges us and not one another!

  • Anonymous

    A son by his first wife is a priest still active in Cal.

  • Rudy

    Great! I love the Duke, but I couldn't help but to chuckle when you say "all three of his wives were Catholic".

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Beautiful post Pat. John Wayne still appears on the top ten list of favorite male actors year after year since his death. I believe in the most recent list he is third. Not bad for a man who has been dead since 1979! There will never be another Duke.

  • Anonymous

    "all three of his wives were catholic", was he widowed or did he not care about church teaching? Not only that, did his wives not care about church teaching? Being a millionaire doesn't put you above Jesus' teaching about divorce. How could a priest marry him in the church three times? Money talks?

  • Anonymous

    Happy Birthday, Duke!

  • mts1

    Some of you don't read to well. The author said "toward the very end of his life." This was after the divorces and marriages.On the condition that he died in the state of grace (which I say to avoid presumption of his ultimate destination), I humbly implore if the Lord permits, Marion Michael Morrison, pray for us!

  • Donald R. McClarey
  • Anonymous

    I love when we get on our high horse. Our Church is a church of converted sinners. I am more edified by a public sinner repents than reading comments that vilify him. God grant us all a Christian death! Amen.

  • Anita Moore

    I never knew John Wayne became a Catholic. I'm glad to hear it.And all you people carping about the disedifying life he led before then can just leave him alone. The workers who arrive at the 11th hour get the same wage as those who were there early in the morning. Would it have pleased your righteousness more to see him die outside the Church?

  • Anonymous

    Eternal rest grant unto John Wayne, O LordAnd let perpetual light shine upon him, Amen.

  • Pat H

    FWIW, a memory of my parents was that Wayne lived across the street from our house in Casper Wyoming while the movie "Hell Fighters" (which isn't too good) was being filmed. They recall him attending Mass at our local parish during the filming.