Why John Wayne was nicknamed “The Duke”


John Wayne liked to be called by the nickname “Duke”, but where did this nickname come from? Wayne had a modest start as an actor, starting with an unrecorded appearance in the 1926 film Brown of Harvard, before he became a leading man in category B westerns such as 1932’s Haunted Gold. It was thanks to the success of “Stagecoach” in 1939 that he finally broke through as the main character and subsequently became one of the biggest stars of Western cinema of all time.

There was something about Wayne’s on-screen appearance that seemed tailor-made for this genre, and he starred in such classic films as “The Seekers,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” (which has a famous twist) and “Rio Bravo.” It is estimated that he has starred in 80 westerns, which is almost half of his acting skills. Of course, he achieved great success outside the genre, with other notable projects, including the 1958 drama “The Quiet Man,” the WWII film “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” and the somewhat bizarre “The Barbarian and the Geisha.”

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Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison, but for his first screen film in 1929, Words and Music, he used the name “Duke Morrison”. Of course, “The Duke” will become his nickname in addition to the name of the white horse he rode in six westerns of the 30s. While the nickname Duke Wayne became famous, few people knew where it came from. Wayne, who has only made one sequel, has himself heard many stories about his supposed origins, including that he was a descendant of the royal family. The truth is that it came from a nickname he got as a child because of his airedale terrier dog named Duke. Wayne went to school every day with his rather large dog and made friends with a local firefighter, who called the terrier “Big Duke”, and over time young Marion began to be called “Little Duke”.

Wayne began to prefer the name “Duke” to his own, and it turned into a nickname for life. The origin of John Wayne’s nickname Duke has led some to wonder if it was used as inspiration for the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which it was revealed that Indy himself was named after his childhood dog. In fact, the good doctor was named after George Lucas’ own dog, an Alaskan malamute.

The last John Wayne movie (who almost made a movie with Elvis) there was “The Shooter” in 1976, which, as expected, was a western. The actor died of cancer in 1979, but even decades after his death, he is still often referred to as the Duke in articles about his career. John Wayne also played characters named Duke in several films, such as the romantic comedy “Lady Risks” and “Operation Pacific Ocean”.