When John Wayne was born May 26, 1907 weighing 13 lbs. (6 kg.) everyone thought he would become a professional football player! In fact, that was the plan until John Wayne, or better known by this time as "Duke", broke his collarbone while playing for the University of Southern California.
Luckily, Wayne had a sympathetic coach who called in a favor to up-and-coming director John Ford to hire Wayne as a prop boy. It didn't take long for Ford and Wayne to develop a friendship, and soon Wayne was taking on bit roles in various films.
John Wayne's Early Years
After starring in a number of B-movie status films, John Wayne's breakthrough role would come with Ford's 1939 Western Stagecoach. While the film lacked enough funding to be produced as an A-movie film, Stagecoach was a huge success and thrust both Wayne and Ford into the spotlight!
John Wayne and John Ford would continue to team up over the years and have become synonymous to the Western genre. Other hit Wayne/Ford films include Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
John Wayne's Later Years
John Wayne would himself become a director in his later years, and produced hit films including 1960's The Alamo and 1968's The Green Berets. Wayne's later years also brought him his first Oscar for Best Actor with 1969 Western True Grit.
The world was saddened to hear of the iconic actor's passing in 1979 at the age of 72 after a long battle with stomach cancer. However, the legend continues to leave his mark on Hollywood and the Western genre, and even has an airport named after him! John Wayne leaves behind seven children, several of who have also followed in their father's footsteps and pursued careers in Hollywood!