5 Things You Didn't Know About John Wayne

On June 11, 1979, John Wayne, the iconic film actor famous for starring in countless westerns, died at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about John “The Duke” Wayne.

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He Lost His Middle Name To His Brother John Wayne “lost” his own middle name to his little brother. The actor was born “Marion Robert Morrison,” but after the birth of his little brother in 1911, his parents named the baby Robert Emmett Morison and changed the man who would be John Wayne’s name to “Marion Michael Morrison.” He had his first starring role as the cowboy Breck Coleman in the 1930 film, “The Big Trail.” It was during this production that studio executives gave Morrison a new name in the hopes of making him an easier sell to film audiences, and he happily accepted the moniker “John Wayne”

Stalin Ordered John Wayne Killed Joseph Stalin loved movies but became furious over Wayne’s anti-communist statements, so he ordered two KBG agents to assassinate him in 1951. Though the FBI intercepted the two hitmen before they could reach Wayne, it would not be his last assassination attempt. Another plot was foiled when a sniper tried to take out Wayne while he was visiting Vietnam in 1966. The assassination order was eventually rescinded by Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, who apologized for the event when he met Wayne in 1958.  

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He Had A Beef With Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood once sent Wayne a letter that suggested they star in a western together. Unfortunately, Wayne was not an Eastwood fan and especially hated the revisionist style and violence of Eastwood’s latest western, High Plains Drifter (1973). Wayne made his feelings known in a carefully worded letter he sent Eastwood.  Eastwood said he never responded to Wayne’s letter, refusing to comment on the criticism

His Film The Conquerors May Have Killed Him In 1956, Wayne starred in The Conqueror, a movie about Genghis Khan that co-starred Agnes Moorhead, Dick Powell, Susan Hayward, and Pedro Armendáriz. The movie was shot in southeast Utah, just downwind from where the U.S. government was conducting nuclear weapon tests at the height of the Cold War.  91 out of 220 members of the cast and crew members came down with cancer, including Wayne himself, who lost a lung and ribs to pulmonary cancer. Though the radioactivity certainly may have played a part, Wayne's six-pack-a-day smoking habit certainly didn't help anything either

His Grandnephew Co-Starred in Rocky V Tommy Morrison was the famed movie star’s grandnephew and once held titles as the ICB and WBO heavyweight champion. He retired from boxing in 1996 when he tested positive for HIV. Morrison is also known for his acting career, having starred alongside Sylvester Stallone in the 1990 film Rocky V as Tommy Gunn. Before the new millennium, he bought a cave, convinced that the world was coming to an end at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000. Morrison died in 2013 from complications from AIDS at the age of 44.