How Much Do You Know About The Duke?

We know plenty about John Wayne. He was strong, opinionated, larger-than-life and a force to be reckoned with as an actor and a man. On the big screen, portraying tough, no-nonsense cowboys, soldiers, lawmen and gunslingers he was elevated to the status of cultural icon. He embodied the myth, the legend and the history of the Old West, pioneer grit and the American spirit.

But there are still quite a few things we don’t know about The Duke. Thanks to John Wayne Enterprises for these little-known tidbits and fun facts about America’s most iconic cowboy.

Little-Known Facts about John Wayne

  1. The Duke loved to work… and he worked a LOT! He holds the record for the actor with the most leading parts – 142! He played the lead role in all but 11 films.
  2. The US Government awarded John Wayne with 2 different awards: The Congressional Gold Medal in 1979 & the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980, after he had passed.
  3. You might know The Duke for his westerns, but did you know he played Genghis Khan? In Howard Hughes’ 1956 film, The Conqueror, John Wayne played Genghis Khan (although it was one of his least favorite roles).
  4. The Duke knew how to decorate & appreciated antiques! He started his career as a prop man where he developed an interest in interior decorating & enjoyed antique shopping.
  5. He turned down some famous roles, including Dirty Harry and The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. After he read the Blazing Saddles script, he told Mel Brooks “Naw, I can’t be in this picture, it’s too dirty…but I’ll be the first in line to see it.”
  6. He developed his Hollywood persona “John Wayne” to fill a void in the industry. “I’ve found a character the average man wants himself, his brother, his kid to be,” he once said. “It’s the same type of guy the average wife wants for her husband. Always walk with your head held high. Look everybody straight in the eye. Never double-cross a pal.”
  7. The Duke had a great sense of style. After spending time early in his career in the costume department, he was great at sizing suits. He was known to guess a coworker’s jacket size & have suits tailored on the spot.
  8. Ward Bond, one of his closest friends, and The Duke were known to play practical jokes on each other. Bond bet JW that they could stand on opposite ends of a newspaper and John Wayne wouldn’t be able to hit him. Bond set a sheet of newspaper down in a doorway, and they each stood on opposite ends. Bond slammed the door in his face and said “Try and hit me now!” That didn’t stop The Duke, he sent his fist through the door and hit Bond, winning the bet!
  9. One of his favorite places to be was on his boat, “The Wild Goose.” He would serve cocktails on ice that had been chipped from an iceberg.
  10. He is a Grammy-nominated artist! His spoken word album, America: Why I Love Her was a best-seller when it was released in 1973. They reissued the CD after the terrorist attacks on September 11th and it became a best-seller again.
  11. The Duke was known to be a gracious and humble winner. After accepting his Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, he whispered in Barbara Streisand’s ear “beginner’s luck.” He spent all night celebrating with friends and fellow nominees, and he tried to give Richard Burton his Oscar statue insisting that he was the more deserving actor.
  12. Stalin ordered the KGB to assassinate him. Due to The Duke’s anti-communist stance, Stalin saw him as a threat to the Soviet Union. Fortunately, the FBI knew about the plot and intercepted the hit men hired. Nikita Khrushchev cancelled the order when he met John Wayne in 1958. He said “That was a decision of Stalin during his last five mad years. When Stalin died, I rescinded that order.”