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John Wayne, one of the most popular film actors of the twentieth century, remains a popular American icon to this day.
John Wayne - Mini Biography (7:48)
Montgomery Clift - Full Episode (43:44)
Watch a short video about John Wayne and learn how "The Duke" got his start in the film industry.
A short biography of John Wayne who became an American icon and Hollywood star after his performance in John Ford's 1939 film "Stagecoach."
Clint Eastwood starred on the TV western "Rawhide" before transitioning to film as "the Man with No Name" in Sergio Leone's films. Eastwood has won the Academy Award for Best Director twice, for "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby."
Montromery Clift won stardom in "From Here to Eternity" and became a 1950s movie icon. A car accident in 1957 changed his looks, and from then on his off-screen days were filled with pills, alcohol, and a complicated sexual identity.
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In the end, it took home the awards for Music and for Actor in a Supporting Role for Thomas Mitchell.
Reunited with Ford and Mitchell, Wayne stepped away from his usual Western roles to become a Swedish seaman in The Long Voyage Home (1940). The film was adapted from a play by Eugene O'Neill and follows the crew of a steamer ship as they move a shipment of explosives. Along with many positive reviews,
the movie earned several Academy Award nominations.
Around this time, Wayne made the first of several movies with German actress and famous sex symbol Marlene Dietrich. The two appeared together in Seven Sinners (1940) with Wayne playing a naval officer and Dietrich as a woman who sets out to seduce him. Off-screen, they became romantically involved, though Wayne was married at the time. There had been rumors about Wayne having other affairs, but nothing as substantial as his connection to Dietrich. Even after their physical relationship ended, the pair remained good friends and co-starred in two more films, Pittsburgh (1942) and The Spoilers (1942).
Wayne started working behind the scenes as a producer in the late 1940s. The first film he produced was Angel and the Badman (1947). Over the years, he operated several different production companies, including John Wayne Productions, Wayne-Fellows Productions, and Batjac Productions.
Wayne's career as an actor took another leap forward when he worked with director Howard Hawks in Red River (1948). The western drama provided Wayne with an opportunity to show his talents as an actor, not just an action hero. Playing the conflicted cattleman Tom Dunson, he took on a darker sort of character. He deftly handled his character's slow collapse and difficult relationship with his adopted son played by Montgomery Clift. Also around this time, Wayne also received praise for his work in John Ford's Fort Apache (1948) with Henry Fonda and Shirley Temple.
Taking on a war drama, Wayne gave a strong performance in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), which garnered him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He also appeared in more two westerns by Ford now considered classics: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) with Maureen O'Hara.
Wayne worked with O'Hara on several films, perhaps most notably The Quiet Man (1952). Playing an American boxer with a bad reputation, his character moved to Ireland where he fell in love with a local woman (Maureen O'Hara). This film is considered Wayne's most convincing leading romantic role by many critics.
A well-known conservative and anticommunist, Wayne merged his personal beliefs and his professional life in 1952's Big Jim McLain. He played an investigator working for the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which worked to root out communists in all aspects of public life. Off screen, Wayne played a leading role in the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and even served as its president for a time.
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Got chaps? Their cowboy and cowgirl personas are tough, rugged, and wild—just like the frontier in which they come from—and in turn, they elicit the nostalgia of The Old West with its fierce individualism and sense of golden opportunity. From the indomitable swagger of John Wayne to the intimidating scowl of Clint Eastwood, explore our Wild West Film Actors group.
Notable Wild West Film Actors 15 people in this group