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On June 11, 1979, famed actor John Wayne passed away. John Wayne was most famous for the numerous western movies he starred in. Sadly, the actor died at the age of 72 from cancer, which he had been fighting for over 10 years.

Born on May 26, 1907, in Iowa, Wayne's family moved to California when he was still a child. His first touch of stardom was on the Glendale High School football team. He later went to the University of Southern California, but never finished his degree. After dropping out of school, he found work as a laborer in movie studios, where he became friends with director John Ford. In his first small roles, he went by the stagename of Duke Morrison, which was his nickname as a child, and came from his favorite pet dog.

First Starring Role Was in The Big Trail

The first film Wayne starred in was the 1930 movie, The Big Trail. The movie was directed by Wayne's college friend, Raoul Walsh. It was then that the actor changed his stagename to "John Wayne" because Walsh thought his real name, Marion Morrison, was not the best fit for a tough guy starring in gun-slinging western movies. The Big Trail was not a box office success, and during the 1930s, Wayne continued to star in middle-of-the-road western movies that failed to achieve the success of his later movies.

Breakout Performance Was in the Oscar-Winning Film: Stagecoach

Wayne's big break came in 1939, after his friend John Ford put him in the blockbuster movie, Stagecoach, where he played the role of Ringo Kid. After his breakout performance as Ringo Kid in that film, Wayne continued to star in a number of widely successful John Ford movies, including: Fort Apache, Rio Grande, and The Quiet Man. Later, Wayne became a producer and a director of some of the movies he acted in, like The Alamo and The Green Berets. In 1969, he was given an Oscar for his masterful performance in True Grit.

During his 40-year acting career, Wayne gained a reputation for his straightforward demeanor, charming good looks and trademark drawl. Astoundingly, he acted in over 250 movies during the course of his career! In his personal life, he married three times and fathered seven children. Although his loss was mourned on this day in 1979, Wayne clearly had a rich life, full of fame and success as a larger-than-life American movie legend.