Friday, June 10, 2011

Wesley Ruggles, John Wayne

Because I will be out of town tomorrow June 11th...I have posted tomorrow's blog today

Who was born on this date:

On June 11, 1889, film director Wesley Ruggles was born in Los Angeles, California. He was the younger brother of actor Charles Ruggles. He began his film career in 1915 as an actor, appearing in a dozen or so silent films, on occasion with Charles Chaplin. In 1917, he turned his attention to directing, making more than 50 mostly forgettable films — including a silent film version of Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence (1924), before he won acclaim with Cimarron in 1931. The adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel Cimarron, about homesteaders settling in the prairies of Oklahoma, was the first Western to win an Academy Award as Best Picture.

Although Ruggles followed this success with the light comedy No Man of Her Own (1932) with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, the comedy I'm No Angel (1933) with Mae West and Cary Grant , College Humor (1933) with Bing Crosby, and Bolero (1934) with George Raft and Carole Lombard, few of his later films were in any way memorable (an exception is Arizona). His career was on the downslide when he teamed with the Rank Organization in 1946 to produce and direct London Town with Sid Field and Petula Clark, based on a story he wrote. The film was British cinema's first attempt at a Technicolor musical extravaganza and is notable as being one of the biggest critical and commercial failures in that country's film history. Ironically, Ruggles had been hired to helm it because as an American, it was thought, he was better equipped to handle a musical but despite the fact that nothing in his past had prepared him to work in the genre. It was his last film. An abridged version was released in the U.S. under the title My Heart Goes Crazy by United Artists in 1953. Ruggles died on January 8, 1972 in Santa Monica and he is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Who died on this date:

On June 11, 1979, actor John Wayne died. He was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa to Mary and Clyde Morrison. Mary soon had a change of heart, and re-named him Marion Michael in honor of a wealthy relative. The young Morrison grew to despise the name, and his early childhood was not happy. He felt unloved by his mother, who favored his younger brother Robert. Because of his name, Marion was teased, and bullied at school. He found himself in many fights, his father Clyde advised him not to go looking for a fight, but if he found it unavoidable, make sure he won at all costs. The tough image that would be a hallmark of later film characters was being developed at an early age.

In 1915, the Morrison’s moved to the Los Angeles area, Clyde had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, and a hot dry climate was suggested. At the age of eleven a big event in Marion’s life took place; he was befriended by a local fireman, a man that Marion looked up too, this man gave young Morrison his nickname “big Duke.” The nickname stuck, and with the new name came a fresh bravado, the young “Duke” Morrison began to prosper emotionally, and academically. He began to excel in school, and by his senior year was a member of the National Honor Society, and at graduation, was named the class salutatorian. Morrison grew to be a tall and very handsome young man. Because of his size he excelled in athletics. He was named captain of the high school football team, and this team was very successful. These triumphs gave Morrison his first glimpse of fame. As for college, his greatest desire was to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, at Annapolis but instead was offered a full scholarship to play football at the University of Southern California. Morrison’s college years were filled with great joy, and he prospered. He gained tremendous fame on and off the football field. These accolades led to a part-time summer job on the back lot of the Fox Studios. Morrison’s first taste of the movies came as an assistant to cowboy actor Tom Mix. This small job was the catalyst that propelled Morrison into his legendary film career. During that summer at the Fox Studios, Morrison would meet a person that would forever alter his life.

In 1930, John Ford, was one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, he was directing a film called Mother MacCree, when fate sent the young Morrison to the set of the film. The director took an immediate liking to Duke, and a lifelong friendship ensued. John Ford saw something special in Morrison. He was young, raw, and he saw a potential for stardom. Over the next few years, Ford cast Morrison in several of his films, and he was a natural in front of the camera. Fate again entered Morrison’s life when he was introduced to another director, Raoul Walsh. Walsh also saw potential in Morrison, but thought his name was not marketable. A more “American” sounding name was needed, and Walsh came up with John Wayne. The name stuck, and John “Duke” Wayne the movie star was born. It was with Raoul Walsh that John Wayne got his first big break as a leading man in The Big Trail (1930).

For the next few years, Wayne starred in numerous serials and B-westerns, his six foot three inch frame, and silent good looks made him very marketable. Wayne felt he was being type cast and yearned to break free to super stardom. The year 1939 was to be very significant for John Wayne. Director John Ford had not forgotten his friend and protégé; he was casting for a new film, Stagecoach. Ford thought that Wayne would be perfect for the lead role in the film. This was the break that Wayne needed. Stagecoach was critically acclaimed, a box office success, and it propelled Wayne to new level of recognition. It was the beginning of many successes for Wayne, and provided the impetus for the development of the hero image that would prove to be Wayne’s lasting legacy in film. The dynamic duo of Ford and Wayne would become box office gold, and over the years their film partnership would produce some of Hollywood’s greatest and most successful motion pictures.

John Wayne’s award winning acting, producing, and directing career spanned five decades, beginning in the late 1920’s through the late 1970’s. A prolific film career that saw him star in over two hundred and fifty motion pictures. During this time he starred alongside many of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actresses. The characters he portrayed in many of his films, personified the image of the true patriotic American. Some of Wayne’s many legendary films credits include, Dark Command (1940), Reap the Wild Wind (1942), Flying Tigers (1942), The Fighting Seabees (1944), Fort Apache (1948), Red River (1948), Wake of the Red Witch (1948), The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), Hondo (1953), The High and the Mighty (1954), The Searchers (1956), The Alamo (1960), The Longest Day (1962), In Harms Way (1965), and The Green Berets (1968). He was nominated for a best acting Academy Award for his portrayal of Marine Sergeant John Stryker in The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). In 1969, he won the best actor Academy Award and Golden Globe for his portrayal of Marshall Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Wayne’s last film was The Shootist (1976), in the film he played an over the hill gunfighter who is dying of cancer. Ironically, in real life Wayne was also battling cancer. He was a lifelong smoker, and had been waging a fight with lung cancer for several years. Illness was nothing new to Wayne, he had a cancerous lung removed in 1963, had open heart surgery in 1978, and had his stomach removed in 1979. He died on the evening of June 11, 1979, at the U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles, California from lung and stomach cancer. According to his widow Pilar, John Wayne final wish was to be cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea, near Catalina Island. He also wanted all of his friends to gather at his home for a party, not wanting a sorrowful occasion; but instead wanted a joyful celebration of his life, an Irish type wake. These arrangements were never carried out; Michael Wayne the executor of his father’s estate chose to have a “more dignified “arrangement. Wayne was to be buried at Pacific View Memorial Park, which over looked his beloved Newport Harbor. At 6:00 a.m. on June 15, 1979, Wayne’s bronze flower draped casket was brought into Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Corona del Mar for funeral mass. In attendance were only immediate family, his seven children, twenty seven grand children, Pilar Wayne, and a few close friends. After the conclusion of the mass, the funeral procession of only twenty cars made its way to Pacific View Memorial Park. After the procession had entered the cemetery, the gates were closed, and no one else was allowed admittance. As the sun arose in the east, on that June morning, a brief graveside ceremony was conducted by the archbishop Marcos G. McGrath, and John Wayne was laid to rest. This was not the end the legendary actor had envisioned. It is interesting to note that the plot in which Wayne is buried was given to the Wayne family by his close friend, Chick Iverson.

John Wayne's final resting place at Pacific View Memorial Park

John Wayne’s final resting place lay unmarked for over twenty years, his son Michael was very protective of his father’s image, and was adamant about keeping fans away. He feared fans would desecrate the grave, and wanted the location of his father’s burial kept as secret as possible. It was only after Michael’s death in 2003, that the surviving Wayne siblings decided it was time pay tribute to their father’s legacy, and at long last had a flat bronze marker (which plays homage to his image of the ultimate cowboy) erected at his grave site. Today, John Wayne’s legacy is found in his films, and the characters he portrayed will be remembered forever. He was a true American icon, an original, a legend bigger than life. John Wayne’s grave is located in Bay View Terrace lawn, lot 573, it is a few yards from his daughter Toni, and first wife Josephine’s graves., author of "Fade to Black Graveside Memeories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950"

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