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The Religious Affiliation of
John Wayne
great American actor


John Wayne was a lifelong Protestant (raised as a Presbyterian), but he was married to a Catholic (in a Catholic ceremony) and his children were raised as Catholics. According to some sources, John Wayne's son Patrick Wayne has stated that his father converted to Catholicism two days before he died.

From Truth Miners, a Christian perspective website that debunks internet rumors and myths (http://truthminers.com/hoaxarticles/john_wayne.htm):

Many believe that Wayne had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1979 shortly before his death. This was based on information by now deceased journalist Alan Dumas. When Dumas was pressed for further information, he admitted that he had invented the story... However, I now understand that Patrick Wayne claims that his father did convert as a Roman Catholic, but only two days prior to his death.
There was a rumor circulated on the Internet through email and newsgroups stating that a letter from a child prompted John Wayne to "accept Jesus as his personal saviour" in the final weeks of his life. Another part of the rumor is that he became a member of Schuller's Crystal Cathedral congregation. Whoever exaggerated and altered events in order to write the account at the center of the rumor may have intended to tell a morality tale about the way small acts of faith and charity can have a significant influence on others. But from a Christian perspective, the "miraculous" conversion suggested by this story was unnecessary: John Wayne was already a Christian. Wayne was born into a Christian (Presbyterian) family and he lived his life as a Christian (a Protestant and eventually a Catholic). The probable source for the Internet rumor about a John Wayne "conversion" is explained in an article by Barbara Mikkelson (27 March 2001) on Snopes.com (http://www.snopes.com/glurge/duke.htm):
Claim: A letter from a child prompted John Wayne to accept Jesus as his personal saviour in the final weeks of his life.

Status: False.

Origins: ...John Wayne did indeed die in a state of grace, but as a Roman Catholic, not as a just-saved member of Schuller's Crystal Cathedral congregation. He also hadn't arrived at this decision straight from a state of total heathenism (he'd been raised Presbyterian, after all).

The Duke converted to Catholicism near the end of his life. And yes, he did write to Robert Schuller's injured daughter during her long recovery after her leg amputation. These two facts -- a late-life conversion and a 'get well soon' note sent to a friend's daughter -- have been combined into this current load of codswallop meant to underscore the importance of "witnessing for Jesus."

...TV pastor Robert Schuller does have a daughter who lost her left leg in a 1978 motorcycle accident, but the girl's name is Carol, not Cindy [as described in the Internet rumor story]. Thirteen-year-old Carol Schuller spent seven months in the hospital recovering from the accident and subsequent amputation. Robert Schuller recounts in one of his sermons her receiving a note from John Wayne during this time, yet there is no mention of Carol's writing back to him, let alone of her note having changed the Duke's life.

From: John Wayne fact page at VideoETA (http://videoeta.com/person/540): "John converted from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic."

From: George Bishop, John Wayne: The Actor/The Man, Caroline House Publishers, Inc.: Ottawa, Illinois and Thornwood, New York (1979), page 81:

Leading ladies aside, Duke's home life was deteriorating. Josie Morrison (she refused to call herself Mrs. Wayne) was a society lady and a strong Roman Catholic. Her friends included Loretta Young and Irene Dunne, leaders of the socially prominent Hollywood Catholic community. Mrs. Morrison liked to give formal dinners, poetry readings, and other white-tie affairs, and expected Mr. Morrison [John Wayne] to attend... Often he would come home to find several priests and nuns in attendance.
Bishop, page 90:
Maurice Zolotow in his book Shooting Star quotes Wayne's recollections:

"I didn't attend the first few meetings of the Alliance [Motion Picture Alliance for Preservation of American Ideals], because I was making Back to Bataan, which Edward Dmytryk was directing for RKO. I had been asked by our State Department to make this movie because it was about the Filipino underground. Our technical adviser was an American colonel, one of the first to get out of the Philippines. He was a religious man and a very sincere patriot. On days when I wasn't on the set, a few men--including Eddie Dmytryk--were ragging him about God, singing the Internationale, and making jokes about patriotism."

When confronted by Wayne, Dmytryk pretended it was all a joke. Later, of course, the director took the Fifth Amendment and went to jail only to emerge as a born-again patriot anxious to fink on his former comrades.

Later in his career Wayne talks about his political orientation. "I have found a certain type calls himself a liberal . . . now I always thought I was a liberal. I came up terribly surprised one time when I found out that I was a right-wing, conservative extremist, when I have listened to everybody's point of view that I ever met, and then decided how I should feel. But this so-called new liberal group, Jesus, they never listen to your point of view . . ."

Levy, pages 266-267:
Conservativism and traditionalism marked every aspect of [John Wayne's] life, including his view of the film industry and the function of motion pictures. He was eternally concerned with the image of America and the film industry, in this country and abroad. But, first and foremost, he stressed the entertainment values of film... Ironically, Wayne's movies, more than any other star's, became increasingly propagandistic, politically and socially, obsessively preoccupied with his version of the American Way of Life.

...Obsessed with projecting a positive image of both Hollywood and America, he denounced every film that, he felt, hurt the public's notion of the industry and the country. He thus deplored the new trend of antihero films, with "psychotic weaklings as heroes," because they were "unfair to the He-Man." "Ten or fifteen years ago, audiences went to pictures to see men behaving like men," whereas at present, "there are too many neurotic types," which he attributed to "the Tennessee Williams effect on Broadway and in movies." Williams went "far afield to find American men who are extreme cases," he reasoned, "these men aren't representative of the average man in the country, but they give the impression that we are a nation of weaklings who can't keep up the pressure of modern living."

...Wayne denounced the subject of homosexuality in Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer (1959)--which he had not see and had no intention of seeing--as "too disgusting even for discussion." "It is too distasteful," he claimed, "to be put on a screen designed to entertain a family, or any member of a decent family." He considered Easy Rider (1969)--the youth-oriented, antiestablishment film, and Midnight Cowboy, which to his dismay won the Best Picture Oscar--as "perverted" films. "Wouldn't you say," he told Playboy, "that the wonderful love of these two men in Midnight Cowboy [played by Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight], a story about two fags, qualifies [as a perverse movie]?"

Levy, page 269:
[John Wayne] also deplored the use of profanity in film, believing that its proliferation derived from the filmmaker's idea of what adolescents liked to see. He rejected the notion that "foul language is a sign of machismo," and the feeling that "by using four-letter words they make somebody manly or sophisticated." He was against "filthy minds, filthy words, and filthy thoughts in films," regarding movies as "a universal instrument at once entertaining people and encouraging them to work toward a better world, a freer world." Wayne had strong ideas about preserving "morality standards" and making films with a positive point of view.

Wayne tried not to make films that exploited sex or violence, deploring the vulgarity and violence in Rosemary's Baby, which he saw and did not like, and A Clockwork Orange or Last Tango in Paris which he had no desire to see. He thought Deep Throat was repulsive, "after all, it's pretty hard to take your daughter to see it." And he refused to believe that Love Story "sold because the girl (Ali MacGraw) went around sayiing 'sh--' all the way through it." Rather, "the American public wanted to see a little romantic story." He took a strong stance against nudity: "No one in any of my pictures will ever be served drinks by a girl with no top to her dress." It was not sex per se he was against. "Don't get me wrong. As far as a man and a woman are concened, I'm awfully happy there's a thing called sex," he said, "It's an extra something God gave us, but no picture should feature the word in an unclear manner." He therefore saw "no reason why it shouldn't be in pictures," but it had to be "healthy, lusty sex."

Bishop, page 124:
Filiming on The Sea Chase on location in Hawaii was completed at the end of October, 1954; Duke and Pilar were married on November 1 in Honolulu. They returned to Los Angeles where Pilar moved intot he Encino house long vacated by Chata and her mother. One of Wayne's beefs had been that Chata would only hire Spanish-speaking servants and he never knew what was going on; Pilar immediately hired three Peruvian, Spanish-speaking servants. Pilar was a Roman Catholic, and a man of the cloth was soon in attendance blessing each room in the house. So Duke was once again surrounded by foreigners and having his bed sprinkled with holy water. But he was very much in love and these first faint remembrances of things past failed to diminish his happiness.
From: George Carpozi Jr., The John Wayne Story, Arlington House: New Rochelle, NY (1972), page 17:
Clyde Morrison [John Wayne's father] was of Scottish descent... [John] Wayne describes his father as the "kindest, most patient man [he] ever met," saying that the elder Morrison never had an unkind thought in his mind and rarely spoke harshly to his son or anyone else. Nor did he ever lecture young Marion [John Wayne]. But he did teach him three stringent rules for living which have the ring of orders tumbling from the lips of Davy Crockett in the nineteenth century:

1. Always keep your word.
2. A gentleman never insults anybody intentionally.
3. Don't go around looking for trouble. But if you ever get in a fight, make sure you win it.

From: Emanuel Levy, John Wayne: Prophet of the American Way of Life, The Scarecrow Press, Inc.: Metuchen, N.J. and London (1988), page 1:
John Wayne was born as Marion Michael Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, a small town in Iowa. His father, Clyde L. Morrison, was a druggist of Scottish descent, and his mother, Mary Margaret Brown, of pure Irish stock... When he was six, the family moved to Lancaster in Southern California, where his father settled on a ranch...
Carpozi, page 114:
Wayne had told his kids that he'd never stand in their way if they wanted to take up acting as a profession. But there was one condition that he would hold them to--they'd have to finish school first. Michael and Pat were undergraduates at Loyola University in Los Angeles and the girls were attending a Catholic parochial school in Pasadena.
Carpozi, page 165:
...Toni Wayne, Duke's daughter... had been married in one of Hollywood's most spectactular weddings of 1956, held in Blessed Sacrament Church [a Catholic church], with the archbishop of Los Angeles, James Cardinal McIntyre, performing the ceremony, which was followed by a nuptial Mass.

More than 500 guests--including Bob Hope, Anne Blyth, and Loretta Young--were at the wedding, and the big guy [John Wayne] was a typical father-of-the-bride before entering the church...

Toni had droped out of her last year at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles to marry Don, the nephew of famed movie director Gregory LaCava. Don, who had attended Loyola University with his bride's two brothers, was studying law...

Carpozi, pages 203-204:
Melinda Ann Wayne [John Wayne's daughter] was now twenty-three years old and she was marrying Gregory Robert Munoz, a twenty-six-year-old Los Angeles County deputy attorney. The ceremony and nuptial Mass were held in the Blessed Sacrament Church and Cardinal McIntyre performed the rites as he always had at the marriages of Wayne's children.

Seven hundred guests filled the pews. Among them were such stars as Cesar Romero, Jeanne Craine, Irene Dunne, and an old friend, Loretta Young.

During the nuptial Mass, Melinda started teetering at her kneeling bench. Wayne, sitting fifteen feet away in his pew, saw his daughter in trouble and dashed to her side. He caught her just as she began to fall.

With Duke holding her on one side and the kneeling bridegroom on the other, the pretty brunette bride soon came out of her fainting spell. A priest brought a chair and she sat throughout the rest of the Mass.

Levy, pages 260-262:
Next to work, strong family life was the other defining center of [John Wayne's] existence. He was married three times and was the father of seven children. At the time of his death, he was the patriarch of a large family consisting of 21 grandchildren.

...Wayne's first wife, Josephine Saenz, was the daughter of a Panamanian consul in Los Angeles... Wayne met his second wife, Esperanza Baur Diaz, nicknamed Chata, in Mexico while vacationing there... He met his third wife, Pilar Wildy (born Palette) in Lima, Peru, in 1953, while he was scouting locations for The Alamo... her father was a Peruvian politician...

...The fact that all three of his wives were Latin American surprised Hollywood; this was the only "non-American" aspect in his life. "I have never been conscious of going for any particular type," Wayne said in response to a challenge from the press, "it's just a happenstance..."

From Levy, page 95:
Wayne's Westerns were full of action but usually not excessively violent. "Fights with too much violence are dull," claimed Wayne, insisting that the straight-shooting, two-fisted vilence in his movies have been "sort of tongue-in-cheek." He described the violence in his films as "lusty and a little humorous," based on his belief that "humor nullifies violence." His conservative taste deplored the increasing latitude given to violence (and sex) in Hollywood. In the 1960s, he launched a campaign against what he termed "Hollywood's bloodstream polluted with perversion, and immoral and amoral nuances." Most of his Westerns steered clear of graphic violence...
Levy, pages 122-124:
Mickey Rooney never played Jesus, but [John] Wayne was caset in the improbable role of a Roman centurion, leading Jesus to crucifixion in George Stevens's unsuccessful attempt at a biblical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told, arguably Wayne's worst appearance. Totally miscast, his only line, "Truly, this man was a son of God," evoked laughter in the audience and was sheer embarrassment. Wayne's performance, however, was just one of many other "shattering and distasteful" performances by many stars in cameo roles, including Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Carroll Baker, Shelley Winters, and Telly Savalas.
Levy, page 161:
Wayne's sexuality [in his movie roles] is also monogamous; he neither betrays his screen wives nor flirts with married women. But his domesticity tends to be more familial than marital, family and children are at the center of his pictures. "The longer Wayne kept his promise, kept providing, stayed true, kept being there despite cancer and illnesses and age itself," Michael Malone observed, "the more valued the strength of his fidelity and the integrity of his identity came to be." Women's attraction to the values he stood for was so strong that in the 1970s even the feminists came to admire him as a protective paternal figure.
Carpozi, page 66:
After Sagebrush Trail came The Lucky Texan, West of the Divide, Blue Steel, The Man from Utah, Randy Rides Alone, The Star Packer, The Trail Beyond, The Lawless Frontier, 'Neath Arizona Skies, Texas Terror, Rainbow Valley, The Desert Trail, The Dawn Rider, and Paradise Canyon.
Carpozi, page 125:
"The next day," [James Edward] Grant said, "Chata told me, 'That son of a bitch hit me.' I laughed because I thought that was a funny appellation to hang on one's mother. But she told me she meant Duke, her husband, had hit her.

"I said, 'If that's so, it's the longest punch thrown in history because Duke was in Moab, Utah, making a picture.'"

John Wayne's wife Pilar recalls an anecdote about her husband, from the time she was in labor with their child Aissa Maria. From Carpozi, page 157:
"I wasn't nervous at all. But I have never seen a man go so completely to pieces as he did. All the way to the hospital he kept singing, in an off-key, too, songs that he and his buddies, John Ford and Ward Bond, used to sing around the campfires in Utah. They were supposed to calm me, I guess. But they were not exactly songs to soothe an expectant mother . . ."
From: Scott Wise, The Film 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in the History of the Movies, Citadel Press Book/Carol Publishing Group: Secaucus, New Jersey (1998), page 42:
Eventually the line between his [John Wayne's] personal views and his screen image blurred beyond recognition. His active membership in organizations like the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals allowed him to use his celebrity to further causes he deemed worthy. In the 1950s, Wayne joined Walt Disney, Clark Gable, and other entertainers to assist U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in exposing Communists working in the film industry. He began hand-picking roles and financing the production of certain films, like the heavy-handed Big Jim McLain (1952), which made overt anti-Communist statements. These "message films" would often cost him, both personally and professionally; Wayne lost a small fortune on the Vietnam War film The Green Berets (1968), allowing an errant sense of patriotism to oversimplify the story of soldiers conducting covert military actions in Southeast Asia. As television images exposed the horrors of battle to Americans, the films romantic portrait of "gung-ho" optimism was often cited as an example of how completely out of touch Wayne and many of his conservative contemporaries were with the complexities of the conflict.

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