He was born Marion Robert Morrison, which became Marion Michael Morrison when his parents decided to name their next son Robert. He was born in Winterset, Iowa, and his family moved to Glendale, California in 1911. It was neighbours in Glendale who started calling him "Big Duke", because he never went anywhere without his Airedale dog, who was Little Duke. He preferred "Duke" to "Marion", and the name stuck for the rest of his life.
He appeared in many strong masculine ("macho") roles in western films and war films, but he also had a down-to-earth sense of humour which allowed him to appear in a pink bunny suit for an episode of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, as well as in comedy movies. According to the Internet Movie Database Wayne played the male lead in 142 of his film appearances, an as yet unsurpassed record. He had a long collaboration with director John Ford.
Despite his prolific output John Wayne won only a single Best Leading Actor Oscar, for the 1969 movie True Grit. He received a nomination for the Best Leading Actor in Sands of Iwo Jima, and as producer for Best Picture for The Alamo.
John Wayne died of gastric cancer on June 11, 1979 and was interred in the Pacific View Memorial Park cemetery in Corona del Mar, California, USA. Some trace his cancer back to his work in The Conqueror. filmed about 100 mi downwind of Nevada nuclear-weapons test sites.
There is an airport named after him, John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, California.