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The Legacy of John Wayne

February 17, 2017

By Jaydn Harding, OCP Marketing Intern
The name John Wayne is well known and brings a certain image to most people’s mind. The name Marion Robert Morrison, however, is not as recognizable. That was John Wayne’s birth name.
Whether you are a fan of John Wayne and the Western movie genre, or perhaps you have never even seen a John Wayne film, his name is familiar. From some of his first films, such as Words as Music when he was credited as Duke Morrison, to some of his more popular films like The Searchers, Stagecoach and The High and Mighty, Wayne captivated audiences both young and old. As The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has made its way to the Omaha Community Playhouse stage, we mostly know this story from the 1962 John Wayne film version.  So what exactly makes John Wayne so alluring, even to this day?
John was born in Winterset, Iowa and eventually went on to play football for the University of Southern California. When he first visited a movie set, the director couldn’t believe his eyes. A 6’4”, taller-than-life cowboy was standing in front of him. He began his film career with small background roles but John eventually made his way to the center of the screen, acting in roles that brought out character traits such as bravery, sacrifice and self-reliance.
Fans of his films wanted to be like Wayne, a true “man’s man.” When you dive into John Wayne’s personal life however, you begin to see the turmoil and struggles he went through when the cameras stopped rolling. Growing up with a mother who mistreated him, John struggled with self-confidence and often had difficulty experiencing love. With three failed marriages, emotional troubles and failed business ventures, John’s life away from the screen was very different than his on-screen personas. His courageous acts on screen and his famous one-liners made John Wayne an idol to many. People felt they could relate to him, regardless of their own situations in life.
In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Wayne played a troubled cowboy who competed with a lawyer for the love of Miss Hallie Jackson. This character fit the tough-as-nails cowboy image that comes to mind when thinking of John Wayne.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse now through March 12th, 2017 in the Howard Drew Theater. Although the play is based on the 1962 film version, there are several differences in the plots. These changes are guaranteed to keep audiences in suspense throughout the show, even the diehard John Wayne fans. If you are a fan of the movie version, you won’t be disappointed in the play.