The man who eventually became an international icon, beloved movie star, and symbol of American values to millions of people had no thoughts of such things when he first arrived in California from Winterset, Iowa, as a child in 1914. As the man originally named Marion Robert Morrison (it was later changed to Marion Mitchell Morrison after his original middle name was given to his new brother) grew up and eventually journeyed into the entertainment industry, he did so simply in pursuit of honest work, out of a willingness to learn, do his very best, and a simple conviction that if he treated people “the right way,” they would do likewise for him, and it might all pay off in the end. Despite a few ups-and-downs along the way, those simple values, of course, did pay off for the man who eventually became known as the legendary John Wayne.

But his was no star-crossed journey. Rather, John Wayne simply worked tirelessly at his craft until he became a star later than most, but he never lost sight of the simple, straightforward person he was raised to be, even at the height of his stardom. Through it all, he tended to his family, enjoyed a few laughs, and devoted himself unwaveringly to his friends and country all his life.

The end result, very much unplanned—John Wayne endures as a meaningful figure in American history to this day, due primarily to his authenticity. His is a unique American story—one that he might be a bit embarrassed talking about if he were around today, but he’d also be proud to tell you straight-up that, through it all, he did, in fact, do his very best.

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