John Wayne reveals his real name to Phil Donahue in 1976. Or does he?
Most fans of John Wayne know that he wasn’t given that name when he was born. But what was the name his parents gave him? Various sources give the name as Marion Robert Morrison. Others list it as Marion Mitchell Morrison. And anyone who expected Wayne to clear up matters himself might have found only more confusion, as when Duke answered a question from Phil Donahue during a 1976 TV interview. Donahue asked the actor if he fought a lot as a boy. “My name was Marion Michael Morrison,” he replied. “Do you think I ever fought?!”
So what, then, was his real name?
Wayne had a younger brother, Robert Emmett Morrison. That in itself doesn’t necessarily preclude the elder boy from having Robert as a middle name, although it’s uncommon. And because Wayne himself said he grew up as Marion Michael Morrison, that would seem to put an end to the matter. The truth, though, actually runs through all those names.
Wayne was indeed born Marion Robert Morrison. Four years later, in 1911, his younger brother was born. His parent liked the name Robert so much they apparently didn’t want to waste it on the older boy as a middle name, and so they renamed him, at least unofficially, as Marion Mitchell Morrison, which as it turns out was the full name of his paternal grandfather, who had fought in the Civil War. Years later, as an actor, the story goes, a studio publicity office mistakenly said Wayne's birth name was Marion Michael Morrison. Wayne never bothered to correct that statement, because he liked the sound of the name Michael. It's easy to see why there's some lasting confusion.
John Wayne's birth name confirmed. Photo: dukewayne.com
Thanks to dukewayne.com, we can see an authenticated birth record and a standard certificate of birth that list Wayne’s name as Marion Robert Morrison, as well as a notarized statement attesting to that name from the actor himself. Of course, that's all academic, since the world soon came to know the man as John Wayne, and no other name mattered after that.