On this day in 1979, John Wayne, an iconic American film actor famous for starring in countless westerns, died at age 72 after battling cancer for more than a decade.
The actor was born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, and moved as a child to Glendale, California. A football star at Glendale High School, he attended the University of Southern California on a scholarship but dropped out after two years. After finding work as a movie studio laborer, Wayne befriended director John Ford, then a rising talent. His first acting jobs were bit parts in which he was credited as Duke Morrison, a childhood nickname derived from the name of his beloved pet dog.
Wayne’s first starring role came in 1930 with The Big Trail, a film directed by his college buddy Raoul Walsh. It was during this time that Marion Morrison became “John Wayne,” when director Walsh didn’t think Marion was a good name for an actor playing a tough western hero. Despite the lead actor’s new name, however, the movie flopped. Throughout the 1930s, Wayne made dozens of mediocre westerns, sometimes churning out two movies a week. In them, he played various rough-and-tumble characters and occasionally appeared as “Singing Sandy,” a musical cowpoke a la Roy Rogers.
In 1939, Wayne finally had his breakthrough when his old friend John Ford cast him as Ringo Kid in the Oscar-winning Stagecoach. Wayne went on to play larger-than-life heroes in dozens of movies and came to symbolize a type of rugged, strong, straight-shooting American man. John Ford directed Wayne in some of his best-known films, including Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962).
Off-screen, Wayne came to be known for his conservative political views. He produced, directed and starred in The Alamo (1960) and The Green Berets (1968), both of which reflected his patriotic, conservative leanings. In 1969, he won an Oscar for his role as a drunken, one-eyed federal marshal named Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Wayne’s last film was The Shootist (1976), in which he played a legendary gunslinger dying of cancer. The role had particular meaning, as the actor was fighting the disease in real life.
During four decades of acting, Wayne, with his trademark drawl and good looks, appeared in over 250 films. He was married three times and had seven children.
On this day in 1964, MGM released the big screen version of the hit Broadway musical THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN. DEBBIE REYNOLDS starred in the title role as a poor mountain girl who leaves home to find wealth and adventure (even surviving the sinking of the Titanic). Great musical numbers and performances.
Yesterday, 19 Recordings announced that it has signed American Idol season 8 champ Kris Allen — surprise! (Ha.) In a statement, Allen teased what the album might sound like: “It will be very similar to what you heard from me on the show — definitely in the pop/rock genre.” During my recent interview with Allen, he told me pretty much the same thing, though he also added, “The way I came across on the show is a guy and his guitar, but I want to come across as more the soft-rock kind of thing… hopefully something that not everyone has seen before. I think that some people will be very surprised by it — certain songs, people will be like, ’Didn’t expect that.’ Just like the whole ‘Heartless’ thing — people were not expecting me to do that song. And it worked out. So I think you’ll see things like that. I think it’s going to be very cool.”
Since he was still in the process of working out who he was going to work with on the album, Allen was understandably reticent to get more specific than that. But he had plenty to say about the music that has shaped him so far. So in the hope of tiding you ravenous Allen fans over until the fall release of his debut record, I offer you the following tidbits. Oh, and I fully expect to hear a collective awww… after you read the part about him dancing to Jacko all by his lonesome. (Also, in the rare chance that you missed it, do check out Idolatry’s terrific five-part interview with Allen; link below.)
On playing the viola
I started playing viola when I was in fourth grade. But it was kind of like a requirement. I never hated it or anything, but it was never something that I loved. We had an orchestra and it was like, a couple of my friends play the viola, so I was like, “I’ll play the viola.” We had to play something, I just picked that. All my friends stopped playing but I kept playing until the end of high school.
On growing up musical
My dad was a musician. He was a singer and he played the guitar, so music was always around. I never really wanted to pick up [the guitar] until I was 13. One summer, during the day [when] my parents were working and we were home alone, my brother would go to the pool and hang out with girls and do whatever. I would just hang out in the house. No one had a clue what I was doing. I was teaching myself how to play the guitar.
On Michael Jackson and his other favorite artists back in the day
I was a huge, huge, huge fan of Michael Jackson. Almost too big of a fan. He’s one of the best ever. I would sit in my room and put on a hat and try to dance in front of the mirror. All this stuff on my own, never in front of people. I was too embarrassed. I started listening to him and then started listening to a lot of R&B stuff like Boys II Men, II. I grew up listening to that. I love that. [Singing] “I’ll make love to you…” Probably not a good idea [for a 9-year-old kid]. And then I think my next CD was TLC, Crazy Sexy Cool. My parents were totally cool with it — maybe they didn’t know exactly. They were young and they tried to be cool. [Laughs]
What he’s listening to now
A lot of different stuff. Love Coldplay. Coldplay’s first CD, I think it’s amazing. The Kings of Leon CD is incredible. I like Mutemath a lot. The Kanye CD [808s & Heartbreak], it’s amazing, one of the best of the decade, probably.
On being his own artist in the, eh-hem, often controlling recording industry
I am really laid back and kind of go-with-the-flow, but I will never do anything that I don’t believe in. So if there’s a song that they’re trying to shoot at me and I’m like, ehhhh, then it probably won’t happen. I think it would just be uncomfortable. You can’t do something that you don’t feel good about.
And just because… On adjusting to overnight heartthrob status
I always try to take it with a grain of salt, because being that is not going to get me anywhere. I just hope I can put out good music. It’s weird. But [my wife is] amazing at dealing with it. They ask her for her autograph as well. [Laughs]
Shia LeBeouf is back to talking about his family in an inappropriate manner, this time saying he got his sense of humor from watching his parents “have sex.”The comment was the second time he has surprised fans with his thoughts on his parents after he called his mother “the sexiest woman I know.”
“My humor came from seeing my parents have sex, smoke weed, my mom being naked – just weird hippie stuff, twisted R-rated humor,” he told Parade magazine.
LeBeouf, 23, admitted that he is indeed battling a few demons, adding that all actors are.
“They’re all in pain. It’s a profession of bottom-feeders and heartbroken people,” he said. “Most actors on most days don’t think they’re worthy,” he added. “I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew it, I’d fill it and I’d be on my way.”
The “Transformers” star, who was arrested on a DUI in July of 2008, also admitted to being an alcoholic.
“Why am I an alcoholic? I haven’t a [expletive] clue.”
Denzel Washington and John Travolta take audiences on a fast-paced subway ride in the hostage thriller “Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.”
Once these two begin to tangle the tension begins to mount and the intensity becomes relentless with the lives of innocent passengers hanging in the balance. Travolta and Washington go toe to toe as Garber and Ryder try to get underneath each other’s skin.
Travolta, always delicious when he plays villains, gives a standout performance as Ryder, the unhinged criminal mastermind behind the hijacking of a New York subway train, specifically the Pelham 123. Leading a gang of four as they hi-jack the train and terrorize their hostages, Ryder calls the subway dispatcher demanding a multi-million dollar ransom from the city of New York and threatens to start executing passengers if his demand is not met within an hour.
Denzel Washington plays Walter Garber, a seemingly meek former MTA administrator recently demoted for a stain on his record, who happens to be working dispatch when the call comes in and must rise to the challenge of becoming an unwitting hostage negotiator. But, Garber is more than up to the task with his extensive expertise of the subway system and his everyman attitude.
New York itself is a character in the film and the cast is peopled with favorite New York actors like James Gandolfini as the mayor and John Turturro playing the NYPD’s chief hostage negotiator.
The film, directed by Tony Scott, has plenty of action. Set in a post-9-11 New York this Pelham is quite different from the much-loved though somewhat claustrophobic original. The new Pelham is less a remake of the 1974 classic of the same name starring Walter Matthau than a new interpretation of the John Godey novel.
It’s arguably the silliest game show on television so it’s only fitting that former TALK SOUP host and stand-up comic JOHN HENSON is the host. WIPEOUT is the kind of competition that leaves viewers shaking their heads in wonder when not cracking up at the sheer nonsense of it all. We caught up with HENSON recently to talk about the show and he gave us his take on what keeps viewers coming back. Listen in below:
WIPEOUT airs tonight on ABC
In his new family comedy “Imagine That,” Eddie Murphy is paired up with nine-year-old newcomer Yara Shahidi, who gives a charming performance as his lively daughter. Not only is Murphy optimistic about how “Imagine That” will be received by audiences when it opens on June 12, he’s also very high on his young co-star’s future prospects. (CLICK ON THE MEDIA BAR BELOW TO HEAR EDDIE MUPRHY)
Tonight sees the debut of BRAVO’s TOP CHEF spin-off, TOP CHEF MASTERS. This time around, instead of cooker wannabees, the contestants are Master Chefs from some of the toniest kitchens in the world. We spoke recently with KELLY CHOI , one of the judges, and she tells us that fans of the original show are not going to be disappointed.
TOP CHEF MASTERS debuts tonight on BRAVO