Wayne rose beyond the typical recognition for a famous actor to that of an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals. By the middle of his career, Wayne had developed a larger-than-life image, and as his career progressed, he selected roles that would not compromise his off-screen image. By the time of his last film The Shootist (1976), Wayne refused to allow his character to shoot a man in the back as was originally scripted, saying "I've made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it."
Wayne's rise to being the quintessential movie war hero began to take
shape four years after World War II when Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) was released. His footprints
at Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood were laid in cement that
contained sand from Iwo Jima.
His status grew so large and legendary that when Japanese Emperor Hirohito visited the United
States in 1975, he asked to meet John Wayne, the symbolic representation
of his country's former enemy.
Wayne was a popular visitor to the war zones in World War II, Korea,
and Vietnam. By the 1950s, perhaps in large part due to the military
aspect of films such as the Sands of Iwo Jima, Flying Tigers, They Were Expendable, and the Ford cavalry
trilogy, Wayne had become an icon to all the branches of the U.S. Military, even in light of his actual lack
of military service. Many veterans have said their reason for serving
was in some part related to watching Wayne's movies. His name is
attached to various pieces of gear, such as the P-38 "John Wayne" can-opener, so named because "it can do
anything," paper towels known as "John Wayne Toilet Paper" because "it's
rough and it's tough and don't take shit off no one," and C-Ration crackers are called "John Wayne
crackers" because presumably only someone as tough as Wayne could eat
them. A rough and rocky mountain pass used by army tanks and jeeps at
Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County, California, is aptly named "John
Various public locations have been named in memory of John Wayne.
They include John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, where
his nine-foot bronze statue graces the entrance; the John Wayne Marina
near Sequim, Washington; John Wayne Elementary School (P.S. 380) in Brooklyn, NY, which boasts a 38-foot mosaic mural
commission by New York artist Knox
entitled "John Wayne and the American Frontier";
and a 100-plus-mile trail named the "John Wayne Pioneer Trail" in
Washington state's Iron Horse State Park. A larger than life-size
bronze statue of Wayne atop a horse was erected at the corner of La
Cienega Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California at the
former offices of the Great Western Savings & Loan Corporation, for
whom Wayne had done a number of commercials. (The building now houses Larry
In the city of Maricopa, Arizona, part of AZ State Highway 347 is named
John Wayne Parkway, which runs right through the center of town.
On December 5, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria
Shriver inducted Wayne into the California Hall of Fame, located at The
California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.