John Wayne was no fan of John Wayne. At least, not until the actor learned to pull off his famous strut, which was full of both utter calmness and confidence.
Wayne, of course, made a name for himself during the era when Westerns were at their peak, during the 1950s-70s. But his acting career actually dates back to the 1920s. The man they often just called “Duke” died in June 1979 at the age of 72.
Up until Wayne mastered his walk, it seems he couldn’t bear to watch himself in his many movies. He received help with the best way to walk as a well-to-do cowboy from another actor, Paul Fix — Wayne’s co-star in the 1935 flick, The Deseret Trail.
“Duke was bright, and you could teach him, and he’d quickly learn,” Fix said, via Cheat Sheet. “He had trouble with the physical side of acting, like how to move and what to do with your hands. He said he hated watching himself on the screen because he always looked so stiff.”
Fix offered a quick fix.
“I told him to try pointing his toes into the ground as he walked, and when he did that, his shoulders and hips sort of swung,” Fix said. “He practiced that walk until it looked so graceful on the screen that I told him he had to watch his films so he could see what he was doing. I told him, ‘You can’t learn what to do if you don’t watch yourself on the screen.’ And in a short time he had that distinctive rolling walk down perfect.”
John Wayne in The Desert Trial
Along with learning to walk, Wayne initially came under fire from critics for what was perceived to be a rather monotonous delivery while speaking. But his voice and tone later became something not only unique to him, but something fans and critics began to wildly appreciate.
The same goes for the way he walked on the screen.
Wayne went on to win the Oscar for True Grit and received a nomination for Sands of Iowa Jima. His life and career were celebrated by the Academy Arts of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.