John Wayne, Grand Marshall of The 1973 Rose Bowl Parade
December 27, 2010
It was only fitting that the Rose Bowl Committee chose the actor, John Wayne, to be the grand marshal of the 1973 Rose Bowl Parade. Everyone loved John “Duke” Wayne and overflowing crowds patiently waited in the cool, damp air, some camping out overnight on the sidewalk, to applaud and cheer “Duke.” Some wanted to see if he was as big and handsome in real life as he was on the movie screen. He was!
The excitement started to build as the early campers rose, stretched and pushed their beach chairs into position at the curb. In the distance, one could hear the strains of a marching band warming up their instruments. Food hucksters, carrying boxes roped around their necks holding bags of peanuts, popcorn, and cotton candy, walked up and down the block, calling out their wares to hungry customers. Other vendors followed, yelling “Get your hot dogs here,” while pushing aluminum-covered, wheeled carts full of tantalizing, steaming hot dogs past the crowd. Impatient kids jumped up and down, begging parents to buy them something from the vendors. Big men with scrawny, bent knees and painted faces, dressed in clown costumes, drove tiny little cars and zoomed from one curb to the other, killing time before the parade started and they had to take their place.
People respectfully scrambled to their feet when they saw the men in uniform carrying America’s flags, with the accompanying military band leading the parade, approach them. The 1973 Rose Bowl Parade had begun. And, there he was, bigger than life. John Wayne, patriot and actor, astride his horse waving to the adoring crowd, as he rode by. Cameras clicked and people cheered. He was a man that everyone felt they knew because he’d let us see him grow old on screen. No tummy tucks, no facelifts, he was the genuine thing. Except for his hairpiece to cover his receding hairline, John Wayne was the “real thing” and everyone knew that.
Born in Winterset, Iowa, on May 26, 1907, Marion Morrison, evolved into his screen name, John “Duke” Wayne. He was everybody’s hero, both on and off the screen. Duke, 6-foot-4, attended USC on a football scholarship before marrying Josephine Saenz in 1933. She was the beautiful, Los Angeles-born daughter of the Consul General of Panama in the U.S., and closest friend of actress Loretta Young, in whose garden they wed in a Catholic ceremony. Married from 1933 until 1944, they had four children: Michael (1934), Mary Antonia “Toni” (1936), Patrick (1939), Melinda (1940). They remained friends and stayed involved with their children’s lives until his death on June 11, 1979. (Known for her many years of charitable work, Josie died at age 95 in June 2003).
He married Mexican actress, Esperanza “Chata” Bauer, in 1946 and divorced her in 1954. They had no children. He met Pilar Pallette in Peru while scouting for sites for the filming of “The Alamo.” They married in Hawaii in November 1954, and had three children: Aissa (1956), John Ethan (1962), and Marisa (1966). She was 22 years younger than Wayne. They divorced in 1973, but remained friends. Some of her children, like Josie’s, had acting parts in many of Wayne’s movies.
While playing at USC, director John Ford hired him and other young athletes like Ward Bond, to work on the sets, move equipment and other odd jobs before giving him a screen test for parts in “B-westerns.” He agreed to the name change from “Marion” to “John” since it sounded stronger. There was already an actor named Morrison, so his last name was changed to “Wayne,” for a courageous Revolutionary War General, “Mad Anthony” Wayne. Thus, the actor John Wayne was born. He always used the nickname “Duke,” the same name as his dog. When publicity personnel at the studios explained that his family was royalty; so he was called “Duke,” Wayne laughed and said, “Royalty? Me? I was named after my dog!”
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When Director John Ford, (who became his mentor and was like a father to him) hired him to play the part of “the Ringo Kid” in “Stagecoach,” filmed in Monument Valley in 1939, John Wayne was lifted from the obscurity of playing in “B-westerns” to giant star status. He never looked back. His career had officially begun and it didn’t end until his death from cancer in 1979. Even after his death, he is still listed in the Top 10 of Movie Actors of All Time.
Married to three Spanish women, when asked what he would like written on his tombstone, John Wayne replied, “Just say he was feo y fuerte y formal. (Translation: He was strong, he was ugly and he had dignity).
The score of the 1973 Rose Bowl Game between USC Trojans, coached by John McKay, and the Ohio State Buckeyes, coached by Woody Hayes, was 42-17. USC won.
In 1970, John Wayne accepted his only Oscar for “True Grit.” In his classy acceptance speech, he was close to tears before saying, “I’ve been up on this podium before when I accepted two Academy Awards. One was for Admiral John Ford and another for our friend, Gary Cooper. I was clever and witty that night, but tonight I don’t feel clever and witty. Tonight I feel grateful and humble. And if I’d only put that patch on my eye 35 years earlier,” he added, trailing off, to the delight of the audience who stood up, laughed and applauded him.