Duke, The

Celebrity pseudonym of Marion Michael Morrison known to the public as western film star John Wayne. His nickname was taken from a pet Airedale named Big Duke that he owned as a child. Wayne was called “Little Duke.”

Besides the many films featuring the Duke kicking the butts of Indians, outlaws and WWII bad guys, he is also remembered for introducing the first episode of the western GUNSMOKE/CBS/1955-75. John Wayne was offered the part of Matt Dillon but turned it down in favor of a young actor named James Arness.


[John Wayne on the first episode of GUNSMOKE aired September 10, 1955]

“Good evening. My name’s Wayne. Some of you may have seen me before. I hope so-I’ve been kickin’ around Hollywood for a long time. I’ve made a lot of pictures out here, all kinds. Some of ’em have been Westerns, and that’s what I’m here to tell you about tonight-a Western. A new television show called GUNSMOKE. When I first heard about the show GUNSMOKE, I knew there was only one man to play in it-James Arness. He’s a young fella, and maybe new to some of you, but I’ve worked with him, and I predict he’ll be a big star. And now I’m proud to present GUNSMOKE.”


Born in Philadelphia, Jerome Alphonse Holst worked 30 years as a librarian. He has since retired and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Holst is also the author of the children’s books “Norman the Troll,” "Norman the Troll and the Haunted House," and "Gretchen and the Gremlins." In addition, he penned the fantasy novel “The Adventures of Glinda Gale,” a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz" and the reference text “The Encyclopedia of Movie and TV Insults.” .

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Posted in Showbiz Nicknames, Westerns

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