Hollywood Stars

John Wayne Birthplace & Museum

Speaking as an actress, I wish all actors would be more like Duke and speaking as a person, it would be nice if all people could be honest and as genuine as he is. This is a real man – Maureen O Hara

In a small town slightly southwest of Des Moines, IA is a tiny four room house that stakes claim to being the birthplace of one of America’s most celebrated actors: John Wayne. The future actor was born in Winterset on May 26, 1907 as Marion Robert Morrison.

Now the small rural town is making the most of its former resident by boasting about his birthplace with a museum and tours of his childhood home.

The John Wayne Birthplace and Museum (JWBM) is open daily from 10 to 5 pm (winter 10 to 4pm). Its tickets are priced so it’s affordable for anyone. The cost is $15, with discounts for children and seniors, to experience the truly unique life of Marion Robert Morrison. 

johnwaynestatuePeople that appreciate celebrity-driven attractions will enjoy the museum and gift shop. The museum is small, but it has an impressive array of personal John Wayne photos, movie memorabilia and stories that even a casual fan will appreciate, including an explanation on how the nickname”Duke” came about.

IMG_6363As for the gift shop, it is free to visit and has lots of products and merchandise. A Crow’s View suggests purchasing a JWBM pen or pencil; at .50¢ each, they are affordable and easily the best priced items in the store.

I found the house that Marion Robert Morrison, aka John Wayne, was born in more interesting.  Although the actual room of Wayne’s birth is lost to history, its historical significance to American cinema and pop culture is undeniable.

Touring Wayne’s childhood home is a stark reminder of the American dream; moreover, it is a powerful illustration that a child born in such humble circumstances can eventually rise to stardom. In Morrison’s case, he went on to become John Wayne a Hollywood legend and an icon, if not a national treasure.

The JWBM is a must see for any ardent fan of John Wayne. It’s worth checking out. Like John Wayne, it’s distinctly American.


An Icon At 90: Marilyn Monroe

I never wanted to be Marilyn—it just happened. Marilyn’s like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane—Marilyn Monroe

June 1 is a pretty unremarkable day. It’s the 152-day of any given year, except leap year. It has no special or distinguishing events to mark its passing. This otherwise dull day has nothing going for it. However, that all changed 90 years ago with the birth of Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as Marilyn Monroe.

It’s safe to say that no other American actress has captured the imagination of a nation quite like she did. Her beauty quickly took Hollywood by storm and caught the eye of men and women alike.

Monroe Birth CirtificateBorn Norma Jeane Mortenson. She came into this world as the third child of a troubled woman; who was later diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia. The future star eventually wound up a ward of the state.

As a young girl, Norma Jeane bounced from foster home to foster home. She would often dream of becoming a famous actress. It’s easy to imagine the life she fantasized about must have seemed out of reach, but destiny would come calling a few short years later.

A lucky encounter with a photographer, a few “breaks”, and an ability to market herself catapulted Norma Jeane to fame. She famously took on a new designation: Marilyn Monroe. The name is an amalgam of a 1920s Broadway starlet named Marilyn Miller, who ironically passed away in her mid-thirties too due to alcohol and other health issues, and her birth mother’s last name (Monroe).

Marilyn Monroe quickly rose within the industry. Her stardom was due to a rare combination of raw sexuality, vulnerability, sensuality and innocence all beautifully rolled up into one larger-than-life persona. That would ultimately take on a life of its own.

Carey Grant once said, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” The sentiment behind this statement surely applied to Marilyn Monroe. During her life she routinely hung out with Hollywood A-listers, married a sport’s legend, and was linked to political royalty. Her life seemed to be going perfectly. Vastly removed from the lifestyle of the orphan Norma Jeane.

But celebrity can be a double edge sword. At one point–in what may have been a veiled cry for help­–Monroe exclaimed, “Fame is fickle, and I know it. It has its compensations but it also has its drawbacks, and I have experienced them both.”

Following her death on Aug. 5, 1962, details about her private life painted a picture of a troubled woman spiraling out of control. Personal issues contributed to her slipping into the miasma of depression, alcohol, and prescription drugs. All of which contributed to her death.

The ensuing years since her passing Marilyn Monroe has never left the public eye. Fascination about her life and death has spawned multiple conspiracy theories detailed in books, documentaries, and movies. The public’s infatuation with Monroe has never waned, in fact its only grown over the years.

In life Marilyn Monroe struggled to earn as much as her costars, while in death her estate’s income consistently tops the charts for deceased celebrities.

Little Norma Jeane, who came into the world on the humdrum day of June 1, went from an orphaned childhood, to troubled Hollywood starlet, to an international icon. Her life may have been short, but she made a far greater impact than her contemporaries.

As for June 1, it’s no longer a day marred by indistinction. For more than half a century fans around the globe mark June 1 on their calendars to celibate Marilyn Monroe’s birth. This year the iconic actress would’ve seen her 90 birthday. Imagine that!

Happy Birthday Marilyn.

Marilyn Monroe Website


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