As one of Hollywood's most prolific stars, John Wayne appeared in movies filmed all over the world. He strolled the African savannah in Hatari!, battled the Japanese in the World War II drama Sands of Iwo Jima, and kept his men safe and warm after crash-landing in the frozen wastelands of Labrador in Island in the Sky. But the American West is the Duke's true home, and following his trail makes for a pretty great road trip.
Photo by <i>The Comancheros</i>, John Wayne, Stuart Whitman, 1961. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
First stop: Newton, Mississippi - Civil War buffs will appreciate this starting point. Wayne plays colonel John Marlowe, a Union cavalry commander on a mission to destroy a railroad depot behind enemy lines. The movie is based on an actual event known as Grierson's Raid, which is huge in reenactment circles.
Photo by <i>The Horse Soldiers</i>, John Wayne, 1959. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Second stop: Fort Smith, Arkansas - In this movie, the Duke traverses Arkansas as hard-drinking U.S. marshal Rooster Cogburn. It also took him on an offscreen side trip to Hollywood: Wayne won an Oscar for True Grit, which was presented to him by a very young Barbra Streisand.
Photo by <i>True Grit</i>, John Wayne, 1969. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Third stop: Galveston, Texas - Wayne's Texas Ranger Jake Cutter heads from Galveston to the Louisiana border to deliver a prisoner. But he never gets there, as his party ends up battling white men smuggling guns and whiskey to the Indians. So much for that Cajun-shrimp po'boy, red beans, and dirty rice.
Photo by <i>The Comancheros</i>, John Wayne, 1961. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Fourth stop: San Antonio, Texas - Playing Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Wayne was kept pretty busy at the Alamo: not only does Crockett perish in the battle, but Wayne also directed the film.
Photo by <i>The Alamo</i>, John Wayne, 1960. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Fifth stop: Lincoln County, New Mexico - Heading due west, we arrive in New Mexico, where Wayne plays John Chisum, a rancher who joins forces with Billy the Kid to fight a land war. The countryside around Lincoln might not be all that inspired, but Wayne found it sufficiently pleasing to film a second movie, Big Jake, there, a couple of years later.
Photo by <i>Chisum</i>, John Wayne, 1970. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Sixth stop: Lordsburg, New Mexico - Playing the Ringo Kid in his breakthrough role, Wayne fights the Apache, rescues settlers, avenges the death of his father, and turns a prostitute with a heart of gold into a lady.
Photo by <i>Stagecoach</i>, George Bancroft, John Wayne, Louise Platt, 1939. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Seventh stop: Monument Valley, Arizona - It's supposed to take place in northern Texas, but the sere landscape Wayne's Ethan Edwards traverses in search of his niece, Debbie, is actually on Navajo tribal lands in Arizona and Utah. Edwards doesn't enjoy his trip much in the movie, but Monument Valley is now one of the most photographed spots in the world.
Photo by <i>The Searchers</i>, John Wayne, 1956. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Eighth stop: Carson City, Nevada - This was actually Wayne's last stop on the big screen: the dying gunfighter J. B. Books was his final role. But at least he had the chance to spend some quality time with Lauren Bacall, who plays the owner of the rooming house where he is staying.
Photo by <i>The Shootist</i>, John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, 1976. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Ninth stop: Smith Rock, Oregon - In this sequel to True Grit, Wayne heads into Indian territory. The movie, which was photographed in the majestic high dessert of eastern Oregon and at Smith Rock (a famous climbing site), co-starred Kate Hepburn. It was her only movie with Wayne.
Photo by <i>Rooster Cogburn</i>, John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, 1975. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Final stops: Seattle, Washington, and Nome, Alaska - It seems like Wayne has more fun in this movie than in all his others combined. He travels from Seattle to Alaska, scrambles up a tree at a Pacific Northwest lumberjack picnic, and then takes a boat back to Alaska (in the company of a lovely young lady) to rejoin his partner and their mightily productive gold claim. A happy ending for a dusty road warrior.
Photo by <i>North to Alaska</i>, Capucine, John Wayne, 1960. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.