How John Wayne Changed His Appearance For Hollywood

John Wayne, with his rugged good looks, played the iconic honest cowboy in more than 100 Hollywood films. Though he looks as natural on camera as the sand-swept desert itself, Wayne worked hard at achieving this appearance. As the years went by, Wayne employed plastic surgery, wigs, and other devices to maintain his timeless appeal.

John Wayne began life as Marion Morrison and grew up mostly in California. He spent some of his childhood on a family ranch in the Mojave Desert, where he and his younger brother road a horse to school, according to IMDb. While in college in the 1920s, Wayne got a summer job working on a movie set with director John Ford. Initially working props, Wayne struck up a friendship with Ford and started acting in bit roles. He went on to star in the 1939 film "Stagecoach," which became his breakout role. The rest is movie history.

John Wayne made multiple changes to his appearance

John Wayne starred in a dizzying total of 169 films in his long career. According to his biographer Scott Eyman, what drove him to continue making movies almost until his death was not a passion for acting but a need for money. As the author explained in "John Wayne: The Life and the Legend" (via the Daily Express), Wayne made a series of bad business deals that left him financially insecure. For example, Wayne spent over a million dollars of his own money on the 1960 film "The Alamo," complaining later that "everybody made money from it but me."

As Wayne aged, he made changes to his appearance to keep working, according to Eyman. He wore a wig in every movie from 1949 on. He reportedly underwent multiple plastic surgeries, including a facelift, neck lift, and eyelid surgery to remove the "crow's feet" around his eyes. And finally, as the actor became stooped with age, he preserved his 6-foot 4-inch height by adding 3-inch lifts to his shoes. The last movie John Wayne starred in was the 1976 film, "The Shootist," in which he played an aging gunfighter with terminal cancer. Wayne himself died of cancer in 1979.