Yesterday, I left you with a tease of a second gem to be found in Madison County, Iowa ~ I can tell you’re all waiting on the edge of your seat for today’s blog with bated breath!
Your wait is over! yayyyy!
Well, long before Robert James Waller penned his novel, “The Bridges of Madison County”, the small town of Winterset, Iowa, was already somewhat well-known.
It is the birth place of one Marion Robert Morrison.
Better known to the world as John Wayne.
I grew up a big fan of “The Duke” because of my Dad — who, when he was active military, actually was an on-screen extra in 2 of John Wayne’s films! cool, right?! Having shared that, my 2 favorite Duke films are “Rio Bravo” and “Quiet Man” (although not the ones Dad was in…) ~ if you haven’t seen them, check them out! (wow, Carol’s talking movies… shocker! hehe!)
As I was reading some background info for this blog post, I found this little factoid about John Wayne & Clint Eastwood (director and lead in the movie “The Bridges of Madison County”) ~ it turns out Winterset is not the only commonality between the two of them: “In 1973 Eastwood wrote to Wayne, suggesting they star in a western together. Wayne wrote back criticizing the violence of “High Plains Drifter”, Eastwood never responded so no film was made.” (I’ve tried not to say it but I can’t help myself — in my humble opinion, Eastwood was a terrible choice for the lead the Bridges of Madison County movie! Whew, I feel so much better!)
There is a bronze statue of Duke on the main street, close to his childhood home.
bronze statue on the town’s main street
His father developed a lung condition that required him to move his family from Iowa to the warmer climate of southern California ~ tragically both Duke and his brother Robert were also diagnosed with lung cancer in the 1960’s. After multiple health problems and recurring cancer, Duke passed away in 1979.
closer look at the statue
at the bottom of the bronze part, it says “John Wayne, American” ~ which is exactly what his Congressional Gold Medal says, too.
His parents changed his middle name after his brother Robert was born ~ oddly there is some story as to what it was changed to. In “Duke: The Life and Times of John Wayne” (1985), the biographers write that when Duke’s younger brother was born, “the Duke’s middle name was changed from Robert to Mitchell… After he gained celebrity, Duke deliberately confused biographers and others by claiming Michael as his middle name, a claim that had no basis in fact.” (um, ok ~ what a strange thing to arouse controversy!)
childhood home, now a museum, sits just around the corner from the statue.
His childhood home has been restored to reflect its appearance in 1907, the year of Duke’s birth, and houses an impressive collection of John Wayne memorabilia including; the eyepatch worn in the movie “True Grit”, a hat worn in “Rio Lobo”, and a prop suitcase used in the film “Stagecoach” ~ along with hundreds of rare photographs and letters.
In addition to the Congressional Gold Medal, John Wayne was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
So there you go ~ two gems for the price of one in Madison County!
I keep telling all of you, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Iowa…