John Wayne, circa 1970 (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
John Wayne defined America's idea of masculinity through his long and prolific film career. Nicknamed "The Duke," Wayne appeared in more than 170 motion pictures throughout a career that lasted 50 years. Known primarily for his work in Westerns, Wayne projected an aura of rugged masculinity, unflappable calm and sly charm that resonated with audiences in America and abroad. Wayne's image became inextricably tied to the image of America and how the nation was perceived overseas. At home, Wayne was an active member of the Republican Party and campaigned on behalf of several candidates but refused calls to run for the presidency, as he did not believe the American people would seriously consider putting an actor in the White House. We remember John Wayne's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2013: Johnny Smith, U.S. jazz guitarist who played with Benny Goodman, Stan Getz and Bing Crosby and whose song "Walk, Don't Run" became a hit song for the Ventures, dies at 90.
2013: Miller Barber, U.S. professional golfer who won 11 titles on the PGA Tour and 24 titles on the Senior PGA Tour, dies of lymphoma at 82.
Known for his unusual swing that featured a flying right elbow, the two-time Ryder Cup player had his best chance to win a major championship in the 1969 U.S. Open at the Champions Club outside Houston. But after taking a three-stroke lead into the final round, he closed with a 78 to finish three shots behind winner Orville Moody. Read more
2012: Teofilo Stevenson, Cuban Heavyweight boxer who won three Olympic Gold medals, dies of a heart attack at 60.
As his accomplishments grew, boxing fans began salivating over the prospect of a "fight of the century" pitting him against Muhammad Ali. But Cuba insisted that he not lose his amateur status, so the bout never took place. Read more
2012: Ann Rutherford, Canadian-born U.S. actress known best for playing Carreen O'Hara in Gone With the Wind and for her role as Polly Benedict, the girlfriend of Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy movies, dies of heart failure at 94.
The Andy Hardy series, a hugely popular string of comical, sentimental films, featured Rooney as a spirited teen. Rutherford first appeared in the second film of the series, You're Only Young Once, and went on for 11 more. She played Polly Benedict, the ever-faithful girlfriend Rooney always returned to after a more glamorous girl caught his eye. (Among the other girls: Judy Garland and Lana Turner.) It was said Rutherford won the part of Carreen, the youngest of the three O'Hara sisters in Gone With the Wind, because Garland was filming The Wizard of Oz. Read more
2007: Mala Powers, U.S. actress who played Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac and appeared in more than 100 television series, including Bonanza and Perry Mason, dies of leukemia complications at 75.
2003: David Brinkley, U.S. newscaster for NBC and ABC during a career that lasted from 1943 until 1997, dies of complications following a fall at 82.
Based in Washington and focusing on politics, Brinkley was known for his gentlemanly manner, wry wit and, as an incident with President Bill Clinton illustrated, occasional suffer-no-fools bluntness. Playing against such refinement were a boyish appearance and a jerky style of delivery that suggested a mild case of hiccups. “If I was to start today I probably couldn't get a job,” Brinkley once said, “because I don't look like what people think an anchorperson should look like.” Read more
1999: DeForest Kelly, U.S. actor well-known for his role as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy on the sci-fi television series Star Trek, who also appeared in episodes of The Donna Reed Show and Route 66, dies of stomach cancer at 79.
Before Kelley died June 11, 1999, at 79, the actor known best for his portrayal of Dr. Leonard McCoy on the TV series "Star Trek" told an interviewer he hoped his character's catchphrase – "He's dead, Jim” – did not appear on his headstone. Read more
1996: Brigitte Helm, German actress who starred in the silent-film sci-fi classic Metropolis, dies at 90.
1994: Herbert Anderson, U.S. character actor known best for playing Henry Mitchell, the father in the sitcom Dennis the Menace, who also had guest roles on various other shows including My Three Sons, Bewitched and Petticoat Junction, dies at 77.
1993: Ray Sharkey, U.S. actor known best for his role in the movie The Idolmaker and his regular role on the TV series Wiseguy, dies of AIDS complications at 40.
1988: Nathan Cook, U.S. actor known best for playing Milton Reese, one of the high school basketball players on the TV series The White Shadow, dies after an allergic reaction to penicillin at 38.
1985: Karen Ann Quinlan, U.S. woman who fell into a coma and sparked a landmark case regarding her parents’ legal battle for the right to remove her from life support, dies at 31.
Quinlan's mother, Julia Quinlan, said an important part of her daughter's legacy is lesser known. The Quinlan family started a hospice bearing their daughter’s name in 1980. It is still operational and is expanding, with the Karen Ann Quinlan Home for Hospice expected to open this year in New Jersey. Read more
1982: Al Rinker, U.S. singer who formed the group the Rhythm Boys with Bing Crosby before Crosby left to embark on a successful solo career, dies at 74.
1979: John Wayne, U.S. actor, director and producer who was among the top box office draws for three decades and whose movies include The Searchers, Rio Bravo and True Grit, dies of stomach cancer at 72.
Wayne needs no introduction. Even more than 30 years after his death, he remains one of the all-time most popular actors, and many of his countless films are beloved classics. We know him as a man's man who took no guff. And he was at his best playing archetypal tough guys – most notably, gunslingers and war heroes. Read more
1966: Wallace Ford, English-born U.S. actor who appeared in 13 John Ford movies, dies at 68.
1936: Robert E. Howard, U.S. author who created Conan the Barbarian, who appeared in numerous stories in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, commits suicide at 30.