New museum celebrates actor and native son John Wayne

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Family, friends and fans will gather this month for the celebration of the new John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa, which has a touch of Hollywood beyond the Duke’s considerable star power.

The birthplace museum, recognized as the largest collection of John Wayne artifacts available to the public, has a small theater that shows highlights of many of his movies. Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s frequent costar, is expected to attend some of the events during the May 22-25 activities.

When the theater was remodeled in 2013, two dozen of its 916 seats were snapped up and shipped off to Winterset, about 35 miles south of Des Moines.

Wayne (birth name Marion Morrison) was born May 26, 1907, in a four-room home that’s just 100 feet from the new museum. His family moved to Southern California when he was 9, and he graduated from Glendale High School and attended USC.

After dozens of films, heavy on Western and military roles, he won the Oscar in 1969 for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit.”

Much of the now-open 6,100-square-foot museum is devoted to his film career and includes exhibits such as the rifle he used in “The Alamo” (1960) and the saddle he used in “The Cowboys” (1972).

Set pieces from “The Shootist” (1976) and a bloody shirt come from the last scene of the last movie he ever made.

One item that is sure to generate a lot of conversation is his 1972 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon, tricked out to accommodate his size — he was 6-foot-4 — with a higher ceiling and door openings.

Wayne died on June 11, 1979.

The ribbon cutting at the museum will take place at noon on May 23. A dinner that evening benefiting the museum will be headlined by Marty Stuart, a lifelong friend of Wayne and a longtime country-music star. Tickets cost $150.

Info: The John Wayne Birthplace Museum is at 205 S. John Wayne Drive, Winterset. Admission is $15 for adults and $8 for children 12 and younger; (877) 462-1044.

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