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From the Archives: Duke Morrison’s football movies

May 17, 1929: Group of current and former football players pose for Los Angeles Times photographer b
May 17, 1929: Can you find the future film star? A group of former and current football players posed for a photo before performing as extras in the movie “Salute.”
(Los Angeles Times)

In 1929, Fox Studios hired Duke Morrison (later to be known as John Wayne) and fellow football players as extras for the movie “Salute.” After posing for the above photo, the group traveled back east by train for filming.

The next morning’s Los Angeles Times carried an article with the headline,"U.S.C. Football Stars' Status Periled by Film Stunt." The Times article reported:

Surrounded by what they hoped would be deep secrecy, fourteen local college players, some of them scheduled to star on next year's University of Southern California team, were aboard a Union Pacific train last night speeding toward the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, where they will participate in the filming of a motion-picture of football life for a local studio.

The squad left from Central Station at 11 o'clock yesterday morning accompanied by representatives of the Fox Film Corporation….…

Some of he youths feared their motion-picture work might be regarded as professionalism, and their eligibility for next year's team challenged. ...

After the filming, the players quickly returned to California. All eligible players kept their amateur status and played that fall for USC.

John Wayne appears in battle garb he wore as a member of the undefeated Trojan frosh. He played unde
John Wayne appears in battle garb he wore as a member of the undefeated Trojan frosh. He played under his given name, Marion Morrison. Los Angeles Times

From left in the top photo are Clark Galloway, Russell Saunders, Jack Butler, Tony Steponovitch, Joe Fleming, Hayden Pythian, Jess Shaw, Frank Anthony, Al Schaub, Winfield Smith (Fox representative) and Duke Morrison.

By 1929, Morrison, whose real name was Marion Morrison, was no longer playing for USC. He played on the 1925 undefeated USC freshman team. He was also on the 1926 varsity team, but a shoulder injury ended his football career. Morrison sustained the injury while bodysurfing off Newport Beach's Balboa Peninsula. Also, a Fox Studios job offer gave him a new career option.

Morrison, a prop man at Fox, found work as a football-playing extra in the movies "Brown of Harvard” (1926), "The Dropkick" (1927), "Maker of Men" (1931) and the previously mentioned "Salute" (1929).

Along the way, Morrison changed his professional name to Duke Morrison — Duke being the name of a childhood dog.

In 1930, Fox Studios officials changed Morrison's professional name to John Wayne.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


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