Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne, was the cowboy. In the course of his fifty year career, he appeared in more than 170 films such as “The Searchers”, “The Alamo”, “The Green Berets”, “High Noon”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “True Grit”. He was also instrumental in getting “Blazing Saddles” filmed, although he felt that he couldn’t appear in it without destroying his career – as the iconic cowboy, appearing the ultimate satire of the Western genre might not have gone over well with his fans.
Wayne had developed cancer of the lung in 1964, and while that cleared up, he then developed cancer of the stomach, which would prove fatal. While there is a persistent rumour that he developed cancer as a result of exposure to radioactive fallout while filming “The Conqueror” in 1956, Wayne himself blamed his six pack a day smoking habit.