“Let me tell ya, I’m buying a ticket. I’m going to both the ribbon cutting and the fundraiser,” Branstad told reporters Monday morning. “I’m a big John Wayne fan.”
Branstad got a “preview tour” of the new museum.
“They have his car that was specially designed so he could wear his cowboy hat while he was driving it, I think,” Branstad said. “They have a lot of the movie posters and they have a lot of the old movies and they even have some of the seats from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater.”
The Hollywood theater opened in 1927 and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the theater featured John Wayne’s signature and boot prints in concrete.
John Wayne was born in Winterset 105 years ago as Marion Morrison. He started his Hollywood career in 1926, changed his name to John Wayne in 1930 and went on to appear in more than 175 films.
It can be difficult to maintain interest in museums about Hollywood stars. The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri, for example, closed in 2009. The Clark Gable Birthplace and Museum in a small Ohio town has seen a significant decline in visitors and the Jimmy Stewart Museum near Pittsburg has had to be rescued from closure twice in the past five years, but Winterset Mayor James Olson said he doesn’t foresee “any let-up” in visitors who want to see John Wayne’s birthplace.
“He’s still ranked in the top five of movie actors,” Olson said Monday. “You know, we’ve had over a million visitors over the years in the John Wayne Birthplace and all those people will want to come back and with all the new people that will be coming in for the museum, we just don’t think there’s going to be a problem with that.”
John Wayne’s last movie — “The Shootist” — was released in 1976. He died of cancer in 1979. He was 72 years old.