John Wayne had been married three times, but considered two of them to be unsuccessful. He was the father of seven children, whom he raised in a multi-million dollar mansion. Sadly, his third wife left him before cancer took his life. Despite this, he remained a devoted father, and his children remember him as such.
John Wayne, originally named Marion Robert Morrison, attempted to pursue farming before entering the entertainment industry. Upon moving to California, he adopted the nickname “Duke,” which he shared with his dog. Together, they were referred to as “Big Duke” and “Little Duke.”
Under a football scholarship, he attended the University of Southern California for his studies. Regrettably, his scholarship was terminated after two years following an injury. Consequently, Wayne shifted his focus to the film industry and began working as an extra, featuring in movies like “Brown of Harvard” and “Drop Kick.”
With each subsequent role, Wayne encountered directors John Ford and Raoul Walsh, the latter of whom helped the actor adopt his stage name. Despite being a mediocre actor in B movies, which were often westerns, Wayne persevered. Finally, in 1939, he secured a pivotal role in the western film “Stagecoach,” directed by Ford, which became his big break.
Afterward, Wayne rose to fame as one of the most prominent actors of his era, known for his memorable performances in films such as “The Alamo” and “True Grit.” Additionally, he acted in several other notable movies, including “Seven Sinners,” “Pittsburgh,” “The Spoilers,” “Red River,” “The Long Voyage Home,” and “Fort Apache.”
In 1949, Wayne’s exceptional portrayal in “Sands of Iwo Jima” received critical acclaim and garnered him a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. Almost 20 years later, he secured his first Academy Award win for his portrayal in “True Grit.”
Wayne’s involvement in the film industry extended beyond acting, as he worked as a director and producer. He made his directorial debut with the film “The Alamo,” and produced his first movie, “Angel and Badman.” In 1968, he directed, starred in, and produced the movie “The Green Berets.”
From two out of his three marriages, John Wayne was a father to seven children.
Apart from his successful career in film and television, John Wayne also left behind a lasting legacy through his seven children. Wayne tied the knot with Josephine Saenz, the daughter of a Panamanian businessman, in 1933, and the marriage lasted until 1945. Saenz grew up in a devout Catholic family and received her education in a convent-run institution.
During their marriage, Wayne and Saenz welcomed four children into the world: Patrick, Michael, Antonia, and Melinda. Of the four children, two sons went on to pursue careers in the entertainment industry. Michael entered the field of producing, while Patrick became an actor.
At the time, Wayne was already making a name for himself in Hollywood and frequently co-starred alongside Marlene Dietrich. Despite being married, he engaged in a romantic relationship with the actress, and there were rumors of him having other affairs, such as with Latina actress Esperanza “Chata” Baur.
John Wayne and Esperanza “Chata” Baur met in August 1941 and quickly developed a romantic relationship. Wayne’s friends were surprised by his departure from his typical type, given that Baur was the daughter of a brothel keeper, a heavier drinker than him, and did not have fair skin.
John Wayne’s relationship with Marlene Dietrich was widely known, and they often displayed affection towards each other while on set. Initially, Wayne’s wife, Josephine Saenz, was patient about the affair, but eventually, she could no longer tolerate her husband’s involvement with other women. She sought guidance from a priest to help steer Wayne towards the right path, but unfortunately, it didn’t have any impact.
John Wayne and Josephine Saenz’s marriage ended shortly after. He later married Esperanza “Chata” Baur, but their relationship was rocky right from the start. They had a language barrier, and Baur had a notorious temper.
In May 1952, John Wayne decided it was time to end his marriage with Esperanza “Chata” Baur. He then married his third wife, Pilar Palette, with whom he had three children: Aissa, Ethan, and Marisa Wayne. Among his children, only Ethan pursued a career in show business as an actor.
Regrettably, John Wayne’s marriage to Pilar Palette was also riddled with issues. Palette struggled to adapt to life in Hollywood, having grown up with a different culture in Peru. She eventually became dependent on sleeping pills. After almost two decades of marriage, the couple decided to separate.
Despite his infidelities in his marriages, Wayne was a devoted provider and father to his children. He made an effort to be the best dad he could be and created enduring memories with them.
John Wayne brought up his kids in a lavish mansion in California.
Throughout their upbringing, John Wayne’s children lived in a luxurious 4,500 square-foot mansion located in the Big Canyon Golf Course in Newport Beach, California. The property offered a spectacular view of the golf course and featured various facilities, such as a gym and a library. The house had a total of three bedrooms and four bathrooms.
John Wayne’s study in his Newport Beach mansion was the largest room in the house, featuring a fireplace, a small gun collection, and Western American and American Indian artwork. It also had bits and pieces of his career and kachina dolls he collected.
Wayne aimed to make himself feel at home in hotel rooms by incorporating elements of his own house. He once stated:
“You often have to stay for a couple of months in some horrible motel room. Well, I like to put a few familiar things on the wall. I try to dress the place up a little, [making] it seem more like home.”
Wayne’s children cherish their memories of growing up in their family home and spending time with their father. According to Ethan Wayne, his dad was a warm and loving person at home, in contrast to the tough characters he played in movies.
“I’d run, and I’d jump, and he’d pick me up and twirl me around,” Ethan recalled. “A big bear hug. He’d always give you a big hug or a kiss on the head. Tell you he loved you.”
Ethan Wayne described his father, John Wayne, as a different person when he was on set, often meaner. Despite this, John was a great father who would take Ethan out of school to travel and spend time with him. John’s reasoning was that he wanted to love his son as much as possible since he knew he wouldn’t be around when Ethan was in his 30s. John was 56 when Ethan was born. “He was a great dad,” Ethan said.
Patrick fondly recalled his father as a person who possessed immense “grit and courage” until the very end of his life. Despite facing hardships, John Wayne stood tall and steadfast, always ready to help others in their time of need.
Marisa had a memorable encounter with Wayne at the age of nine when she accidentally struck her father with a golf club while attempting to play the game, resulting in Wayne promptly calling for an ambulance.
Thankfully, Marisa’s accidental swing with the golf club hit Wayne near his eye rather than his temple, which could have been fatal. Wayne did not express anger towards his daughter but instead jokingly commented, “Well, you’re the only one who had the nerve to do this to me.”
Although Marisa was often referred to as her father’s Princess, she gained the nickname Nine Iron after the incident. “We each felt like we were his favorite,” she said.
Despite battling cancer, John Wayne attempted to be a good father to his children even after his wife left him.
As he got older, John Wayne’s health declined and he was diagnosed with lung cancer in the 1960s. Despite having a lung and some ribs removed, he defeated the disease in 1964 and went on to star in successful films like “El Dorado” with Robert Mitchum and “True Grit.” In the early 1970s, his third wife left him, though she claimed they were married until his death.
According to Palette, John Wayne was a man of great humor, strength, generosity, and kindness whom people loved for his intellect and personality.
John Wayne’s final film, “The Shootist,” saw him play a character named John Bernard Books, who was a victim of cancer and desired a peaceful death. However, before his passing, Books was caught up in a final shootout. Strikingly, it took two years before Wayne was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1978.
“He was in constant pain, and he was very uncomfortable,” Wayne’s son, Patrick, said of his last weeks. “He would often reach out to others in the UCLA Medical Center and try to console them.”
John Wayne passed away on June 11, 1979, at the age of 72 in Los Angeles, California due to the aggressive disease. In addition to his successful career as an actor, Wayne was awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, which were accepted by his family in 1980.
Following his death, John Wayne received several posthumous tributes, such as the renaming of Orange County Airport in his honor, as well as being featured on postage stamps in 1990 and 2004. He was also inducted into the California Fall of Fame.
Before his passing, Wayne left a lasting legacy by requesting his family and friends to help doctors in their fight against cancer. In response, the John Wayne Cancer Foundation was established in 1985 to support cancer research and related initiatives.
Years after his death, John Wayne’s California mansion was sold for $3.95 million in 2013. While the property will always be associated with Wayne’s ownership, it no longer retains the same interior and atmosphere that the actor desired. The house had undergone multiple renovations by its previous owners.