“In Wayne’s own mind, he was Duke Morrison,” Eyman wrote in the autobiography. “John Wayne was to him what the Tramp was to Charlie Chaplin — a character that overlapped his own personality, but not to the point of subsuming it.”
“I’ve always been Duke, or Marion, or John Wayne,” the actor said in 1975. “It’s a name that goes well together, and it’s like one word: JohnWayne.”
Besides his successful film career, John became a husband and father. However, his personal life off-set was one of many twists and turns.
He married his first wife, Josephine Wayne, in 1933, with whom he had four children, Patrick, Mary, Michael, and Melinda. The couple split 12 years later, and just one year after that, Wayne married second-wife Esperanza Baur. Their marriage lasted for eight years.
In 1954, Wayne tied the knot for the third time. He and Peruvian actress Pilar Pallet married and had three children: Aissa, Ethan, and Marisa. They stayed married until his passing.
Of course, growing up with a father who was a major Hollywood star must have been a rather unique experience for his children. Wayne, however, never thought of himself as better than anyone else.
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During a 2017 interview with Jeremy Roberts, Patrick, one of his youngest children, offered an insight into what his father was like.
John Wayne – cancer and last film
“My dad was one of these people whose presence was show-stopping. He could walk into a room and everything would come to a standstill. By the same token, in five minutes he could just charm you into being totally relaxed and comfortable. Being charming and easygoing came naturally to him;” he said.
For Patrick, it wasn’t a big deal to his friends that his father was the one and only John Wayne.
“They knew who I was and who my dad was. My dad, in a sense, was also growing and becoming and more important,” he recalled. “More and more well known. It was happening to all of us in my close circle of friends.”
Sadly, while John Wayne was arguably at the peak of his film career, doctors gave him some terrible news.
In 1964, Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had his left lung and four ribs removed, and it seemed for a time as though there was a chance of recovery.
This also, of course, affected John’s family life.
”I’d be homeschooled down on location in Mexico because he knew he wasn’t going to be around for me when I was older, and that he would probably lose me while I was young, teenage man,” John’s son, Ethan, said.
However, the movie star didn’t stop smoking and chewing tobacco, which certainly couldn’t have helped.
John Wayne – cause of death
In 1976, John Wayne appeared in The Shootist. It was ultimately his last film, and the actor’s health hit a rapid downward spiral in the years after its release. His daughter, Aissa, revealed that she could barely watch it.
Wayne had died several times in previous movies. For Aissa, though, The Shootist was different.
“In this film, he was dying of cancer, and that was extremely unnerving,” Aissa wrote in the book John Wayne: My Father.
“If not quite a family curse, for us the spectre of cancer had never entirely faded. By the time of The Shootist, the disease had killed my Uncle Bob, and I’d lived ever since with the fear that cancer would come again for my dad. Though his cancer would not be diagnosed for two more years, when he made The Shootist I think my father had similar apprehensions.”
By 1978, John Wayne’s voice was failing him and he wasn’t able to work. He tried to hide it the best he could, but his cancer had come back. On June 11, 1979, John Wayne died, aged 79. According to History.com, his official cause of death was stomach cancer.
When the cancer was discovered, doctors concluded that the actor was too weak to begin chemotherapy and experimental treatment.
John Wayne passed away at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. He was surrounded by family and – according to Outsider – spent his last days in and out of consciousness before passing away.
Though John Wayne is often seen as a big, bad Western figure, and a paragon of masculinity, he also had a sweet side.
His daughter, Aissa, was in his bed when Wayne passed away. When she held his father’s hand and asked him if he knew who she was, he responded with some beautiful last words.
“Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you,” Aissa recalled her father saying.
Wayne was buried at the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery at Newport Beach, California. It’s located on a beautiful ocean-view hillside, though the exact spot was a secret for decades.
According to a LA Times piece, for years his grave’s location remained a mystery. Guards locked fans out of his funeral service, and his farewell ceremony remained a private affair. His grave was left unmarked for two decades.
John Wayne will never be forgotten. Which one of his films is your favorite?
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