A Look Into The Work, Personal Life and Death of John Wayne

Many never realized it but the 6 feet 4 inches tall iconic American actor John Wayne raised a lot of eyebrows about the authenticity of his height. When he was a rookie in Hollywood and about to play the role of a cowboy, he was reportedly considered so short that he had to ride a small horse to help him look bigger. It was later claimed that the secret of his great height was discovered to be a 4-inch lift installed in his shoes.

Before his demise, the veteran entertainer appeared in over 75 movies which were predominantly war and western films. He portrayed characters typifying a heroic American and was able to attain the status of an icon in the American entertainment industry.

The eldest son of Mary and Clyde Morrison (pharmacist), John Wayne was born as Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa on the 26th of May 1907. He got his nickname Duke from a pet dog he had as a child, he loved his dog so much that people started referring to them as little Duke and big Duke. He even dubbed himself as Duke Morrison in one of his early movies.

John Wayne’s Fact Sheet

Details of John Wayne’s Career

John attended the University of Southern California in LA where he was very active in football. While he was a student at the university, he worked as a prop man at the Fox Film Corporation during summers and subsequently developed a lasting friendship with John Ford who was a movie director. Ford started giving him small roles in 1928 and his big break came in 1930 when he was cast as the lead character in The Big Trail. It was on the set of this film that his name was changed to John Wayne.ll

John starred in 60 more films in the next eight years but his place in the American entertainment industry was established with his role as the Ringo Kid in Stagecoach (1939). From there, he grew in leaps and bounds with each successive year. In 1941 he starred in his first-ever color film titled Shepherd of the Hills.

Wayne would tilt to radio in the coming years featuring different programs where he portrayed his own movie characters. One of his remarkable stints on the radio was featuring on Three Sheets to the Wind, his own adventure series. More roles from Ford’s movies as well as other notable producers continued to roll in for Wayne afterward.

Was John Wayne Married and Did He Have Children?

The question of whether the celebrated actor was gay has a simple answer – with 3 marriages to 3 women and 7 biological kids, there’s no reason to believe he was into men. Besides, he had several high-profile affairs both before and in between his marriages. Notably, all his affairs were confirmed to have happened with the opposite sex.

John left a record of 3 marriages during his lifetime, he married Josephine Alicia Saenz on the 24th of June 1933 and before their divorce which happened on the 25th of December 1945, they already had 4 kids – Patrick and Michael (sons); Melinda and Anthonia (daughters).

John Wayne
John Wayne and his Wife Pilar Wayne in 1956: image source

His next attempt at matrimony was with former Mexican actress Esperanza Baur, their nuptials took place on the 17th of January 1946 and ended in November 1954 without any children. His divorce from Esperanza was the most tumultuous, she was always jealous of John’s purported extramarital affairs and attempted to shoot him one night when he came home late.

John Wayne had 3 more children namely; Marisa, Ethan, and Aissa from his 3rd marriage which was to Pilar Wayne. The duo got married on the 1st of November 1954 and though they got separated in 1973, they remained married till his death on the 11th of June 1979.

How Did the Veteran Actor Die?

In his final movie, the iconic actor was cast in The Shootist (1976) as an aging gunfighter dying from the ravages of cancer. He portrayed the character of John Bernard Books who desired to spend his last days in tranquility but got involved in one last gunfight. Unfortunately, fiction became a reality in 1978 when the veteran actor was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

In a bid to fight the disease, John Wayne enrolled in a cancer vaccine study, but unfortunately, he died on the 11th of June 1979 in LA. The Hollywood giant was interred at the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach.

Many years later in 1985, John’s children came together to establish the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in honor of their father’s charitable contributions toward the fight against cancer. The organization’s aim is to offer the necessary aid to cancer-related programs and also to John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s Health Center.

In his honor, the US Congress gave a congressional gold medal to his family in 1980 and in the month of his passing, the government renamed the Orange County Airport after him. In 1990 and 2004, the movie icon was featured on a postage stamp. In 2007 he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

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Banks Onuoha
Banks Onuoha
Banks is a graduate of Mass communication, a meat junkie, movie geek, and perfectionist. The thrill of travelling the world through writing and editing from the comfort of her desk and PC is what keeps her going most of the time. After office hours, you might catch her still writing at home or running some culinary experiments.


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