Thanks to his successful career, John Wayne rose to become one of the most famous movie stars in history. The “True Grit” actor started off in a completely different field of employment before becoming the biggest cinematic star of his generation.
John Wayne was not only a well-known movie star but also a renowned family man.
He had seven kids from three different marriages. It turns out that John Wayne was one of the outliers, as several actors’ children may remember not having their mother or father around when they were young.
Several of his children have made public comments about him since his terrible death, exposing the truth for everyone to read. Here is everything you need to know about the illustrious John Wayne, including his untimely death.
Actually, John Wayne was not born John Wayne. The well-known performer was really born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa. His first “name change” happened when he was a small child, all because of the Airedale [Terrier] dog named Duke that his parents, Clyde and Mary, owned.
“Winfield Sheehan, who ran Fox Studios, was a big fan of ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne, the Revolutionary War general — that’s where the ‘Wayne’ came from, and ‘John’ just sort of came up in conversations because it seemed to fit with ‘Wayne’: ‘John Wayne.’ It had a nice symmetry to it.”
From that point, Marion – also referred to by his family as Duke – became known as John Wayne. It also marked the start of what would be one of the most legendary careers in all of film history.
What followed for Wayne was a bunch of classic movies. First, he starred in the 1939 classic Stagecoach, following it up with several more hits in the 1950s such as The Quiet Man, Rio Bravo, and later on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In 1969, he appeared in True Grit.
Yet despite John Wayne quickly becoming the talk of the town, John himself didn’t see himself as a big star. Instead, he always felt that “Duke Morrison” and “John Wayne” were two completely different people – two entities living in one body.
“The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” Wayne said in 1957.
“I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne. I know him well. I’m one of his closest students. I have to be. I make a living out of him.”
Many actors nowadays prepare for roles by literally trying to become the character they will play. A large part of portraying another person is centered around authenticity, and any good actor will want to know their character inside and out.
For John Wayne, this was only partially the method. According to Eyman, he insisted that people always referred to him by his childhood nickname, Duke.
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 specter 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. 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 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.
In Newport Beach, California’s Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery, Wayne was laid to rest. Though the precise location was kept a secret for many years, it is situated on a hillside with a stunning ocean view.
His grave’s location was unknown for many years, according to an article in the LA Times. Fans couldn’t attend his burial because of security measures, so his final farewell remained a private event. His burial went 20 years without a marker.