John Wayne Estate Drops Interesting Facts About the Duke’s Personality On and Off the Screen

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Gene Lester/Getty Images)

John Wayne played hundreds of characters in film and television, but he never let the success go to his head. He cared more about making his fans happy than maintaining his fame.

Other actors noticed this as well. His estate posted a quote to Instagram from one of Wayne’s celebrity friends. The actor discussed how Wayne would always make time for his young fans, no matter what.

‘John Wayne was as big, friendly, as open as he was on the screen; terrific with fans. He’d be riding all day and acting, come back mud-caked, and he’d stand and talk to young people.’ — Constance Towers on working with John Wayne on The Horse Soldiers,” the caption reads.

That tracks with what his family members remember most about him. His son Ethan Wayne said his dad enjoyed talking with fans and learning new perspectives from them. Even if he didn’t agree, he’d still allow them time to speak their mind.

“He was a great listener. He had very strong opinions, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to hear yours if you had a different opinion,” he said.

John Wayne’s granddaughter Anita La Cava Swift told American Cowboy in 2014 that Wayne knew the importance of being kind to his fans.

“One thing I never understood is why stars are horrible to their fans — why they don’t take time to give an autograph or say hello. My grandfather always knew that his fans were responsible for him being where he was, and he appreciated them tremendously. He was always polite — there’s no reason not to be.”

It’s that authenticity and care that’s helped him remain a cultural icon more than 40 years after his death.

John Wayne Coined A Euphamism For Cancer

John Wayne died of stomach cancer in 1979. But before it killed him, he beat cancer earlier in his life. It cost him a rib and half a lung, but it didn’t slow him down that much. He continued acting for more than a decade after that.

But it was during that first fight when he coined the term “The Big C,” according to Wayne knows how to construct a bad guy, and being able to say you beat that which should not be named sounds pretty intimidating.

“They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” the Duke said during the 1964 press conference. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”