“When my father was in the hospital and dying of cancer, he exchanged some letters with Kirk Douglas,” the Duke’s son, Ethan Wayne, reveals for the first time. “As a joke, he wrote that he had an extra operation to add a cleft to his chin so he could be like Kirk.”
Ethan’s revelation comes as part of ET’s special look at HDNET MOVIES’ special, ‘Western Icons,’ the network reveals Friday. Held in honor of John Wayne, the tribute will air starting May 18. ‘Icons’ will continue throughout the entire week in celebration of what would’ve been the Duke’s 11th birthday. Within, never before seen secrets from Wayne’s biggest films will hit fans for the first time.
Among Ethan’s treasure trove of reveals are these priceless telegrams, which hold the friendship of late legends John Wayne and Kirk Douglas on full display – right as the Duke drew his last breaths:
Thanks for the telegrams. Oh, by the way, while I was here, I had a little sort of dimple put in my chin. I knew you wouldn’t mind
— Duke.John Wayne to Kirk Douglas. April 1978
As the Duke fought his last against cancer in the hospital, Douglas was quick to respond to his close friend and co-star of many decades. His response reveals how highly Douglas regarded his companion, right up to his last throws:
Dear John, Have you ever noticed that I never call you ‘Duke?’ If I were to use a title, it would be no less than King. Please get your a** back here soon.
Love, Kirk.Kirk Douglas to John Wayne, April 1978
The Duke would pass after a decade-long battle with stomach cancer on June 11, 1979. This would come after fighting off lung cancer in 1964. Ethan’s suggestion of his father writing from his “death bed” and “dying of cancer” puts into perspective how long and hard the Duke fought the disease in his last years – all the way through 1978 and into 1979.
HDNET MOVIES’ “Western Icons” event runs Friday, May 18, through Monday, May 28, ET reports. With the program promising these telegrams to be only the tip of the iceberg, it’s surely an event for the ages. And one fans of the legendary John Wayne won’t want to miss.