John Wayne Loved Playing Practical Jokes on Co-Stars and Family

by Matthew Wilson

John Wayne may have garnered a reputation as a stern and tough cowboy. But in real life, the Duke also had a great sense of humor as well. In fact, he loved practical jokes about as much as anyone. And he would play pranks on both the crew and his own family.

According to the John Wayne Official website, the Duke knew how to have fun in between takes on his movies. But sometimes, his fun came at others’ expense. For instance, stuntman Terry Leonard was once on the receiving end of one of Wayne’s pranks. The two had worked together on the film “The Train Robbers” in 1973.

Well, Leonard went to the bar one Saturday night and he had an altercation while out on the town. As a result, the stunt man injured his knee. But Leonard had to film an intense stunt the next day for the movie. And he suspected that Wayne was going to be mad. The next day, an assistant director stopped by Leonard’s trailer and told him, “Mr. Wayne needed to see me right away.”

“I’m thinking, I’m going to get fired,” Leonard recalled. “I was petrified because I didn’t know him that well yet and was supposed to be conducting myself in a dignified manner. So, I go to see him and he says, ‘I hear you had a little trouble Saturday night.’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I was trying to defend myself.’ He looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘Sounds to me like you are the real John Wayne.’”

John Wayne Played Pranks on His Family

Not even John Wayne’s family was safe from the Duke’s pranks. According to John Wayne’s youngest daughter Marisa, he once played a prank on another of his kids, Aissa, and her friends. During the filming of “Brannigan,” Wayne and his family rented an old house in London. Aissa believed the house was haunted, and Wayne decided to play with her fear.

“He put my sister and her friends on the top level,” Marissa recalled. “In the middle of the night, he would go up there and move stuff around and tilt paintings on the wall to make it look like there was a ghost doing all this. She came tearing down the stairs to [tell everyone], and he’d just roll his eyes, saying she was imagining things. Then, he’d give me a quick wink.”

Wayne enjoyed a laugh every now and then. Humor was always important to the actor.