John Wayne’s Children Say the Duke Was ‘Self-Conscious’ About How His Story Ended

by Jennifer Shea
Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images

Western icon John Wayne’s children have a lot of love for their late father. But they say he was self-conscious about the way his later life unfolded.

Patrick Wayne is the Duke’s third child. He acted in a total of 11 movies with his dad. And Patrick recently appeared as a guest on “The John Wayne Gritcast,” a new podcast hosted by Ethan Wayne, alongside his sister Marisa Wayne.

During their nearly two-hour chat, the Waynes touched on the subject of their father’s unfinished biography, which was being written with his cooperation, but which tapered off because Wayne was uncomfortable with how his life was unfolding.

“The biography wasn’t finished because dad didn’t like where his life was at that point, and he didn’t want to end it there,” Ethan recalled.

John Wayne’s Kids Discuss His Insecurities

The writer of the biography actually lived with Wayne while he was trying to write the book. That was while Wayne was making “The Cowboys,” a 1972 Western about a rancher who has to hire greenhorns as ranch hands to get his herd to market.

“So he wanted to kind of get through [that period] a little bit,” Ethan explained.

“To a better place?” Patrick supplied.

“To a better place,” Ethan agreed. “To wrap up.”

“I didn’t think he was insecure [about that],” Patrick said.

“That was probably kind of a tough spot for him,” Ethan observed.

The biographer has since died – he passed away at a young age – but the Waynes have about 40 pages of the biography and believe there are more somewhere.

Wayne Knew He Wouldn’t Be Around to See Some of His Kids Grow Up

In the biography, John Wayne apparently talked about how young men “go away” when they’re 14 and don’t come back until they’re in their thirties.

“And that’s why he’d take me on location with him,” Ethan said. “Because he knew he wasn’t gonna be around when I finally came back.”

“Oh my God,” Patrick said.

“I guess he [the biographer] asked him, like, why do you keep the kid out of school,” Ethan added. “‘Why do you bring him [to the set]?’”

“That is such an amazing – that is so beautiful,” Patrick marveled.

Marisa noted that her son is almost 14. Do you feel that way about your own sons?, she asked.

“Maybe not physically, but they do go away,” Patrick said. “They go someplace, and just, like, ‘I don’t even know who this child is anymore.’ … And then they come back and you go like, ‘How’d you get so smart all of a sudden?’”

“I did that to J.W., too,” he added.

The biography clearly provided Wayne with a poignant and somewhat painful opportunity for self-reflection. And he apparently felt that some aspects of his life didn’t stack up to his expectations, a relatively common realization at that stage.

But it also yielded little treasures for his children, who can now sit around and reflect on their father’s perspective on life and fatherhood, as documented by what pages they saved of the work.