Nothing scares John Wayne, not even lung surgery.
John Wayne spent decades chasing bad guys, roping, and living the wild west life. He even performed a lot of his own stunts. And he did it all with only one lung. Well, he did it with one lung starting in 1969. That year, Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. At the time, he was smoking five packs of cigarettes a day. Doctors ended up removing one of his lungs. Luckily, he beat the cancer and was back filming another movie just two months later. He was 57 years old.
A lot of people would find it difficult to makes jokes after a health scare like that. But not John Wayne. During an interview in 1976, Wayne talked about the one major difference he noticed after having a lung removed.
“Well, I don’t chase girls quite as fast,” said Wayne as the crowd roared with laughter.
John Wayne Filmed a Movie Two Months After Surgery
But then the Duke got more serious. He said that he was grateful for the film director he worked with shortly after his surgery. Wayne said that the director never let him feel sorry for himself.
“In other words, no, yea, it slows you down. But I was very lucky in that the first picture I did after the operation, which was two months after, I had a fella directing me who had had cancer and he knew better than to pamper me,” said Wayne. “So, in February, at 7,000 feet, in cold water he made me jump in the water. He made me do anything that they would have expected of me were I not in that condition. And I think it was best thing to ever happen to me. Because I never got that feeling of ‘Oh, just take it easy because you’ve had a lung out.’ As a matter of fact, I think they were tougher on me.”
Now that’s some true grit! During the interview, a concerned fan asked John Wayne if he still smoked. Wayne said that he quit smoking cigarettes after the operation. He admitted that he tried to take up smoking cigars. However, he learned that he actually developed an allergy to tobacco so he was off the product completely. He didn’t sound too pleased about it but he said that his family was happy that he quit entirely.