John Wayne may have played tough cowboys and soldiers on-screen. But in real life, Wayne was a bit of a family man. He was also a doting grandfather as well.
On Instagram, the John Wayne Estate recently shared a vintage photo of the Duke and his granddaughter Anita Swift. Depending on who you ask, the Duke had anywhere between 15 to 20 grandchildren. Anita was the oldest of Wayne’s grandchildren. Anita’s mother was Toni Wayne, who was Wayne’s daughter from his first marriage to Josephine Alicia Saenz.
“I was the oldest grandchild—just a year younger than [John Wayne’s daughter] Aissa—so I spent a lot of time with him,” Anita Swift told American Cowboy in 2014. “Actually, I lived with him the first year of my life while my parents built their house just a half-mile away in Encino. He loved being with his family. He loved to take us out on the boat or to the beach. We got to visit him on movie sets, and he often showed movies in his living room. I was 22 when he died, so I was fortunate to get to know him as a child, as well as an adult.
Anita Swift Described Her Relationship with John Wayne
Given that she was the oldest of the grandchildren, Anita Swift had the opportunity to spend more time with John Wayne than some of his other grandchildren. She remembered the Duke as being loving and also incredibly funny as well.
“If he wasn’t working, he was with his family,” she said. “He always made sure that every kid got their birthday present and their Christmas present—he loved Christmas—and that everybody came and visited.”
Swift remembered a time when her grandfather came to watch her school play from doing a movie. He ended up buying her a bouquet of flowers as well.
“When I played Fagin in my eighth-grade production of Oliver Twist, he was doing a movie with Warner Bros. at the time and I never thought that he would be able to come see me in the play,” Swift remembered. “But one night somebody said ‘John Wayne is here!’ Afterward, I received a bouquet of flowers and a telegram that read: ‘I want to sign you to a contract. —Lou Wasserman.’ Well of course I knew it was from him, and every night for the rest of the play’s run he sent me a telegram pretending to be somebody else. ‘You were terrific. Forget Lou Wasserman. I want you. —Louie V.,’ things like that. He was so cute that way.”