John Wayne: The Duke’s Daughter Melinda Said He Was ‘Hugely Respectful’ to Her Mom Even After Divorce

by Matthew Wilson
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In his films, John Wayne almost always got the girl by the end. But in real life, Wayne had some trouble in the marriage department. While Wayne and his first wife Josephine Alicia Saenz weren’t destined for a happily-ever-after, they did remain cordial to each other.

According to Wayne’s daughter Melinda, Wayne always carried a deep respect for his first wife. And that respect often went both ways.

“My mother and father were very respectful to one another and never spoke against each other,” Melinda once said. “That is a great example of how two people can be parents even though they are not married. My mom never gave an interview or talked about him [after their divorce], and he was hugely respectful and appreciative of her.”

Melinda was the youngest of Wayne’s children with Saenz. He later had three more children with his third wife afterward. But while he may have been a Hollywood star, John Wayne didn’t bring any of that glamor home. He tried to raise Melinda with a humble upbringing. His daughter described him as “just a normal father.” Wayne had an interest in making sure she had good grades and didn’t hang with the wrong crowd.

“He was a man of honor,” she said. “I loved being my father’s daughter.”

John Wayne Was Married Three Times

John Wayne and Josephine Saenz seemed ill-fitted from the start. For one, they practiced different denominations. But as they say, opposites attract. And Wayne and Saenz were in love. The couple ended up courting for seven years before getting married. During that time, Wayne went from a college football player to a leading man in Hollywood.

The couple married on June 24, 1933, in an extravagant if intimate ceremony. But both Wayne and Saenz began experiencing difficulties soon after. For one, Hollywood put a lot of pressure on Wayne. As his career ballooned to even greater heights, he had to be on the road for extended periods of time. When he and his wife saw each other, they often argued at home.

Neither Wayne nor Saenz agreed on how they should raise their four children. Things eventually hit a boiling point in 1943. The couple separated for good and ended up divorcing just a year later. Both Wayne and Josephine would eventually remarry. Saenz married Cyril Nigg late in life before she passed away in 2003.

There wasn’t much respect in Wayne’s second marriage to Esperanza Baur in 1946. Wayne’s marriage to Esperanza ended up being more volatile than his first. For instance, she once tried to shoot Wayne in a heated argument. Baur believed that the Duke was being unfaithful to her. And given Wayne’s personal demons that may have been true.

The two divorced in 1954 and later that year Wayne married Pilar Pallete. She would become the mother of three of his children. And the two stayed married until Wayne’s eventual death in 1979.

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