John Wayne: The Duke’s Wig Actually Fell Off Mid-Scene in Several of His Major Films

by Madison Miller
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For part of his life, John Wayne sported a very realistic wig during his appearance in Hollywood films.

He started balding in the 1940s, which was only the very start of his career. Some of his most iconic films like “True Grit,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” and “The Alamo” would all come in the 1960s.

In order to try to conceal his receding hairline, John Wayne would either wear a hairpiece or a cowboy hat. However, some of his films can be pretty high-action. This means that cowboy hats or loose hairpieces are bound to fall off and be forgotten in the heat of the moment.

Fans of The Duke only saw his real hairline in one movie later in his career, “The Wings of An Eagle.” Here he plays Frank Wead (or Spig Wead), a naval aviation pioneer and screenwriter. He started wearing wigs when “Wake of the Red Witch” from 1948 was being filmed and onward.

John Wayne Hairpiece Falls Off

But, if you were looking close enough, you may have caught an accidental glimpse in a few of his other films.

According to Classic Country Music, his hairpiece came flying off in fight scenes during “The Fighting Kentuckian,” “North to Alaska,” and “The Quiet Man.”

You can see in the clip from the 1960 film “North to Alaska” that a quick punch from his co-star Ernie Kovacs led to both lines of defense on his head going flying. His hairpiece as well as his hat come off at the same time.

It reappears in the next cut. These mistakes were either ignored or not noticed prior to releasing the films.

John Wayne had been used to wearing something over his head to cover his hairline for decades. He wasn’t shy about it either. He openly would admit he had a hairpiece on. In several public appearances and videos, you can see John Wayne without the hairpiece. A notable example is when he attended his friend, Gary Cooper’s, funeral.

According to The Vintage News, a reporter once asked him about his “phony” hair in films. To which Wayne replied smugly, “It’s not phony. It’s real hair. Of course it’s not mine, but it’s real.”

He made his best effort to cover up his natural hair. However, he never tried to cover up the fact that he did so.

John Wayne Wig Auction

As it turns out, fans of John Wayne and his countless films were eager to get ahold of one of his wigs.

According to an article from BBC in 2010, a wig that was worn by Wayne was up for about $1,400.

This is the wig the Western star donned in his very popular 1967 film, “El Dorado.” The toupee features a light brown color as well as small specks of grey here and there. Apparently, the wig came from a family member of a make-up artist that worked on the set.

The wig is a distinctive part of John Wayne’s overall rugged and tough look.

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