John Wayne was more than John Wayne could even aspire to be. In real life, the actor had his faults and character defects that almost proved deadly. Wayne’s second wife Esperanza Baur almost killed him for infidelity.
Baur was a former Mexican actress and the second of Wayne’s three marriages. The couple had a high-profile divorce in 1954. But the actress almost took matters into her own hands before that. She accused Wayne of cheating on her with his “Angel and the Badman” co-star Gail Russell.
Both actors denied having an affair. But Wayne became known, especially once details came to light, for his allegedly womanizing ways and infidelities in his private life. Several of the actor’s biographies revealed a different side to Wayne, Duke Morrison underneath his public image. Wayne reportedly struggled to stay faithful.
After a wrap party for the film, Wayne arrived back at his estate late. But a very drunk and intoxicated Baur had waited to catch her husband. As Wayne walked through the door, Baur attempted to shoot Wayne. The couple remarkably stayed married for almost seven more years before they eventually divorced.
John Wayne Married Three Times
The same year that Wayne divorced Baur, he also married Pilar Pallete. The couple stayed married until the actor’s death from cancer in 1979. Wayne confessed to his struggles to live up to his squeaky clean public image.
“The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me. I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne. I know him well. I’m one of his closest students. I have to be. I made a living out of him,” Wayne said in the biography “John Wayne: The Life and Legend.” “I’ve found the character the average man wants himself, his brother, or his kid to be. It’s the same type of guy the average wife wants for her husband”
In some ways, the John Wayne people idolized never actually existed. Morrison struggled in his real life with his own demons and had views that sometimes were controversial. But he separated himself from his on-screen and public persona, which took on a life of his own. The legend of John Wayne out-grew the man that created him.