Remembering John Wayne

American Artisans,Celebrities,People
August 25, 2011

The silver-screen icon known as ‘Duke’ was much more than a movie star to his youngest son

john-wayne-at-rodeojohn-wayne-holds-sonEthan Wayne with his famous father on the family's Arizona ranchjohn-wayne-ethan-snowJohn Wayne loved the water, says Ethan, who often accompanied his dad on outings.
Ethan Wayne with his famous father on the family's Arizona ranch
John Wayne loved the water, says Ethan, who often accompanied his dad on outings.

Like a lot of little boys, Ethan Wayne grew up idolizing his father. So did millions of other folks.

Ethan’s dad was John Wayne, one of the most famous movie idols in the history of Hollywood, an all-American icon who continues to cast a giant shadow across popular culture more than 30 years after his death.

“I don’t think he ever imagined he would be this popular,” says Ethan, 49, who today oversees the John Wayne estate as president of John Wayne Enterprises in Newport Beach, Calif.

John Wayne in Flying Tigers

John Wayne: The Image, The Man, The Movies

A conversation with film critic and movie historian Leonard Maltin

Although he portrayed a variety of roles, Wayne was best known for the macho soldiers and good-guy cowboys that he brought to vibrant life on screen in Stagecoach, Rio Bravo, Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Longest Day, The Sands of Iwo Jima and more than 160 other feature films between 1926 and his death in 1979 from stomach and lung cancer.

“To many people he represents the quintessential American,” says movie critic Leonard Maltin. “Strong, feisty, taking a stand and unwilling to back down from it.”

Wayne received his only Oscar for what would become his most indelible role, as cantankerous U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 movie True Grit.

Life outside Hollywood
Wayne’s youngest son, the middle and only male of the three children born to the star and his third wife, Pilar Palette, recalls a childhood dramatically distanced from the spotlight of the movie business.

“John Wayne, the movie star—that always seemed unusual to me,” says Ethan, who was 17 when his father died. “We didn’t live in Hollywood. We didn’t have a Hollywood upbringing. We lived in a little town, Newport Beach, about 60 miles south of Los Angeles.”

Ethan recalls many outings with his famous father on his beloved boat or at the beach. “He spent a lot of time in the water. He bodysurfed, swam and snorkeled. He didn’t water ski a lot, but we’ve got some great photos of him snow skiing.

“But I think he might have been the happiest on that boat. We went exploring. We went on deserted beaches. We’d treasure-hunt, hike to a waterfall and pick a bucket of berries and make pies for dinner, maybe catch a salmon and eat it.”

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