John Wayne’s Son Reflects on His Father’s Career

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John Wayne’s Son Reflects on His Father’s Career

By Movieguide® Staff

After 50 years in the entertainment industry, John Wayne cemented himself as an icon of early Hollywood westerns. 

In a recent interview, Wayne’s son Ethan revealed that his father gave selflessly despite his successful career.  

“He was very compassionate. He just gave, and gave, and gave, and gave, financially, emotionally, with his time,” Ethan told GuidePosts. “Yeah, he was a special guy.”

John Wayne played roles like lawmen, outlaws, soldiers, and historical figures and became an icon of masculinity for many. However, Wayne’s portrayals were always of tough men with a gentle heart. 

“Each film brought some adventure, brought some magnificent scenery, brought you a strong character, that was also fair. He was an aspirational character. I think there were a lot of qualities in the John Wayne characters that people liked. They wanted to be like him,” Ethan said. “I remember as a young boy…that he relished where his films had ended up and the way they delivered entertainment to the public.”

“With John Wayne, it goes beyond acting…He’s representing, on screen, people who built the country,” Ethan added.

Ethan, born when his father was 55, said he has a unique perspective on his father’s legacy. 

“You know he had setbacks. That never shut him down. He kept pivoting and moving forward,” Ethan said, adding: “I get to see my father when I didn’t know him, as a younger man.”

John Wayne died of cancer on June 11, 1979. 

Movieguide® previously reported:  

As a child, Wayne was raised Presbyterian but wasn’t vocal about his faith as he grew older.

During his lifetime, Wayne married three devout Catholic women. All of his children were raised in the Catholic faith.

One of his sons said he wasn’t religious, while another said he would hand-write letters to God.

Perhaps, the turning point came when, after overcoming lung cancer, the TRUE GRIT star came down with a respiratory illness in 1974. Four years later, doctors were able to diagnose what he was battling as stomach cancer.

Wayne watched his friend John Ford battle this same kind of cancer. Ford died in the hospital with priests by his side and a rosary in his hand. He remembered the comfort and courage his friend had due to his faith in those last moments. This impacted Wayne.

During his last days in the hospital, Wayne allowed his sons to call a priest. The priest baptized Wayne and administered his last rites. That very same night, Wayne fell into a coma and died shortly thereafter.