John Wayne was one of the biggest names in Hollywood during the 1950’s and ‘60s. The legendary Western actor in 179 productions over the course of his career, and chosen as one of the “greatest male stars” by the American Film Institute in 1999. And yet despite his massive success in both the acting world and in American culture, Wayne wasn’t a man without regrets.
Did you know that Wayne married three times in total? With each successive marriage, Wayne went through tumultuous times. And at the same time, Wayne thought of family as being one of the most important things in his life. But despite his love of family, there’s one marriage he regretted the most. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at “the stupidest thing John Wayne ever did in his life.”
John Wayne was born as Marion Robert Morrison on May 26th, 1907. While he was born in Iowa, his family soon moved to Palmdale, CA, and then to Glendale, in the LA area. At Glendale Union High School, Wayne was a star student athlete. He shined on the football field and in the classroom as well.
When Wayne would walk around his neighborhood, he would always have his large dog, “Duke” with him. A local fireman would see Wayne daily as he and his dog walked by the station. So the fireman began calling him “Little Duke” since the dog was larger than the boy was. Wayne liked the name Duke much more than Marion, so he adopted the nickname.
After rejected by the Naval Academy, he went to USC, where he’s a pre-law major and a player on the Trojan football team. However, he broke his collarbone in a body surfing accident. Sadly, his injury meant that the school stopped his scholarship. So Wayne forced to drop out. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at “the stupidest thing John Wayne ever did in his life.”
John’s First Wife
When John was 19, he went on a date with a girl named Carmen Saenz. While the date reportedly went fine, it had a very surprising twist ending. Wayne met Carmen’s sister Josephine at some point in the evening, and realized he was more interested in her than Carmen. So he began dating Josephine instead. They considered an odd match at the time, because he’s 19 and from a family with not a lot of money. Whereas she was only 16, and came from family money.
But they didn’t let that stop them, and they married on June 24th, 1933. The marriage lasted around 7 years without too many issues, but in 1940 things changed. Josephine discovered that John was having an affair with actress Marlene Dietrich. He was filming a movie with Dietrich at the time, and the two had begun a relationship while on set.
Josephine was heartbroken, yet wanted to give the marriage a second chance. She sought out counseling from a priest she knew, and he was able to provide some help. Yet this turned out to not be enough, as the couple eventually separated and got a divorce. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at “the stupidest thing John Wayne ever did in his life.”
John’s Second Wife
John and Josephine’s divorce finalized on Dec 26, 1945. And if John upset about their divorce, he certainly had a hard time showing it. Because he married another woman in less than a month! After meeting and falling for a woman named Esperanza Baur, John married her three weeks after this divorce finalized. Esperanza went by the nickname Chata, and Wayne and Chata married at the Unity Presbyterian Church of Long Beach. This notable in particular because it’s the same church where Wayne’ mother remarried. Ward Bond, a fellow actor, served as John’s best man at the ceremony.
Despite the fact that it was a quick turnaround from his divorce to his second marriage, Wayne was excited to have fallen in love again. At least, at first.
Things Get Worse
Things between John and Chata went sour pretty steadily. After going on a honeymoon, the pair returned to LA and bought a house in Van Nuys. On Chata’s insistence, they set up an extra bedroom for her mother to live in. This immediately caused a rift in John and Chata’s relationship. As one can imagine, it was likely difficult to build a brand new marriage with someone else living in the same household.
Chata shared with John that she had an interest in joining him in the acting business. She wanted to start auditioning for movies, and hoped that John would help her with her career in Hollywood. But John had other ideas. He preferred that she not have a career at all, and instead stay at home and be a homemaker. In this era, women didn’t have many options for career paths, so Chata was forced to stay at home, per John’s wishes. As such, she grew resentful and quickly developed a drinking problem.
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The Stupidest Damn Thing
Reportedly, Wayne grew more and more frustrated with the situation and confided to Ward Bond that he was sick of Chata’s mother not only living with them, but constantly speaking only Spanish with Chata. He said that not only that, but Chata and her mom would commonly take up their marital bed, forcing John to sleep on a living room couch.
Wayne also didn’t like the way Chata refused to keep up her physical appearance once they got married. He was someone who made sure to look his best, whether or not he was on set, at home, or out in public. Chata did not share this attribute. Instead, she often didn’t bathe, and refused to shave her leg hair. She also wouldn’t take steps to remove her facial hair, giving her the look of a bit of a mustache. These types of hygiene and grooming choices enraged Wayne. The two began arguing more and more.
For her part, Chata was concerned that Wayne was exhibiting his behavior from his first marriage, and cheating on her with one of his costars while on set. In fact, she became so convinced this was the case, that one night when John arrived home late, and had clearly been drinking, Chata greeted him at the door with a gun to the face and almost took a shot. As their marriage grew apart, John sank deeper into his work, so as to avoid contact with his wife.
At one point, Wayne likened their marriage to a science experiment gone wrong. He likened them to volatile chemicals being combined in a jar. And later on, Wayne commented that marrying Chara was “the stupidest damn thing” he had ever done in his live. The two finally got divorced in 1954. Chata told her side of the story to the media after the divorce, referring to Wayne in the media as abusive and addicted to alcohol. Wayne denied these accusations. Sadly, Chata didn’t live too much longer after they divorced, passing away in 1961 from a heart attack.
John’s Third Wife
The trials and tribulations of his marriages to both Josephine and Chata were not enough to discourage John from the institution itself. In fact, just as he had done before, Wayne wasted no time after his second divorce before falling in love with and marrying yet another woman. John met Pilar Pallete and married her in late 1954, while the ink on his divorce from Chata was still drying. But reportedly, their marriage was a happy one to begin with, and didn’t suffer from the relatively immediate tumult that his first two marriages had. John was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer in 1964. Sadly, he had to have his left lung removed, as well as four of his ribs. This illness no doubt put a strain on their marriage, though they managed to stick it out through John’s illness and subsequent recovery. However, by the time the 1970’s rolled around, the two were having issues. As he’d done with Chata, John reacted by devoting more and more time to his work, and being on set rather than by being home with his family. By 1973, the pair were official separated.
As we’ve already noted, John was far from a faithful husband. He had a tendency to hook up with costars on his films. He even reportedly had a long-standing relationship with his own secretary, Pat Stacy.
In a book from 2014 called “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” it was alleged that he had perhaps his longest affair with legendary actress Maureen O’Hara. The two were known to at least be good friends for a number of decades. They starred together in “The Quiet Man” as well as two other films. And while O’Hara always denied that the two were ever more than friends, it’s alleged this isn’t true. Reportedly they had a long-standing romance that was somewhat casual. But in the book, author Scott Eyman wrote that according to one of John Wayne’s close friends, Wayne would consistently cheat on Pilar with O’Hara, even meeting up consistently at a ranch Wayne owned in Arizona.
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