John Wayne entertained generations of viewers with his tough-guy bravado. The actor built a career playing some of the strongest cowboys in the West. As a result, the Duke left behind a body of work unmatched by his colleagues of the era.
But outside of cinema, John Wayne became a bit of a living legend. He was every bit as strong-willed as his on-screen characters. While Marion Morrison sometimes struggled to live up to his stage name, he embodied John Wayne in his best moments.
The Duke would have been 114 today. It would take multiple biographies to sum up his life. But to celebrate his birthday, Outsider is taking a look at a couple of his best moments.
John Wayne Punched Out Frank Sinatra’s Bodyguard
Don’t get between the Duke and a goodnight’s rest. Singer Frank Sinatra found that out the hard way. The music legend was throwing a party at a Las Vegas hotel. And all that noise was keeping up Wayne, who was also staying at the establishment.
Wayne went down to the party to ask Sinatra to knock it off and turn down the music. But one of Sinatra’s guards got on the Duke’s bad side and ended up getting a punch to the face as a result. Wayne got his goodnight sleep, and so did the guard, probably as well.
The Duke Surprised His Granddaughter
John Wayne was always a family man at heart. And he loved his children and eventually his grandchildren as well. So when his oldest granddaughter Anita had a school play, Wayne ditched work to make sure that she felt love and supported.
“Afterward, I received a bouquet of flowers and a telegram that read: ‘I want to sign you to a contract. —Lou Wasserman,’” Anita recalled. “Well of course I knew it was from him, and every night for the rest of the play’s run he sent me a telegram pretending to be somebody else. ‘You were terrific. Forget Lou Wasserman. I want you. —Louie V.,’ things like that. He was so cute that way.”
The Cowboy Stopped an Angry Driver With Single Word
John Wayne wasn’t afraid to use his fists when necessary. Just ask Frank Sinatra’s bodyguard. But often, words were the Duke’s deadliest weapons. In fact, he managed to squash an angry driver’s road rage by uttering a single word. Wayne had visited his friend Maureen O’Hara in the Virgin Islands when they encountered the driver on the roadway.
“Suddenly there’s a big truck behind him and they blow the horn ‘beep, beep, beep, beep,’ and [tell] him, ‘get out of the way,’” O’Hara recounted. “And they pull up beside him and say, ‘Hey,’ and he says, ‘Yah,’ and that was the end of it. They didn’t challenge Duke anymore!”
John Wayne Loved Outdoors and Nature
Do a thousand tiny moments add up to one big one? John Wayne loved living, and he tried to live as big as he could. The Duke loved the great outdoors and being in nature. For instance, he would go hunting and fishing in between takes on his films.
“As he became more well known, the boat was really a place where he could get away. He loved being on the water,” Ethan Wayne told USA TODAY. “He loved to fish and hike and snorkel and go abalone diving. It’s what he did for recreation. He wasn’t a cowboy; we lived at the beach. He was an actor. He could just represent that archetype very well.”
Often, especially later in life, he would live on his yacht Wild Goose during his downtime. He and his family would sail the open waters, going down to Mexico for extended vacations. He loved the salt in his hair and leaving land behind. At heart, the Duke was an adventurer. And sometimes, that’s all we can try to be.