Inside the Relationship Between John Wayne and His Youngest Son Ethan

Bettina Dizon
Jun 19, 2019
10:41 A.M.
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While John Wayne will always be remembered as an iconic western Hollywood star, his son, Ethan, will forever see him as the best father ever. 


Hollywood star John Wayne’s eldest son, Ethan Wayne, remembers his father for all the goodness he has done, prompting him to be president of John Wayne Enterprises and director of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

Despite having a movie icon for a father, Wayne remained to have a normal childhood in Newport Beach California, where they were among the families in the neighborhood surrounded by fruit farms. His father was an ordinary person to him, with no bodyguards and no securities.



John often woke up early to workout with his son and went through scripts before heading to a shoot. During days off, he would utilize his boat to admire the scenery or catch a fish which he would cook on the beach. He was a normal man who interacted with neighbors and locals.


Being a regular guy, he raised Wayne like any other child -- disciplined and doing chores around the house. Until this day, Wayne remembers his dad every time he gets hold of a broom.

“I can’t pick up a broom to this day without thinking about him coming out and saying, ‘That’s not how you sweep, this is how you sweep!” he shared. “And it was with this big push broom.”


Although John and his son were close, they weren’t much alike. John, unlike Wayne, was not mechanical. His fascination grew with guns, horses, and boats, “but if a car got a flat tire, he’d just leave it.” On the other hand, Wayne was fond of breaking then building things.


With their distant ages, John was 56 during Wayne’s birth; the western Hollywood icon knew his time with his son was only limited to his younger years; hence, he wanted to be a hands-on dad.

“He took with me on location,” Wayne shared. “I’d be home-schooled down on location in Mexico because he knew he wasn’t going to be around for me when I was older, and that he would probably lose me while I was young, teenage man.”



John, often referred to as “The Duke,” was a great actor with over 200 films in 50 years. According to the New York Times, 161 films of his grossed $350 million by the early ‘60s and had been paid over $666,000 for a movie by the time he died in 1979.


“He didn’t like the way he moved, so he talked to John Ford and met Wyatt Earp. He started taking pieces of these guys and putting them together into a character that became John Wayne,” shared Wayne.

When Wayne was 17, his father, 72, died from cancer. He recalled driving to UCLA Medical Center to admit John, who was not feeling well, but he never returned to their home alive. John is survived by seven children and over 15 grandchildren.



After his demise, stuntman Gary McLarty guided Wayne during his time of grief, taking him on motorcycle rides and races, and later hired him on the set of “The Blues Brothers.” He gives credit to McLarty for helping him direct his life. Wayne shared:

“When my father was involved in my life, I was good at school, and things went well. But afterward, I wasn’t very focused on school. [Gary] gave me a little direction that I didn’t have. I’m eternally grateful to him. It probably kept me from making some mistakes.”


In recent years, Wayne has been defending his late father from critics who perceived the actor as a homophobic and racist, due to comments he made during an interview before.

According to Wayne, John’s words were taken out of context, and his whole persona shouldn’t be based on one interview, but in how he lived his life.

John “didn’t care what race, gender, sexual orientation you were. He cared how well you did your job,” which spoke greatly about his beliefs.



Wayne, like his father, pursued a career in acting, having two films in 1981, “Longshot” and “Scream.” In the following years, he landed roles in “The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory,” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

He also appeared on the shows “Knight Rider” and Suddenly Susan.” In 2014, Wayne appeared on the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” to share about John Wayne’s memorabilia.