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John Wayne’s Wife Still Wore His Engagement Ring After He Left Her Nothing in His Will Yet Provided for His Ex

Busayo Ogunjimi
Mar 14, 2022
10:00 P.M.

John Wayne and his third wife Pilar Pallete had separated six years before his death, and even though he left her out of his will, Pallete continued wearing the ring the veteran actor bought her.


For all his talents and popularity, John Wayne had a tumultuous personal life. The talented actor drank and smoked for years, and despite being married thrice, he remained an unrepentant womanizer.

Even after his death, the veteran actor left a surprising will where he excluded his third wife, but despite his many faults, he remained a doting father to his kids.


John Wayne was quite a beloved figure on-screen, and he often showcased a demeanor of being very shy with his lovers while the camera was rolling, but behind it, the actor was known as a serial womanizer.

Apart from the excess amounts of alcohol he drank regularly, the actor would also smoke four to five packs of unfiltered Camels every day. With this recklessness, he went through three disastrous marriages.

Wayne was married for the first time in 1933 to Josephine Saenz, the daughter of a Panamanian consul, and the ceremony took place at the home of screen star Loretta Young.

A studio headshot portrait of John Wayne, circa 1955. | Source: Getty Images

A studio headshot portrait of John Wayne, circa 1955. | Source: Getty Images


The actor was regularly seen having fun with other women throughout their marriage while his wife was left at home. Wayne tried to adjust and be a better husband, but those efforts went through the window when he met the beautiful German actress and singer Marlene Dietrich.

The actress was coming off her blockbuster movie "Destry Rides Again" when she was cast alongside Wayne in the film "Seven Sinners" in 1940. She was instantly attracted to him and subsequently invited the actor into her dressing room.


They made no attempts to hide their affair, and each day Wayne arrived on the movie set, Dietrich would leap into his arms and wrap her legs around him.

During their three years of interaction, Wayne never really discussed their affair. Still, he did tell close friend Cecilia Presley that their most exciting sexual episode was on the staircase of The Excelsior Hotel in Rome.

His wife, Saenz, was appalled by his affairs, and she subsequently invited her priest to talk to Wayne about it. The actor promised he would change if Saenz stopped bringing up Dietrich's name, but she continued her rant as soon as the priest left.


Not long afterward, Wayne and Saenz called it quits on the marriage that had also resulted in four children between the two.

The actor would marry for the second time. This time to a Spanish woman named Esperanza Baur Diaz Ceballos, also known as "Chata," ignoring the warnings of his friends.

Chata's mother was a well-known prostitute in Mexico City, and her marriage to Wayne in 1964 was even boycotted by Director John Ford, who asked the actor why he would marry a woman like her.


The new bride drank as much as Wayne did and was reportedly good in bed. Still, their marriage quickly deteriorated when Chata's drinking became a problem, resulting in countless arguments between the pair.

In November 1954, a few hours after his marriage to Chata was annulled, Wayne tried marriage one more time when he hooked up with young actress Pilar Pallete, the child of a Peruvian senator.

At the ceremony, which was held at the former home of King Kamehameha III, Wayne disclosed that even though he had experienced a lot of wonderful things, being married to Pallete was the best.


Still, throughout his tumultuous marriage and other romantic relationships, Wayne had a long-standing affair with film star Maureen O’Hara.

They met in 1941 during a party at the home of director John Ford and, after that, started an affair. The pair would meet multiple times at a ranch he owned with a friend, and it went on for years before and during his marriage to Pallete.



On June 11, 1979, John Wayne, aged 72, died at U.C.L.A. Medical Center, as a result of complications from cancer. He had been admitted to the hospital to treat cancer of the lower abdomen since May 2, which was his second cancer operation of the year.

The first one came on January 10, when he entered the medical center for what was officially described as a routine gall bladder operation before a cancerous tumor was discovered. Two days later, his stomach was removed in the process.

His battle with cancer started far back in 1964 when a malignant tumor was removed from his chest and left lung. Before his death, Wayne's final public appearance came at the Academy Awards ceremony. He received an emotional standing ovation as he walked on stage to present the Oscar award for best picture.


The actor was survived by two of his ex-wives, Saenz and Pallete, the mothers of his seven children and more than 15 grandchildren.

Wayne was buried on an ocean-view hillside in Newport Beach, in a grave on a grassy slope next to a sturdy shade tree, which was left unmarked until 1998.

The actor left behind an estate worth $6.85 million, but surprisingly, none of it would be going to his third wife, Pallete. Even though she was not in the will, the mother of three was provided for in a separate agreement by the actor.


In contrast, Wayne stated in his will that his first wife Saenz should be given a monthly check of $3,000, and upon her death, those funds will then be divided by the four children they shared.

Surprisingly, he left $30,000 to Pat Stacy, his secretary, at his death. They were also rumored to have been in a relationship before his death.



Wayne left each of his seven children the sum of $5,000, which was to be multiplied by the difference between age 21 and the kid's age at the actor's death.

Under those terms, his eldest son, Michael, who was 44 years old at then, would receive $115,000. After his death, the actor's children lauded their father for his impact on them as children. His son Ethan declared he loved everything he did with the veteran actor as a child.


The son, who became the director of John Wayne Enterprises, which licenses products bearing John Wayne's name, segregated a portion of the profit from each product sale for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

His daughters Aissa, Melinda, and Marisa also lauded their father for his hard work and the lovely way he treated them as kids, making each of them feel like they were his favorite.



After Wayne's death, Pallete wrote a book titled “John Wayne: My Life With the Duke,” which stated details about their marriage's good times and the bad times.

Even though they never legally separated, she had moved out of their home in Newport Beach six years before John Wayne’s death.


In the book, she stated that they remained married until the actor died. She was still wearing the 15-carat diamond engagement ring Wayne gave her, even though she briefly remarried in 1984 to Municipal Judge Stephan Stewart.

Pallete disclosed that she wrote her book to protect her late husband's image and show their kids the real story of their marriage. The mother of three also declared that even though Wayne was not perfect, he was very much a family man.

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