Patrick Wayne unmasks extraordinary dad’s vulnerability in exclusive birthday tribute

Jeremy Roberts
33 min readMay 26, 2017
Actor Patrick Wayne grants his most comprehensive digital interview to date marking the 110th birthday of his late father, iconic cowboy hero John Wayne. Here the Duke cuts a dashing profile as Matt Masters, owner of a combination circus / Wild West show traveling throughout the capitals of Europe and molded after real life colorful cowboy Buffalo Bill Cody. “Circus World,” a barely remembered, bloated drama unveiled on June 25, 1964, was directed by Henry Hathaway of later “True Grit” blockbuster status. Wayne had a persistent, nagging cough during filming that eventually manifested itself as lung cancer. Note his stylized signature on the publicity still. Image Credit: AF Archive / Alamy

Born on May 26, 1907, smack dab in middle America — the rural central Iowa community of Winterset — Oscar-winning True Grit actor John Wayne embodied the quintessential everyman during his record 25-year streak ensconced in Quigley’s Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll.

Patrick Wayne, the Duke’s third of seven progeny, was lured by Hollywood’s bright lights to emulate his hero father’s formidable footsteps, starting with his blink and you’ll miss it bit part in the elder Wayne’s 1950 archetypal cavalry flick Rio Grande. Patrick received no screen billing but pocketed ten dollars as a belated recompense. Over the ensuing 47 years, the charming, likable personality tallied 74 films and television guest spots.

Among his siblings, Patrick’s acting aspirations no doubt engendered a tinge of envy as he got to spend invaluable time on faraway locales alongside his towering 6-foot-4, 240-pound father shooting 10 movies plus three TV productions. “I was quite often alone with my dad,” admits Patrick. “I didn’t have to share him or compete with my brothers and sisters for his attention.”

Developing a résumé as a busy character actor in the ’50s and ’60s but never quite stumbling upon the right part that would launch him into the stratosphere, Patrick did come close after screen testing and being cast as the titular role in 1978’s blockbuster Superman. His dad’s precipitous health forced Patrick to drop out, paving the way for Christopher Reeve to subsequently become a household name. An Eye for an Eye, Big Jake, Disney’s The Bears and I, The People That Time Forgot, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and Rustler’s Rhapsody represent Patrick’s best performances.

In an exclusive interview, the 82-year-old retired actor and current Chairman of the Board of the John Wayne Cancer Institute saddles up for a no-holds-barred glimpse behind a movie star’s cardboard cutout, tough guy persona to reveal a multi-faceted, at times self-doubting genuine article’s keen sense of humor who “never lost touch with his humble beginnings and was comfortable with anybody.” A man whose presence was so electrifying that “he could walk into a room and everything would come to a standstill.” Fiercely protective of his family and proud of his…

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Jeremy Roberts

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ something fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net