John Wayne's Greatest Lessons

Posted by Topix Media Lab on

When you think of John Wayne, you don't just think about the bold characters he played in his films—you also think about the legacy of one of Hollywood's most iconic stars. Whether he was chasing down bad guys in the Wild West or raising his children on The Wild Goose, Duke imparted wisdom and lessons through everything he did. In John Wayne: Lessons For My Children, dive into this wisdom in the form of quotes, anecdotes and memories from those who knew him best. Get a peek inside the new book below and don’t forget to order your copy here.


John Wayne: Lessons for My Children


Lesson: Succeed Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Before he was a Western icon, John Wayne was finding his way in Hollywood by taking any role he could. As a result, the young actor found himself playing unconventional roles and performing tasks for which he wasn’t naturally suited. Whether it was learning to skate to play a hockey star in Idol of the Crowds or having to lip-sync to pass as a singing cowboy in Riders of Destiny, Duke not only did what he had to do to get by, he did it to the bet of his ability. And Hollywood took notice. His relentless desire to do whatever was asked of him led directly to his breakout in Stagecoach. Had he not honed his skills making a decade’s worth of B movies, he may have never gotten there.


Lesson: Live by Example

As recounted by Patrick Wayne:

“With his kids, he lived his life by example. It was kind of like: ‘Choose whatever you want to choose. This is how I live my life, and if it works for you, fine.’ The things that were important to him were the core values of trustworthiness, reliability, friendship, accountability and responsibility. He would talk about these things peripherally, giving us parameters for behavior that always included holding yourself accountable and responsible.”



Inside John Wayne: Lessons for My Children with Patrick Wayne


Lesson: Cut Out the Middleman

In the 1960s, the Vietnam War was a subject most Hollywood studios were still trying to avoid. John Wayne, however, was eager to tell the stories of the courageous Americans sacrificing everything in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and he planned to do so with a film called The Green Berets. Access to military equipment and personnel would be essential to the film’s production, so John Wayne opted to go straight to the top with his request. In a personal letter sent directly to President Johnson, Duke outlined his specific needs and his reasoning for making the film. Impressed with his passionate mission, the president and the Pentagon gave the star their full blessing to make The Green Berets. Sometimes being direct is the only way to get something done.


Lesson: Be Understanding of Mistakes

As recounted by Marisa Wayne:

“One day when I was about 9, Dad said to me, ‘Let’s go play some golf.’ I figured, well, how hard can it be? So we went out to a driving range, and I’m swinging and swinging and missing the ball. He came around and said, ‘Honey, just watch the ball and make contact.’ I swung the club and the ball was still there—but I could tell I made contact with something. I turned around and saw my father staggering around. Blood was coming out of the side of his head. And down he went. Whump! A couple of men got an ambulance. When he came to in the hospital, he asked for me. All I could think was, ‘I am in so much trouble!’ I can still feel it right now, the know in my stomach. I went in there and all he said was, ‘Well, you’re the only one who had the nerve to do this to me!’ Until that day, he’d always called me Princess. After that, I was Nine Iron, as in, ‘Nine Iron, clean up your room!”


Inside John Wayne Lessons for My Children with Marisa Wayne


Lesson: Stand Up for Yourself

John Wayne’s relationship with his mentor John Ford was not always one of mutual respect and admiration. In his early days working under the director as a propman, Duke was frequently teased by Ford, often in front of other cast and crew members. But one day, when his football past was called into question, the young man seized an opportunity to put a stop to his boss’s verbal jabs. Ford challenged Duke to drop to a three-point stance and then kicked his legs out from under him. Rather than slink away embarrassed, Duke returned to the position and proceeded to tackle the man he would come to know as “Coach.” The bold act impressed Ford, and the two became fast friends and even better collaborators from that point on.