The Truth About John Wayne's Wives

John Wayne. A name that evokes uber-patriotism and staunchly conservative political ideals. Far more than, say, Marion Morrison, which partly explains why director Raoul Walsh changed Marion to John and Morrison to Wayne. Early on, Wayne went by "Duke" Morrison for a while, but really — so many syllables.

He specialized in the kind of roles we associate with action heroes today — military figures, fighters, even Genghis Khan (because we just can't unsee The Conqueror). And of course, cowboy roles. 

He loved a drink and a cigarette, and while he wasn't particularly kind to his horses, by some accounts, he eventually settled on a favorite. The same might be said of his wives. By the time he died of stomach cancer in 1979 Wayne had been married three times.

The third time was not the charm

First up was Josephine Alicia Saenz, with whom he had four children during their 12 years of marriage. She was followed by Esperanza Bauer, who accused Wayne of having an affair with a co-star (he denied it, as did the co-star) and tried to shoot him at least once during their eight years of marital bliss. The third wife was Pilar Pallette, with whom he had three more children.

During that time, he was associated romantically with a number of celebrities, including a nine-year affair with actress Merle Oberon. Though we'd like to say that Wayne and Pilar lived happily ever after, apparently that's not the case. They separated in 1973 and he moved in with his former secretary, Pat Stacy, with whom he lived until his death. At least, that's the story she told in her 1983 book Duke: A Love Story.

Two days before he died, he converted to Catholicism. Asked why it took him so long, his grandson said Wayne blamed it on being "busy." No argument here.