Before he gained fame as an actor, John Wayne was a father. He had his first child in 1934 at the age of 27. Over the years, Wayne had a total of seven children: Michael, Mary Antonia, Patrick, Melinda, Aissa, Ethan, and Marisa. Wayne liked to keep them close, and many of the children practically grew up on the sets of Wayne’s films.
Sometimes the family was able to stay near their hometown in California, but other times Wayne’s films took them farther. One such example is with Brannigan, filmed in England. Wayne rented a big house for his family and flew them all out so they could stay together. He had fun with it too; his youngest daughter Marisa remembers a practical joke he played on Aissa while they lived there:
“He put [Aissa] and her friends on the top level, saying [the house] was haunted. In the middle of the night, he would go up there and move stuff around and tilt paintings on the wall, to make it look like there was a ghost doing all this. She would come tearing down the stairs, telling us all of this, and he’d just roll his eyes, saying she was imagining things. Then, he’d give me a quick wink.”*
More than traveling to movie sets, the Wayne family often took trips together on the Wild Goose, Wayne’s yacht. The boat was a 136-ft. converted US Navy Minesweeper, purchased solely with the intent of gathering friends and family. Their time sailing to Alaska, Mexico, and the Panama Canal was spent playing card games, chess, and waterskiing. It’s been said that Wayne was never happier than when he was onboard the boat.
Even when the Wayne family stayed at home, John Wayne made sure to turn it into a memorable occasion. His son Ethan explains that “meals are what brought us all together,” and during the holidays, “A tree decoration was something fun that we all did together.”*
Wayne valued his family above all else, and he is remembered as an excellent father to this day.
*Wayne Family Quotations from https://johnwayne.com/journal/duke-family-man-first-and-foremost
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