Ladies’ Man: John Wayne’s on-screen persona opposite his cinematic love interests was often shy, bordering on awkward. But when the cameras stopped rolling, Wayne was actually a brazen womanizer. He was married three times and had a total of seven children, but none of his marriages went particularly well. He was consistently and flagrantly unfaithful to all three wives, having long and public affairs with some of the most famous women in Hollywood, most notably Marlene Dietrich and Joanne Woodward.
“Daddy, Get Me That” : Iconic German actress Marlene Dietrich was famous for her beauty, intelligence, and skill in knowing – and getting – exactly what she wanted. When she saw John Wayne for the first time at the Universal commissary, she was said to have nudged her agent and said, “Daddy, get me that.” She was at the height of her popularity when it came time to cast for Seven Sinners, and she demanded that John Wayne play the leading man, setting off their famous three-year affair.
More Than Just Romance : Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne would go on to star in two more movies together, The Spoilers and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, their affair carried on and intensified, as John fell head over heels for the fascinating actress. More than just a rom antic affair, the two became the best of friends, bonding over their shared love of making films and enjoying many of the same hobbies together. They also appeared in public often as co-stars, but this was enough to get people talking and the affair became public.
The Toxic Film Set : In 1956, Howard Hughes made a movie called The Conquerer, starring Wayne as Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan. This was a case in which the filming location might have ended up being more treacherous than a real battlefield. The film was shot in Utah, right near a nuclear weapon test site, exposing the cast and crew to fallout. In 1981, People magazine noted that out of the film’s 220 cast and crew members, 91 had developed cancer and 46 of them had away, including John Wayne himself.
“He Had The Magic” : Through his many years of tumultuous romantic affairs, Wayne made no secret of his long love affair with film star, Maureen O’Hara. The two first met at a dinner party at the home of director John Ford in 1941, and O’Hara recalls being instantly taken with the actor. “Wayne would have to sing for his super which caused great merriment because he couldn’t sing,” Maureen recalled. Despite the humiliation, she claims, “He had credibility. He had manliness. He had the magic.”
Tough Enough For Wayne : It wasn’t only Wayne who found an admirer in O’Hara – the feeling was clearly mutual. The pair’s chemistry read well on the screen, as the pair made five movies together including the classic The Quiet Man. The fiery O’Hara proved a worthy foil to John Wayne’s forceful presence. “I was the only leading lady big enough and tough enough for John Wayne,” she wrote in her memoir. “Duke’s presence was so strong that when audiences saw him finally meet a woman of equal…fire, it was exciting and thrilling.”