John Wayne was so sick in the final production of the film that it almost shut down

In 1964, John Wayne suffered from lung cancer and had some of his ribs removed, which left him plagued with ill health for the rest of his life. Duke doggedly fought through the physical scenes of his films, secretly relying on an oxygen mask that he was desperate to hide from the public, lest it tarnish his strong cinematic image. Pushing to make a string of films over the next decade, including his Oscar win for True Grit, the Western legend’s last film, The Shootist, hit theaters in 1976, just three years before his death.

It is commonly believed that Wayne was living with the stomach cancer that killed him in 1979, when he played a cowboy living with the disease in The Shootist. This was not the case, however, as Duke had been cancer-free since 1969. According to Scott Ryman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend, the star had cancer again in 1975, but had gone into remission before it started. filming his latest movie. However, other health issues for the actor were besetting him, which almost caused him to lose the role.

Wayne had been ill for much of 1974, having had a severe bout of viral pneumonia after filming the True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn with Katharine Hepburn. He caused Duke to cough so violently that he damaged a heart valve causing more problems when he finally filmed The Shootist, which is on ITV4 today.

Early on, his failing health and stamina in Rooster Cogburn meant that he was not initially considered for what would be his last film. Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, George C Scott, Paul Newman, and Gene Hackman were offered the role but turned it down.

Shootist’s producers thought Wayne was too old at 69 to be believable as the gunslinger. However, producer Dino De Laurentiis insisted on casting him despite the fact that the JB Books character was only 50 years old in the novel on which the film was based. Filming with co-stars Lauren Bacall, James Stewart and Ron Howard took place in Carson City. At an altitude of 4,600 feet, Duke’s one-lung capacity was compromised as he struggled with mobility.

Ultimately, production on The Shootist was shut down because Wayne was hospitalized for two weeks with the flu. The star was also suffering from an enlarged prostate during filming, which would not be operated on until late 1976. At one point, it was unclear if the film would be completed as Duke was so ill that doctors were about to complete it. forbidding her to finish his work on the production.

Considering his significant health issues in the film, it’s unlikely he would have managed to get secured for the project had it been fully known. Of course, in the end, Wayne completed filming, but his stomach cancer returned and he made his last public appearance at the Oscars on April 9, 1979. It was here that he used a secret trick to hide how remarkably thin he was. there was. to be made.

READ MORE: Rio Lobo – John Wayne ‘completely exhausted’ and the director ‘hit me’

It was later discovered that Wayne had worn a wetsuit under his tuxedo to loosen up that night. The Western star was greeted with a standing ovation when he announced The Deer Hunter for Best Picture. He died just two months later, on June 11, 1979, at the age of 72, with his family around him. Her daughter Aissa took her hand and asked him if he knew who she was and he replied with her last words.

Duke said sweetly, “Of course, I know who you are. You are my girl. I love you.” Shortly before he died, the 72-year-old converted to Roman Catholicism and asked that his tombstone read “Feo, Fuerte y Formal,” a Spanish epitaph meaning “ugly, strong, and dignified.”

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