During his last two decades, John Wayne’s health seriously deteriorated. The lifelong heavy smoker and drinker lived without one of his lungs and a pair of ribs from the mid-1960s on, after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, Duke continued to fight doggedly, playing roles for which he was too old, fat, and physically challenged. Relying on a toupee, makeup and a secret oxygen mask, he was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer from which he died on June 11, 1979. Just six months earlier, the Hollywood star gave his last interview in which he shared the best advice for performance he had never received during a vicious altercation with a woman.
Wayne told Walters from his Newport Beach home: “I know I’m a good actor…I’ve been at it for 50 years, I must have learned something.” The interviewer, who died last month, asked the star who Marion Morrison really was: “Are you ‘John Wayne’? Rough, tough and a heavy drinker? Soft on women and hard on men?
Duke responded: “Yeah, I think so. Yes, I like to drink and I like women and I’ve probably been a lot softer than I should have been on occasion with them. And much harder with some men, mainly with myself. Having been somewhat typecast as a tough, macho cowboy and soldier throughout his career, the 71-year-old shared a World War II story when he was filming his first Technicolor film, Shepherd of the Hills. .
Wayne continued: “I said, ‘What’s up?’ Harry Carey had just entered the room and stood up. [with his hand on his other arm]. She said: ‘Would you like to see Harry Carey different?’ And I said, ‘No, of course not.’ And she said, ‘Well, why don’t you find out? The American people have taken you seriously and expect something from you. Don’t let them down! And I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever been given in my life!”
Duke also confessed that he occasionally watched some of his old movies, but found them annoying.
He added: “From time to time. When there’s an actual old movie like Wake of the Red Witch the other night. I stared at it until I fell asleep. It’s a bit irritating to watch. I was a handsome 40-year-old man and all of a sudden I can look here and there’s this 71-year-old man. You think, ‘God, it was wonderful then.’”
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