The Many Legacies of John Wayne: An Exclusive Interview with Son, Ethan Wayne

Ethan Wayne sits in his van, about to drive to Pioneertown, California where a John Wayne Grit Series Run will be held to benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

“Okay, I’m one hundred percent tuned in,” Ethan says, and adjusts his phone for the Zoom chat. His Chocolate Labrador retriever,  Finn, snoozes contentedly on a bed in the back, of the van, as Ethan talks about his famous father, John Wayne—his career, his characters, his values, and his legacies.

“With John Wayne, it goes beyond acting,” Ethan says, “What he embodied was sort of the values and the spirit of the country. Certainly, at that time when there were cowboys, but he was an actor, right, he’s playing pretend. He’s representing, on screen, people who built the country.”

John Wayne was born Marion Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa to parents Clyde and Mary. Young Marion acquired the nickname, “Little Duke,” because he was always with his dog, an Airedale Terrier named Duke. Before settling in Glendale, California in 1916, where Clyde worked as a pharmacist, the Morrisons faced a number of challenges, but it was exactly those hardships that shaped the character and values of the young boy who would become an American icon.