John Wayne’s son followed in his father’s footsteps – do you recognize him?

Growing up in the 1950s, many young boys probably wished John Wayne was their dad.

He was the “perfect guy” – tough, funny, brave, and didn’t take anything from anyone.

For most of us, the dream of having him as a father was just that, a dream – but it was reality for Ethan Wayne.

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Thanks to his stellar career, John Wayne is considered one of the biggest film stars in history. But the legendary actor was also a well-known family man. ‘The Duke’ was married three times and had seven children – one was John Ethan Morrison, known professionally as Ethan Wayne. Born in 1962, Ethan is the son of actor John Wayne and his third wife, Pilar Pallete.

Before Ethan was born, his father already knew what he was going to call him. After starring as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, Wayne’s favorite film role, the Oscar-winning star named his youngest son Ethan Wayne in homage.

“It’s a great legacy. I’m proud to carry that moniker,” he told Historynet in 2022. 

Ethan grew up in Newport Beach, California and in many ways, the young boy was similar to his world-famous father. They shared a love for the ocean and the outdoors and loved being on set.

”My dad was happiest out on the water or on location; he loved projects and stories. On set, he was all business—very focused on the project. At home, he was warm, but consistently busy with the day-to-day, as you could imagine,” Ethan says.

When speaking of his late father, Ethan often talks about his warm memories from life on location with his dad. Ethan basically grew up on set; he was there when the Duke shot El Dorado and True Grit. Off camera and in the evenings, John Wayne loved to play cards. The games could go on for hours, but he always made time for his son. 

”In between takes, he always made time for me as a little boy to come in and get a hug or sit on his lap. He was very open that way. But he expected you not to talk through someone’s eye line or mess with the camera,” Ethan said in 2017. 

While some actors’ children can recall their mom or dad not being present during their childhood, it turns out that John Wayne was one of the exceptions, even though he was at the height of his career and had turned 55 by the time Ethan was born.

In 1970, Ethan appeared in the movie Rio Lobo, but his “real” on-screen debut came one year later when Ethan starred as the grandson of his father’s title character in the movie Big Jake.

”Growing up, I was on location all the time but really wasn’t a part of the team. On Big Jake I was on the team. I loved the whole cast, and it was an amazing experience,” Ethan told Historynet in 2022.

Of course, growing up with a father who was a major Hollywood star was a unique experience. Wayne, however, never thought of himself as better than anyone else.

”My dad was one of these people whose presence was show-stopping. He could walk into a room and everything would come to a standstill. By the same token, in five minutes he could just charm you into being totally relaxed and comfortable. Being charming and easygoing came naturally to him;” Patrick Wayne, Ethan’s half-brother, once said.

Despite the strong legacy of his father, Ethan tried to establish his own career in Hollywood. But first, he had to say a painful farewell to his beloved dad. John Wayne, the Oscar-winning star of True Grit and Sands of Iwo Jima, died of stomach cancer in 1979. 

In 1964, John Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had his left lung and four ribs removed, and it seemed for a time as though there was a chance of recovery.

This also, of course, affected family life.

”I’d be homeschooled down on location in Mexico because he knew he wasn’t going to be around for me when I was older, and that he would probably lose me while I was young, teenage man,” John’s son, Ethan, said.

The Duke made his last public appearance when he attended the Academy Awards on April 9, 1979, to deliver the Oscar for best picture. Few knew he was very ill – but many people could see that the legendary actor, who was the personification of strength, had a pale face and was struggling. He died six weeks later. 

”I was right there with him at the last part of his life, and I’ve got to say, he showed a lot of courage. The man had grit all the way to the end,” Ethan shared in 2022. 

After burying his father, Gary ‘Whiz Kid’ McLarty contacted Ethan and wanted him to do stunt work on The Blues Brothers. Fortunately, that gig helped Ethan overcome his despair after John’s passing. 

Two major film appearances followed after The Blues Brothers, with Ethan starring in Longshot and the slasher movie Scream.

1,500 horses and 3,000 people

In 1986, Ethan Wayne was offered a role in the NBC remaking of The Alamo. The aspiring actor wasn’t even born when his father starred in the original 1960 movie, but he had heard much about it. John Wayne both directed and starred in the iconic film. 

Ethan’s role in NBC’s retelling version, The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory, was far from the biggest one – but the part meant a lot in other ways. The 1986 remake was filmed at the exact location as the 1960 movie, in Brackettville, Texas. 

”It was really neat to go back to the set that my dad built so long ago. It was just kind of strange walking around there, more than 30 years and after Dad had passed away, and thinking that he built all of it. I had never been there before,” he said. 

Portrait d’Ethan Wayne, en mai 1983, à Cannes. (Getty Images)

A low-budget production compared to the original movie, The Alamo: 13 Days to Glory cost a fifth of his father’s version, even with inflation. 

”The battle scenes are pretty weak. My dad used 1,500 horses and 3,000 people in full costume, and this one has about 10 horses and 150 people,” Ethan said in 1987. 

Later, Ethan became a regular on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. On his way to stardom, the young actor was constantly compared with his father – he couldn’t avoid the frequent connection. 

Initially he was kind of upset about always being referred to as the son of a legend – but he has learned to deal with it. 

”What it means, I guess, is that I’ll have to work doubly hard to prove myself,” Ethan told AP in 1983. 

Today, Ethan Wayne turned 60, and it has been many years since he appeared on the screen. He has appeared in some documentaries and done some stunts – but his main job these days is working with the family-run John Wayne Enterprises, where Ethan serves as the president. 

He is also the director of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. 

Ethan has done a great job in keeping his father’s legacy alive, and we wish him all the luck in the future!