Patrick Wayne received no screen billing but pocketed ten dollars as a belated recompense
Patrick Wayne, the Duke’s third of seven progeny, was lured by Hollywood’s bright lights to emulate his hero father’s formidable footsteps, starting with his blink and you’ll miss it bit part in the elder Wayne’s 1950 archetypal cavalry flick Rio Grande. Patrick received no screen billing but pocketed ten dollars as a belated recompense. Over the ensuing 47 years, the charming, likable personality tallied 74 films and television guest spots.
Among his siblings, Patrick’s acting aspirations no doubt engendered a tinge of envy as he got to spend invaluable time on faraway locales alongside his towering 6-foot-4, 240-pound father shooting 10 movies plus three TV productions. “I was quite often alone with my dad,” admits Patrick. “I didn’t have to share him or compete with my brothers and sisters for his attention.”
Developing a résumé as a busy character actor in the ’50s and ’60s but never quite stumbling upon the right part that would launch him into the stratosphere, Patrick did come close after screen testing and being cast as the titular role in 1978’s blockbuster Superman. His dad’s precipitous health forced Patrick to drop out, paving the way for Christopher Reeve to subsequently become a household name. An Eye for an Eye, Big Jake, Disney’s The Bears and I, The People That Time Forgot, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and Rustler’s Rhapsody represent Patrick’s best performances.
In an exclusive interview, the 81-year-old retired actor and current Chairman of the Board of the John Wayne Cancer Institute saddles up for a no-holds-barred glimpse behind a movie star’s cardboard cutout, tough guy persona to reveal a multi-faceted, at times self-doubting genuine article’s keen sense of humor who “never lost touch with his humble beginnings and was comfortable with anybody.” A man whose presence was so electrifying that “he could walk into a room and everything would come to a standstill.” Fiercely protective of his family and proud of his country although his unapologetic conservative values relentlessly rankled members of the loyal opposition, the Duke exhibited true grit where it counted throughout an agonizing ordeal with stomach cancer where even his second son believed, “This guy is bulletproof. He is gonna survive.”
The Patrick Wayne Interview
I would say my dad had a terrific sense of humor, a bit on the dry side. It wasn’t really something that he employed in film. There’s just a handful of films where you get any sense of his humor [e.g. Trouble Along the Way, North to Alaska, Hatari!, Donovan’s Reef, McLintock!]. But he had plenty of humor. He was quick on his feet.
I remember an incident that happened during the whole Vietnam controversy, roughly six years after the release of The Green Berets, which was also a very controversial film. The Harvard Lampoon Club invited him to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a Hasty Pudding award and subsequent roast. He accepted their proposition.
I was visiting him the weekend before he was gonna leave, and I woke up in the middle of the night at about 2:30. I heard something and got up to find my dad pacing around. I went, “What’s the matter?” He replied, “Oh God, I don’t know what’s gonna happen at Harvard. I don’t know if they’re gonna tear me apart.”
I said, “Don’t worry. You’re gonna be great. They’re gonna love you.” He had no self-awareness about what his presence was and how he would be accepted even though everywhere he went he was always accepted. I think that’s part of his charm.
He showed up at Harvard on an armored personnel carrier, standing up on top like he was going down the road for a parade. Immediately, these people cheered for him because they respected him, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with his politics. He just put it right in their face.
The liberal club students did their darndest to provoke an angry reaction from my dad during the roast. He was asked what he thought about women’s liberation. He said, “A woman should have the right to go to work and pursue a career that she wants as long as she has my dinner on the table at 6 p.m. [laughs]. Another student yelled at him, “Hey, you wear a toupee!” Then somebody yelled, “Is that real hair?” My dad shot right back, “Hell, yes, it’s real. It’s not mine, but it’s real.” He was pretty slick on the uptake.
Most assuredly. 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. I’m not kidding. Everybody would stop and look.
By the same token, in five minutes he could just charm you into being totally relaxed and comfortable, especially if you were a good-looking woman. Being charming and easy-going came naturally to him.
He came from very humble beginnings — the eldest of two brothers born to a poor family in Iowa. He had a football scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC), which he lost because he broke his shoulder. So he had to go to work. He was very determined to succeed.
dad landed on his feet in a country where if you were willing to work hard, you had an opportunity to succeed. He never lost touch with his humble beginnings and was comfortable with anybody — royalty, truck drivers — it didn’t matter from what walk of life you came from, he was as nice and charming to you as he could be.
Not really. But my friends grew up with me. They knew who I was and who my dad was. My dad, in a sense, was also growing up and becoming more and more important, and more and more well known. It was happening to all of us in my close circle of friends.
I have friends that I went to grammar school, high school, college — the same fraternity — and they’re still my friends. I have this close circle of friends that were there from the beginning of both almost his career and my life.
Did your dad ever get angry at you when you were growing up?
Absolutely. Are you kidding? Plenty of times. But the thing about it was his presence. All he had to do was walk in. He never had to spank or threaten. That was the last time you were gonna do anything honestly. Sometimes you slipped and did stuff but typically you were on your best behavior. You didn’t want this menacing person to come and confront you.
You learned early on what your parameters of behavior were. How far you could go this way, how far you could go that way. If you’re stayed within those parameters, you were gonna do okay. If you drifted out of ’em, you were gonna hear from him. So that part was nice. If you painted something on the wall one time, he might say, “Oh, isn’t that cute?” If you foolishly painted on the wall again, you got your brains beat out. This guy was pretty consistent.