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The Intriguing Life Story of John Wayne’s Wife

From sharing screen space with John Wayne to sharing his life - Learn about the fascinating women who entered his life and became his wives discover the man behind the legendary actor's persona. Witness John Wayne's narrative unfold through the eyes and experiences of his three wives.
by Rob Gillham | Jan 26 2024
Source: El Comercio

Few figures in American film history have been as iconic as John Wayne. As we explore his life outside the silver screen, we delve into the personal life of this remarkable actor and answer the question: Who was John Wayne’s wife?

A colossal figure in Hollywood, John Wayne, also known as “The Duke,” was born on May 26, 1907. His legacy echoes until today thanks to his evergreen cinematic persona as a rugged, tough, yet humble hero.

Wayne’s illustrious career spanned over six decades, securing him a place among the industry’s legends.

John Wayne’s First Love: Josephine Saenz

When we turn the spotlight on John Wayne’s wife, or better said, wives, we realize that his off-screen story is as intriguing as his on-screen roles since he married three times.

Wayne’s first marriage was with Josephine Saenz, the daughter of a Panama Consul in Los Angeles. They married in 1933 and had four children together before parting ways: Mary Antonia, Melinda, Michael, and Patrick.

In 1945, their marriage ended when Josephine accused John of having extramarital misadventures with Marlene Dietrich.

Esperanza Baur: Finding Love Again

His second wife was Esperanza Baur Diaz, a Mexican actress. They met in 1941 in Mexico City, but at that time, John was still married to Josephine. Years later, in 1946, they got married in California. 

Esperanza struggled with Wayne’s dedication to his work and his relationship with his children, sparking tension from the get-go. Fights were frequent, with both sides flinging accusations of cheating, harsh outbursts, and even physical violence.

Wayne even depicted Esperanza as a reckless party-goer; and by May 1952, the tumultuous couple separated. 

Third Time Lucky: Pilar Pallete

The actor chose Pilar Pallete, a Peruvian actress and daughter of a Peruvian senator, as his third and final wife. She was previously married to Richard Weldy, a professional hunter. 

John and Pilar met in Perú in 1952 on Wayne’s trip scouting locations for “The Alamo”, when he was still married to Esperanza. A year later, Pilar traveled to Los Angeles, and they met again. 

Their marriage happened in Hawaii on November 1, 1954; the same day Wayne’s divorce was concluded, ending only with Wayne’s death in 1979.

Pilar Pallete, embracing her new role as John Wayne’s wife and mother to their three children—Aissa, Ethan, and Marisa—stepped back from her film career. In the following decade, they traveled extensively, often following Wayne’s film shooting locations.

Their travels ultimately led them to a more settled life when, in 1965, they settled in Newport Beach, California.

Farewell to an Icon: John Wayne’s Death and Wealth

John Wayne succumbed to a long battle with stomach cancer on June 11, 1979, in Los Angeles, California. His passing marked the end of an era in Hollywood, leaving behind a rich legacy that continues to resonate in the hearts of movie lovers worldwide.

John Wayne’s wives and children left indelible imprints on his life’s journey. His final hours saw him sharing heartfelt moments with his daughter Aissa, showcasing his unique vigor and sense of humor.

As Aissa held his hand, hoping he still recognized her, she received his touching assurance: “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

These intimate moments encapsulate John Wayne’s charisma and spirit that extend beyond his legendary on-screen persona, making his personal life just as intriguing and full of character.

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