Lessons From My Father: Part 4

Patrick Wayne (left) on the set of Hondo with his father John Wayne (right), c. 1953.

Patrick Wayne (left) on the set of Hondo with his father John Wayne (right), c. 1953.

Patrick Wayne speaks volumes about the example set by a man of few words.

 As told to Jenn Thornton

Like his father, Patrick Wayne is a man not particularly prone to talk about himself. Having acted in 40 films, seven with his dad, the only one time Patrick remembers his father verbally “lay down the law” came on the set of The Comancheros, where Duke demanded Patrick learn the right way to ride a horse. And so he did—that famous Wayne work ethic proving a generational trait. What Patrick does say gets to the core of who John Wayne was and what he valued. “Turns out, the most important things to my dad—being trustworthy, reliable, and honest—are the most important things to me too,” says Patrick. Here, in the last installment of our Father’s Day series, Patrick picks up where his father left off.

BE GENUINE Without really knowing John Wayne the man, one could see how he could be an intimidating figure. “My dad would walk on to a set and literally everything came to a standstill,” Patrick admits. “But within five minutes, he would disarm everyone with his charm. He still had their attention, but he could communicate. Part of his disarming charm was because he was sincere, engaged, and really listened.”

HAVE DECENCY Like his siblings, Patrick is more grounded than one might expect from the son of a man who was the biggest star in Hollywood for decades. “The most shocking thing to me is that he’s still so popular,” says Patrick, noting the Duke’s top-five ranking in an ongoing popularity poll with those aged 18 to 26. Why? “Part of it is seeing old films,” he gathers, “but there was something so decent about my dad, and there is just something really attractive about decency, especially today.”

SHOW GRATITUDE “I loved being on set with my dad because I didn’t have to compete for his attention,” says Patrick. “Those were cherished times because he had this public persona too.” Which means the Duke had little down time off set, either. “My dad could go to a baseball game and never see an inning, he’d be signing autographs for everyone who wanted it,” Patrick says. “Everywhere he went he was in the presence of other people. But he never faltered. He always stopped and talked to everyone. He always appreciated his fan base.”

VALUE THE TIME YOU HAVE “My dad came from humble beginnings, so to him it wasn’t about money and fame. That was just a part of being ambitious; he wanted to be able to provide,” says Patrick considering the roots of his down-to-earth raising. “He worked hard, and we saw that. He really valued relationships, they were important to him.” On his boat Wild Goose, Patrick says he remembers his dad most at peace. “I think he was happiest out in the middle of the water somewhere, where he could just relax. He could recharge his batteries, be himself. I loved being out there with him. We valued those times together.”