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    9 Surprising Secrets About John Wayne

    With dozens of Westerns and war movies to his credit, John Wayne’s legacy as the ultimate guy’s guy is firmly secured in American pop culture. But he wasn't all swagger, tough talk, gunsmoke, and haymakers. Below are nine little-known facts about “The Duke” to surprise Dad with on Father’s Day while you’re watching The Searchers or The Shootist during a Wayne movie marathon.

    1. He had a flair for interior decorating and antiquing

    Likely attributed to his early Hollywood years as a prop man and set grunt, Wayne developed a keen interest in interiors and enjoyed shopping for antiques. He could walk into an empty room and have it laid out expertly in minutes.

    2. He also had a knack for fashion and style

    Wayne’s time in the costume department also made him a whiz at sizing up suits. It wasn't uncommon for him to guess a companion’s jacket size and have suits tailored for him on the spot.

    3. Wayne wasn’t a big fan of horses

    Despite a career largely built on playing cowboys, Wayne was uneasy around horses and sometimes refused to saddle up unless the scene absolutely required it.

    4. He was an ace chess player, just not always an honest one

    Wayne was never far from a chess set and played all comers, usually winning quickly, but sometimes used his giant hands to obscure moves and take an extra square or two on an unsuspecting foe.

    5. The stigma of him as a “dodger” during World War II forever haunted him

    One of his biggest regrets was not serving during World War II despite numerous applications to join the OSS, all of which were deferred. Wayne’s pro-Vietnam stances and films could be considered a guilt mechanism for never enlisting.

    6. He played Genghis Khan

    Yes! Famous for cowboys and soldiers and all-American types, Wayne’s forgotten role as Genghis Khan in Howard Hughes’ so-bad-it’s-good “film” The Conqueror cannot be forgiven. Come on, just look at that picture!

    7. His passion project, The Alamo, left him in financial ruin

    Wayne was personally invested in 1960's The Alamo, and not just as director, producer, and star, but also its primary financier. Despite a generally positive reaction and a decent box office haul, the grosses were deceiving and Wayne was forced to sell the rights. He was then left scrambling for roles to start earning back his losses.

    8. He was a gracious, even humble, winner

    The capstone to Wayne’s decades-long career was his Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of crotchety, over-the-hill Rooster Cockburn in True Grit. Accepting the award from Barbara Streisand, Wayne whispered “Beginner’s luck” in her ear and then spent the night boozing with fellow nominee Richard Burton. Throughout the night Wayne tried to give Burton the statue, insisting he was the more deserving actor.

    9. John Wayne was an invention

    In the twilight of his career, John Wayne the man admitted that John Wayne the character was created to fill a certain void in Hollywood. “I've found a character the average man wants himself, his brother, his kid to be,” he once said. “It’s the same type of guy the average wife wants for her husband. Always walk with your head held high. Look everybody straight in the eye. Never double-cross a pal.”

    These facts and much, much more can be found in the New York Times bestseller John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman. Watch a special clip of the author discussing the book and its subject here.

    All photos courtesy of personal collections.

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