A biography of Western legend John Wayne alleges there was a skirt-chasing side to the famous cinema cowboy, who had three wives and had numerous love affairs, including one with his ‘Quiet Man’ co-star Maureen O’Hara.
In the book “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” published in 2014, author Scott Eyman says Wayne had a three-year affair with Marlene Dietrich, but his romance with longtime friend Maureen O’Hara lasted even longer.
Wayne and O’Hara starred in three films together, including ‘The Quiet Man,” and became good friends. O’Hara denied any romance between them, but a close friend of Wayne told Eyman they had a ‘long’ affair before and during his marriage to third wife Pilar Palette, and the two would meet at Wayne’s Arizona ranch.
Wayne, whose real name was Marion ‘Duke’ Morrison, was married three times but had difficulty remaining faithful.
During his marriage to his first wife, Josephine Saenz, a convent-educated, strict Catholic, he had two affairs — one with Marlene Dietrich and one with Esperanza 'Chata' Baur, the ’courtesan’ daughter of a Mexican brothel-keeper.
Wayne’s wife asked an Irish priest to visit their home and counsel her cheating husband, the Daily Mail reports.
Although the actor converted to Catholicism on his deathbed, the intervention wasn’t appreciated at the time. The couple, who’d had four children together, soon divorced. Wayne married Chata, but the marriage was a tumultuous one.
Chata had a vicious temper and drank heavily. Wayne filed for divorce when he discovered she’d had an affair with Nicky Hilton, the hard-partying hotel heir who was previously married to Elizabeth Taylor.
Undeterred, Wayne married a third time, to Peruvian beauty Pilar Palette, whom he met while scouting filming locations in Peru for his film ‘The Alamo.’ Although she was married at the time, Palette divorced her husband and moved to Hollywood with Wayne.
Palette became pregnant while Wayne was still married to Chata, and fearing the scandal would ruin his career, persuaded her to have an abortion. Depressed and stressed by the cultural shift from Peru to Hollywood, Palette became addicted to sleeping pills. One night, while on location with Wayne in Louisiana, she slit her wrists while hallucinating. Wayne hired nurses to accompany her back to California, but the workaholic actor stayed on to finish his film.
The couple had three children together but separated after 19 years. Wayne became romantically involved for the rest of his life with his former secretary, Pat Stacy.
Wayne “tried to be a family man and mostly succeeded,” says Scott Eyman. One of his biggest failures on the fidelity front, according to friends, involved his ‘Quiet Man’ co-star.
Robert Mitchum’s son Christopher worked with both Wayne and O’Hara. He claims Wayne was ‘truly in love with that woman.’
When asked why they never married, he said: ‘Because Maureen was strong and tough . . . He married women he thought he could control. Then he found out he couldn’t.’
* Originally published in Aug 2016. Updated in August 2022.