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Along with hard work and commitment to his screen career, family life was another defining element of John Wayne’s existence-and screen image.
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Wayne was married three times and was the father of seven children. At the time of his death, in 1979, Wayne was the patriarch of a large clan, composed of seven children and twenty-one grandchildren.
Wayne’s first wife: Josephine Saenz
Wayne’s first wife, Josephine Saenz, was the daughter of a Panamian Consul in Los Angeles. They got married on June 24, 1933, and had four children: Michael in 1934, Toni in 1935, Patrick in 1938, and Melinda in 1940.
After a few years, the marriage was in trouble. Wayne practically lived for his work, which his wife found hard to accept. He was always surrounded by work associates and friends from the film world, which did not interest Josephine very much. The couple also had differences of opinion about how their children should be raised. Consequently, in 1943 they separated and a year later divorced.
Wayne’s Second Wife: Esperanza Baur Diaz
Wayne met his second wife, Esperanza Baur Diaz, nicknamed Chata, in Mexico, while vacationing there. They were married on January 17, 1946, in California. Unlike Wayne’s first union, this marriage was rocky and volatile from the very start. His wife was reportedly jealous of his devotion to his work and to his four children; the couple had no children of their own.
Affair with Gail Russell
Chata accused Wayne of having an affair with Gail Russell, his leading lady in “Angel and the Badman,” which he denied.
The second marriage lasted seven years, coming to an end in November 1953, when a Superior Justice granted them a divorce under a little-used provision of a California law, reserved for cases where neither party concedes the other’s charges.
There were indeed charges and counter-charges of unfaithfulness, drunken violence, emotional cruelty, and “clobbering.” Wayne described his wife as a “drunken partygoer who would fall down and then accuse him of pushing her.” He deplored the publicity his divorce proceedings received in the press, though they did not hurt his career or popularity. Wayne met his third wife, Pilar Weldy (born Palette) in Lima, Peru in 1953, while he was scouting locations for The Alamo.” It was part of a South-American tour, a gift from Howard Hughes, with whom he had a contract.
Younger than Wayne by 22 years, Pilar and came from an upper class family; her father was a Peruvian politician. On November 1, 1954, the very day Wayne’s divorce became final, the couple got married.