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Patrick Wayne Says: “Don’t Tangle With My Dad”

The morning I reported for work in Columbia’s “The Long Gray Line,” I couldn’t help hearing one grip remark to another, “That’s John Wayne’s kid. I bet his ol’ man got him the job. . . .”

I’m sure they had neither expected me to overhear them, nor to answer back, “No, he didn’t!”

By their expressions I could see that they didn’t believe me. I guess at 15 I’m not too convincing. But it was true. Dad neither got me this job, nor any other. He insists that my older brother, Michael, and I make your own way, as he did when he grew up.

Of course, he doesn’t put any obstacles in our way, and the fact that he is my father has helped a great deal. But when we were in Ireland during the filming of “The Quiet Man,” for instance, Mike and I had approached Uncle Jack—that’s director John Ford—to give us a little part in it so we’d have some extra spending money. And it was Uncle Jack who got me the part in “The Long Gray Line,” which he’s directing. Dad wouldn’t even coach me. “Your Uncle Jack is better qualified for it than I am,” he said. And he meant it.

Dad told us how he worked his way up the hard way—as a grip, as prop-man, assistant director, and bit player. He told us about his ups-and-downs, and emphasized that the sooner we learn to take care of ourselves, the better off we are. “There’s no short-cut to success,” he insisted. “The only way to get to the top is by hard work, by giving your all.” And he wasn’t referring only to work in pictures, because none of us—neither Michael, who’s 19, myself, nor my sisters, Toni, 18, and Melinda, 13—know exactly what we want to do when we’re grown-up.

I was never quite sure what Dad had meant by “giving your all,” till I accompanied him to Camargo, Mexico, or taking time out for a round last summer, when he made “Hondo.” Being a partner in the company, he took an active part in the production as well as starring in the film.

One afternoon, Dad walked up to some natives from a nearby village who were digging a trench for a scene in the film. They moved at a snail’s pace. After Dad watched them a few seconds, he became impatient. “Anda,” he shouted at them. “Anda—pronto!” Whether they understood his Spanish or didn’t, I don’t know. But at any rate they didn’t shift into second.

As Dad watched them a few more minutes, I could see that his temper rose to match the heat of the day. Finally he couldn’t control himself any longer. He jumped into the trench, took off his shirt, grabbed the shovel from one of the astonished Mexicans, and for 15 minutes dug furiously—until he had accomplished more than the six of them all afternoon. “ANDA!” he shouted again as he threw the shovel back into the hands of the Mexican. All of a sudden they understood what he had meant. And from that moment on you should have seen them dig!

However, Dad’s harder on himself than on anyone around him. The day after the shovel incident, he was in a scene in which—from atop a hill—he jumped on an Indian and shoved a knife in his side. It was a hard scene, particularly in the heat which all but knocked out every member of the cast and crew.

Everyone thought his jump and stab were just fine. Everyone but Dad, that is. “Could you see the Indian while I stuck the knife in him?” he asked the camera man.

“No, I didn’t. I don’t think it’s that important. . . .”

“I think it is. The script called for it. . . .”

“But you don’t have to climb up that hill and make the jump all over again,” the director assured him. “We can fake it a little. . . .”

“Not on this picture,” said Dad. And before it was “just right,” he had climbed up and jumped down six more times. And at 137 degrees Fahrenheit!

But Dad isn’t really as tough as he appears at times. As a matter of fact, he can be quite sentimental. With all the responsibility of starring in and co-producing “Hondo” last year, which meant working from dawn to ten at night, every day of the week, including Sunday, he managed to find time to give me a surprise birthday party.

Or when he gave up his first vacation in years to stay with Michael, after my brother’s serious accident while on a hiking trip in the High Sierras.

To us—Michael, Tony, Melinda and myself—Dad is more pal than father. Possibly because we don’t live with him—we are staying with Mom in a big house in Los Angeles proper, while Dad lives in Encino, in the San Fernando Valley, about 20 miles away. This way, most of the disciplining is really up to Mom, while our Sundays and weekends with Dad are reserved for games and sports and just having a good time.

Usually we go to his house right after church, and spend most of the day with him. My favorite pastime, when I’m with Dad, is skeet shooting at the Chattsworth range.

Dad and Michael used to practice football together, behind the house. When I say practice I mean that Dad, who was quite a player at U.S.C. until he broke his ankle, throws Michael all over the place when he tries to “tackle” him. Michael in turn shows me what Dad taught him, and I have enough black and blue spots to prove that Dad is doing a good job.

As for Melinda, her favorite sport is making Dad go shopping with her, and she usually gets her way.

However, Dad’s easy-goingness shouldn’t be misinterpreted as giving in in every respect. Believe me, he doesn’t. When he feels fatherly authority should be asserted, he administers it promptly. Once in a while he used to wallop me when I didn’t mind him! I never deviated for long, you can be sure.

He is particularly strict about school work. And living up to the grades he used to get isn’t easy. Luckily, since I enrolled in Loyola High I have managed to get a “B” average. In fact all of us have pretty good grades.

When Dad gets angry at us, we know better than to talk back to him. Everyone of us tried it—once.

I still remember the afternoon he first saw Toni wear lipstick. She was just 14 at the time. We had hardly walked into his house when he noticed her painted lips. “Take it off . . .” he said.

“But Daddie, all the other girls in school . . .”


“Couldn’t I wear it just . . .”

That’s as far as she got. Dad pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and with one swish wiped off every speck of it. Ask me in a year from now,” he said. “And not a day earlier.”

To be on the safe side, Toni waited two years!

As far back as I remember, I can’t recall one instance when Dad ever went back on his word. If he says he’ll punish us if we don’t do as told, he’ll do it. If he promises a certain present, he’ll live up to the bargain.

One reason I have so much fun in Dad’s company is his sense of humor. He is constantly kidding us, or everyone else who happens to be around. If you can’t take a joke, and I include very practical jokes, it’s best to stay away from him.

One of the qualities I appreciate most in Dad is his effort to be with us for any event that is important to us, no matter how busy he is. Toni found that out again when she invited Dad to a reception given. by her sorority, at the Immaculate Heart College.

Knowing that he was just getting ready for “The Conqueror,” at RKO, she didn’t hold out much hope that he could make it. Yet Dad not only escorted her to the reception, but bought her a beautiful corsage and got all dressed up, like he was her best beau; and she his best girl.

I myself had another occasion to find out that Dad is never too busy for us, when he took time off to go with me to the “Men’s Breakfast,” given for the Loyola High School students. I was particularly thrilled when, sitting next to him, I had the feeling that he was a little proud of me—but not half as proud as I was of being his son.