Connect with us

John Wayne

John Wayne lost his fortune twice, both times in a way you could lose, too

If all-powerful movie star John Wayne can lose his life savings not once but twice to people he trusted, what chance do you have?
In a Watchdog tradition, every December I profile a prominent American who got snookered, looking for clues to how to make sure the same financial tragedy doesn’t happen to us.
I started in 2019 with my personal hero, Benjamin Franklin, who as a 19-year-old printer believed a British governor’s promises to set him up in a London print shop. Franklin never got a penny.

In 2020, I wanted to know if circus master P.T. Barnum actually said a sucker is born every minute. Turns out a competitor said that about him. Barnum said a customer is born every minute. Barnum lost half a million dollars in a failed clock factory scam. He filed for bankruptcy.

Last year, I studied the life of Dallas founder John Neely Bryan, Dallas’ first known white resident who also served as the town’s chief promoter. He didn’t get scammed. No, he did the scamming. He promoted Dallas as a great city to come and stay, but when travelers arrived they were stunned to see two small log cabins and a population of about 12. To lessen the sting, he offered every visitor free whiskey, bear meat and honey.
Manager for the stars
John Wayne’s final financial unraveling began with a 1965 shopping trip to the Neiman-Marcus store in Dallas. But I’ll get to that.

Let’s start during World War II when Wayne hired Bo Roos to be his business manager.
“With his hair slicked straight back, his mouth full of straight white teeth and his perfect tan, Roos was pure Hollywood,” write Randy Roberts and James S. Olson in their book John Wayne: American, which served as the basis for this story.

The husky blue-eyed man whose name was pronounced Boo was quick to smile and make a new friend. He gave off the aura of a European aristocrat. His car contained one of the very first mobile phones.
His clients included stars Joan Crawford, the Andrews Sisters and Marlene Dietrich, who recommended him. They were friends who drank together, went fishing and hunting and swapped stories. Wayne assumed Bo would protect his millions, maybe even make it grow.

Bo once said, “I’ve been called a gambler. … I’m only good for the client who wants action for his money.”
John Wayne may have been great as a Hollywood cowboy, but when it came to his money, he...

John Wayne may have been great as a Hollywood cowboy, but when it came to his money, he couldn’t shoot straight. Here he is in True Grit, for which he won an Academy Award.(Archives / AP)

Wayne first figured something was wrong when one of the investments Bo made for him attracted a slew of bounced checks and foreclosure notices. Wayne chewed him out, and Bo promised to improve Wayne’s cash flow.
The losses didn’t stop. Bo invested $700,000 in Panama. Wayne lost it plus a million more in that scheme.
As a major film star in the 1950s, he was broke. He found out when he and his wife ran up a $3,500 bill at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. He told the clerk to charge it to Bo.
Three months later Wayne got an overdue notice.
“Bo!” he shouted, but it sounded like Boo. “Could you please pay the bill? I look like a [blankety] deadbeat.”
He sent his trusted secretary, Mary St. John, to Bo’s office, to check on his portfolio.
“Roos tried to stall her,” the authors write, insisting she come back at a more convenient time. But Mary was tenacious, demanding access to the file. When she saw it she was shocked. It was almost empty.
A few days later Wayne met with him and asked, “Bo, exactly how much money do I have?”
“Well Duke,” he said, using Wayne’s nickname, “not a great deal of cash.”
“Just tell me how much money I could raise if I had to.”
“That’ll take a couple of weeks,” Bo said.
When they met again, Bo still couldn’t answer.
Wayne slammed his fist on Bo’s desk and shouted, “I’ve given you a [blankety blank] fortune over the years. It’s a simple question.”
Without looking him in the eye, Bo confessed. “It’s all gone.”
Accountants who later checked the books declared that Bo didn’t steal it. He lost it through “gross mismanagement.”
Wayne wasn’t the only one. Like Wayne, Red Skelton didn’t check his financial statements, schedule in-person meetings and personally inspect investments. That was their undoing.
An arbitrator advised Wayne not to go to court because the publicity about his don’t-ask-questions style would make him look like a “complete ignoramus.” Plus, Bo was bankrupt, too.
“Just forget about it and start all over,” he advised.
A second time
Wayne wanted a manager whom he could trust. He decided to go with his son-in-law Don LaCava. His job: Invest conservatively and don’t lose money.
On that fateful 1965 trip to Dallas, Wayne, who treasured his annual Neiman-Marcus catalog, spent $30,000 at that store and others.
When the bill came, his son-in-law chewed him out: “How could you spend so much money? You don’t have this kind of money in the bank. How am I supposed to pay these bills?”
Wayne reminded he had given him millions. “There better well be money in the bank to pay these bills.”
LaCava had invested in bad real estate, dry oil wells and more.
Wayne fired him.
It was getting to be a thing.
Bo’s 1973 obituary in The New York Times mentioned “his cold blue eyes and pencil mustache,” but not that he lost his clients millions. Although there was a brief mention of ventures “not all of which were successful.”
With both men, the No. 1 movie star didn’t check his financial statements, schedule in person meetings and personally inspect investments. Do you?
John Wayne made about 200 movies, and he was usually paid handsomely. But he didn't watch...John Wayne made about 200 movies, and he was usually paid handsomely. But he didn’t watch his money managers like a hawk, and they left him with birdseed.(Archives / AP)

John Wayne

John Wayne’s Cause of Death and His Last Words

John Wayne is a legendary Western movie star who the world will always recognize for his contributions to the medium. However, his final words on his deathbed didn’t have anything to do with movies or his career. Rather, he used them to speak sentimental, heartfelt words aimed at his daughter, Aissa Wayne, who stayed at his bedside.

John Wayne’s cause of death was stomach cancer

John Wayne wearing a cowboy hat

John Wayne | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

According to, Wayne died on June 11, 1979, of stomach cancer at the age of 72. However, it wasn’t his first encounter with cancer, as he fought it for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the doctors reported that the actor was too weak to begin chemotherapy and experimental treatment, which the actor approved of.

Wayne coined the term “The Big C” for cancer in 1964. He ultimately needed to have his left lung and four ribs removed. Wayne seemed to recover at the time, despite regularly being short of breath. However, he didn’t stop his habit of smoking and chewing tobacco regularly, which certainly didn’t help with his situation.

John Wayne’s last words were to his daughter, Aissa Wayne

Outsider confirmed that Wayne was surrounded by his family during his stay in the hospital. He was never left alone, as the doctors tried to do all they could to strengthen his physical state. However, their efforts ultimately failed. Wayne spent his last days before his death in and out of consciousness.

Wayne’s name is generally associated with a tough sense of masculinity, but he also had a sentimental side of him. These stories particularly come from his family, including Wayne’s final words.

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, was at his bedside at the time of his death. She was holding her father’s hand and asked him if he knew who she was. He responded with his last words, “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

‘The Shootist’ was his final acting role

Wayne’s final movie role before his death was starring as J.B. Books in The Shootist. The film follows his character, who is an aging gunfighter who has cancer. He heads to Nevada and rents a room from the widowed Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). Many folks confront Books for various reasons involving his notoriety. However, Books doesn’t plan to die quietly but will go out with a bang.

Wayne surprised critics and audiences with his performance, as many folks previously believed that he simply played himself in all of his roles. However, he wouldn’t ultimately earn an Oscar nomination for his role.

Wayne earned his first two Oscar nominations for Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, it wouldn’t be until 1969’s True Grit that he would finally earn the golden statue. Many of his fans still believe that he deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his final work on The Shootist.

Continue Reading

John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Miserable’ Because of ‘Venomous Remarks’ on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Western genre went through a series of changes over the years. However, John Wayne will always remain one of the most iconic depictions of the Western film genre with performances in big titles, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he didn’t have such an easy time on the set. Wayne had a “miserable” time filming because of John Ford‘s “venomous remarks.”

John Wayne played Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard shouting at assembly

L-R: John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance follows Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) as he returns to a small town for a funeral. The press questions his arrival, but they’re about to hear the story of his connection to a local man named Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The story brings audiences back in town when Tom saved Stoddard from Liberty Valance’s (Lee Marvin) crew of outlaws. However, Stoddard and Tom are the only two willing to stand up to him and his crew.

Wayne’s performance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is iconic. He once again delivers his Western charm along with his repeated use of the line “pilgrim.” As a result, popular culture continues to refer back to the legendary actor’s performance.

John Wayne was ‘miserable’ because of John Ford’s ‘venomous remarks’ on the set

Wayne worked with Ford on many films, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, the filmmaker often targeted Wayne with “venomous remarks,” verbally attacking him. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth detailed some of the comments that Ford made toward the actor, which really made him angry.

“But the most damage Ford did was to the friendship me and Duke Wayne might have had,” co-star Woody Strode said “He kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player, and because I had been a professional player, Ford kept saying to Duke, ‘Look at Woody. He’s a real football player.’”

However, the comments didn’t stop there. Ford brought up Wayne not serving in the military while on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As a result, he praised Stewart’s service. This is a particular weak spot for the actor, who deeply regretted not serving in the military when he had the chance.

Strode continued: “It’s like he’d needle him about whatever reasons he had for not enlisting in the war by asking Jimmy, ‘How many times did you risk your life over Germany, Jimmy?’ And Jimmy would kind of go, ‘Oh, shucks’ or whatever, and Ford would say to Duke, ‘How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?’ … What a miserable film to make.”

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ goes down as one of the best Westerns of all time

Ford never came forward with a specific reason for verbally attacking Wayne on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Perhaps it was to get a better performance out of the actor. However, it clearly left an impact on the cast and crew.

Fortunately, that didn’t negatively impact the finished product. Wayne fans often assert that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the best Western films of all time. It continues to impact filmmaking to this day. The film only earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but it remains a classic that many viewers rewatch.

Continue Reading

John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Ready For a Fight’ With His ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ Co-Star

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Wayne‘s most iconic roles. However, he didn’t have the most enjoyable time behind-the-scenes. Wayne’s frequent collaborator, John Ford, gave him a difficult time. As a result, he was “ready for a fight” with co-star Woody Strode, who once explained the severity of the situation.

John Wayne plays it tough as Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance finds Wayne playing a local man named Tom Doniphon in a small Western town. Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) comes into town for his funeral, which confuses the press. However, the distinguished man tells the story of how Tom helped protect him against a crew of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

Moviegoers embraced Wayne’s signature dialogue delivery. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance includes one of Wayne’s most iconic words: “pilgrim.” He repeatedly calls Stewart’s Stoddard this, which was an insult within the time period. Nevertheless, Tom maintains Western masculinity as shown in both his narrative and the way the actor plays the part. The character is typically accompanied by his handyman, Pompey (Strode)

John Wayne was ‘ready for a fight’ with co-star Woody Strode

Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth chronicles the iconic actor’s career, including his work on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford repeatedly harrassed Wayne on the set with rude remarks that intentionally pushed his buttons. However, the actor took it out on Strode.

“This really pissed Wayne off but he would never take it out on Ford,” Strode said. “He ended up taking it out on me. We had one of the few outdoor scenes where we hightail it out to his ranch in a wagon. He’s driving and I’m kneeling in the back of the wagon. Wayne was riding those horses so fast that he couldn’t get them to stop. I reached up to grab the reins to help, and he swung and knocked me away.”

Strode continued: “When the horses finally stopped, Wayne fell out of the wagon and jumped off ready for a fight. I was in great shape in those days and Wayne was just getting a little too old and a little too out of shape for a fight. But if he’d started on me, I would have flattened him. Ford knew it, and he called out, ‘Woody, don’t hit him. We need him.’”

However, Wayne ultimately calmed down to allow them to continue filming. Nevertheless, Strode felt that “miserable” tension on the set as a result of Ford’s behavior.

“Wayne calmed down, and I don’t think it was because he was afraid of me,” Strode recalled. “Ford gave us a few hours’ break to cool off. Later Wayne said to me, ‘We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals.’ But I blame Ford for all that trouble. He rode Wayne so hard, I thought he was going to go over the edge. What a miserable film to make.”

James Stewart has top billing on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ultimately gives Stewart top billing over Wayne in all of the promotional materials. However, the film itself and the theatre marquees place Wayne’s name above his co-star. Some audiences contemplate which role is truly the main character of the story, as they both experience hardship and change.

However, neither actor would get an Oscar nomination for their performances in one of the greatest Western movies ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only earned a nomination for Best Costume Design, although it lost to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Nevertheless, the movie remains a vital part of cinema history.

Continue Reading