Hidden Hollywood: John Wayne, The Thief and The Taxi Driver

John Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder, 1965

On September 17, 1964 Dr. John Jones at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles sliced into John Wayne’s body, performing surgery on a malignant tumor in the legendary actor’s left lung. The tumor was large, the size of a chicken egg. Jones removed the entire upper lobe of the left lung. The surgery took six hours.

Wayne slowly recovered. Despite Edema and depression, John Wayne summoned the strength to do a half hour national TV show promoting presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

Wayne was slated to star in The Sons of Katie Elder, a Hal Wallis production. Paramount wanted to replace Wayne with Robert Mitchum, but Wallis stuck by Wayne. Production was postponed until Wayne was strong enough to go before the cameras.

Finally, in January, Wayne was ready to travel to Mexico where the film was shooting.

From Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend:

On January 3, just a few days before Wayne left for Durango, a burglar broke into the house in Encino. he had taken a cab to the estate before he broke in. Wayne grabbed a loaded .45 and chased the robber out of the house, but then he couldn’t find him. When the police arrived, they found the thief hiding by the basement door. As they were leading him away, the incompetent crook asked Wayne for a favor: would he pay the taxi driver? Wayne told the police to wait, got a $20 bill and gave it to the thief, who gave it to the taxi driver.

Said Wayne: “I felt sorry for the cabbie. The poor bastard’s working the night shift and I thought he might have to cough up the fare himself. Anyway, maybe the whole thing’s symbolic. We’ve decided to sell the house and get out of this sh**hole of a Los Angeles.”

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4 Comments

  1. Barry
    Posted August 24, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    That someone could object to this informed and informative anecdote just means another moron has been heard from.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Bill Brandt
    Posted August 24, 2017 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Interesting story!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted August 24, 2017 at 2:55 am | Permalink

      John Wayne was villified by the left. This little story demonstrates what a decent man he was.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Michael Kennedy
    Posted August 23, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    As a medical student at SC we used to do routine history and physical exams on pre-op patients. One of my classmates did the pre-op H&P on Wayne when he had that surgery. I always thought Burt Meyer did the surgery but Johnnie Jones was still practicing then so it might have been him. Burt did Humphrey Bogart’s esophagus surgery and swore he would never operate on another one since Bogart’s was so small. He said if he couldn’t cure that one, he couldn’t cure any. Jones was an amazing character. He had done the second patent ductus surgery about a week after Gross did the first in Boston but nobody ever heard of Jones outside of LA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

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