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.”