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John Wayne, 'feeling great,' comes home

John Wayne, ‘feeling great,’ comes home

April 27, 1978:  Actor John Wayne chats with the media after arriving at Orange County Airport after a flight from Boston, where doctors replaced a heart valve.

Times staff writer Steve Emmons reported the next morning:

Actor John Wayne, who a little more than three weeks ago had a heart valve replaced in a Boston hospital, flew home to Newport Beach Thursday and told waiting reporters he was “feeling great.”

Wayne, looking drawn and moving slowly, chatted with the crowd of reporters and photographers for about 10 minutes before being driven to his oceanfront home. He said he would rest for a few days, then start work on a script.

He said he would continue his movie career. “Hell, I feel great,” he said. “What do I want to slow down for?”

Wayne quietly checked into Massachusetts General Hospital March 29, using his actual name, Marion Morrison. On April 3, a team of heart surgeons replaced his mitral valve with one from a pig’s heart.

Wayne, who lost part of one lung to cancer in 1964, died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979. Orange County Airport was renamed John Wayne Airport.

A different photo by former Times staff photographer Steve Rice was published on April 28, 1978, with Emmons’ article. This photo was published in the Times on June 10, 1988.


  1. September 23, 2011, 8:06 am

    i wish our heros would take better care of themselves

    By: jimp
  2. September 23, 2011, 11:49 am

    Wow. Its not every day that you make the front page of the LA Times, although I was not too pleased with the way the photo was cropped (I am kneeling in front of the pack of reporters, near Mr. Waynes right hand). This was a huge media gathering, for the time, since cable news was just coming on, and paparazzi were not the force they are today. As a young reporter for KABC-TV, I opened the stations Orange County Bureau, and covered Mr. Wayne on several occasions near the end of his life. He was always gracious, especially when he found out I was a neighbor of his in Newport Beach. Although I had covered all of the living presidents and various heads of state, he was one of the few men I would consider larger than life.

    By: Jim Ryerson
  3. September 23, 2011, 12:46 pm

    Salute to the MAN… and The Legend !!

    By: abledesk
  4. September 23, 2011, 12:50 pm

    Salute to the MAN

    By: abledesk
  5. September 24, 2011, 11:21 am

    […] …Continue reading From The Archives: John Wayne, ‘feeling great,’ comes home […]

  6. November 7, 2016, 10:09 am

    I'm the girl standing in the middle. I'd only been a reporter for the Fullerton News-Tribune for a few months at that point. My first big assignment!

    By: Julia_N

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