Marion Robert Morrison, AKA John Wayne (1907-1979), was a huge movie star, and alongside Clint Eastwood, is most associated with the Western genre of movies!
There is no denying that John Wayne was a tall man. He sometimes looked huge compared to his co-stars, and for his era, he was certainly one of the tallest celebrities out there!
But how tall exactly was he in his prime years, and did he lose height in his later years? Well, there is a plentiful amount of info out there to dive into to answer this question! So, let's get into this and find out...
So What Was His Real height?
After investigating John Wayne's height claim, what others have said about his height, and comparing him next to other celebs of his era, I believe that in his younger years he stood at 6'3.5" and in his later years, he lost a fair amount of height, standing at 6'2.5".
Therefore on this page, I will list his peak height as 6'3.5" (191.8 cm).
In an interview with Phil Donahue in 1976, the discussion of John Wayne's height comes up - click here from 1:26
Phil asks the audience: "I really didn't expect him to be that big, did you"
Phil to John: "you're 6'2"?
John to Phil: "6'4".
John was 68/69 in this interview and was definitely not 6'4" tall here, which explains Phil's 6'2" guess, as I do believe John lost a significant amount of height by his later years. However, John's height may not have been measured in years, and in this interview he was clearly stating his prime height, which was very close to 6'4".
What Others Say
In the book The Life and Legend, regarding John Wayne, it states that "he had another growth spurt in high school and by graduation weighed 170 and had assumed his height as six feet and three and three quarter inches". (1)
In the book John Wayne: My Father, in reference to John's wife Pilar, his daughter states that "she stood at five feet three inches" and that Wayne was "a grizzly bear of a man, six feet four and 230 pounds". (2)
Some celebrities are often accused of wearing lifts in their shoes to appear taller, and John Wayne is a prime suspect.
One example of this is from Robert Mitchum, who was a big man himself at 6 feet tall, stated that:
From IMDb quotes - "John Wayne had four-inch lifts in his shoes. He had the overheads on his boat accommodated to fit him. He had a special roof put in his station wagon." and "The son-of-a-bitch, they probably buried him in his goddamn lifts". (3)
The subject of John wearing lifts once came up in conversation, and in defense John said:
"I've often heard people accuse me of being shorter than I am and trying to look bigger by having big heels on my boots." He then explained that this was because he was shooting Western dramas, saying "Cowboys had big heels".
Then, in relation to his current movie role, he explained that: "But this picture [Brannigan] isn't a cowboy picture" and "look at my shoes, do you see any lifts?" I said I didn't" (4).
What to Believe?
John would sometimes appear considerably taller when wearing his Cowboy boots than without. His height also fluctuates more so than other celebs I analyzed, so there may be some truth to the claims that he wore lifts in his boots.
Yet, I also believe there is some truth to John's viewpoint. He would have been wearing large Cowboy heels most of the time given he starred in so many Western-based movies throughout his career, making him appear an inch taller than when wearing regular shoes, which would make him appear larger than life when compared to most people.
So, on the one hand John's lift wearing in his Cowboy boots could have been true, or on the other hand, it could have been a false rumor that was spread around Hollywood by one of his foes.
Regarding a military application for World War 2, and the book The Life and Legend, states that" he had also assumed his full height of "six feet three and three quarter inches". (1)
John Wayne's driver's license expiring in 1981 had his height listed at 6'4" and weight as 240 pounds. As driver's licenses are mostly self-reported measurements, this falls in line with John's height claim.
In contrast to Sean Connery, John had unusually small feet for his height.
Katharine Hepburn once said that John had "A pair of small sensitive feet. Carrying his huge frame as though it were a feather". (5)
She was not wrong, and John Wayne's feet were unusually small for his height. There are even ideas that his foot size accounted for his unique, broad walk!
To further back this idea, In 1950, John Wayne placed his footprints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, Upon closer inspection, they were of a size 6 male shoe, which is 7 sizes smaller than the average size 11 of a man of his height!
Compared to Celebs in Early Years (Before aged 50)
James Arness 6'6.5" (199.4 cm)
Starring together in the films Big Jim McLain (1952), and the TV series Gunsmoke (1953-75), in earlier years there are multiple shots of them standing side-by-side. The interesting thing is that Arness looks a comfortable 3 inches taller than Wayne throughout the majority of clips and pics.
This puts Wayne's height at 6'3.5" when compared to Arness.
Maureen O'Hara 5'75" (172.1 cm)
Starring together in films such as Rio Grande (1950), and The Quiet Man (1952) they are regularly on the screen next to each other. Maureen appears to be around 8 inches shorter than John in both films. I have also looked at pics of them together outside of film, and there is a similar difference.
So when compared to Maureen, this puts Wayne's height at around 6'3.75" tall.
Compared to Other Celebs in Later Years (After Aged 50)
As we age, we lose around 1cm of height each decade after the age of 40, due to spinal disc shrinkage. I believe John lost a fair amount of height, as he had several health troubles in his later years, and being a taller man with a longer spine there was more chance of height shrinkage.
Rock Hudson 6'4.5" (194.3 cm)
By the time The Undefeated (1969) was filmed, Rock stood around 6'4.5" tall. John was in his early 60s here, and when standing next to Rock, and taking into consideration John's clear footwear advantage, there appears to be a 1.75 inch difference between them in height.
So when compared to Rock, John looks to be 6'2.75" tall.
James Stewart 6'3" (190.5 cm)
Although they appeared at a similar height in earlier films such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1953), in later years, when starring together in films such as The Shootest (1976) Wayne was 69 years old, and looked shorter than Stewart, by around 1 inch.
So, in his last ever movie and standing next to Stewart in later years, John looks to be 6'2" tall.
When next to celebs in earlier years, John appears to be 6'3.5-6'3.75" tall, and in later years he appears between 6'2" and 6'2.75" tall.
The Bottom line
In earlier years, I believe that John Wayne's daytime height was 6'3.5". In later years, however, he lost an inch of height, standing closet to 6'2.5".
Therefore on this page I will list his peak height as 6'3.5" (191.8 cm).
Heights Related to John Wayne
- Pilar Palet, Wife (1954-1979), 5'2" (157.5 cm)
- Patrick Wayne, Son, 6'1"(185.4 cm)
- Ethan Wayne, Son, 5'11" (180.3 cm)
- Richard Nixon, John was a Strong Supporter, 5'10.75" (179.7 cm)
- Clint Eastwood, Western Star, 6'3.5" (191.8 cm) Peak
- Lady Gaga, Song 'John Wayne', 5'1" (152.6 cm)
The books below are sourced from archive.org
1: John Wayne: The Life and Legend By Scott Eyman, Page 51, 23
2: John Wayne: My Father By Aissa Wayne with Steve Delsohn, Page 24
4: John Wayne : The Man Behind the Myth By Michael Munn, Page 226