John Wayne is one of the U.S.'s most famous Hollywood stars, having headlined classics like All the King's Men and True Grit before his death on June 11, 1979, at age 72. A box office draw throughout his career, Wayne had possibly the longest and most successful career of any actor in film, having starred in 120 features, one series titled The Mesquiteers, and directing two of his own.
When he died in 1979, Wayne reportedly had a net worth of about $7 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, which adjusted for 2020's inflation would be about $25 million. Today, his net worth is listed at $50 million, doubling after more than forty years. The Academy Award-winning actor whose hits also include The Big Trail, Stagecoach and The Searchers, had hs assets listed at the time of his death as $1 million in real estate, which he owned in Arizona, Newport Harbor and on the Puget Sound in Washington, and around $6 million in personal assets/investments. At the time, he was earning about $100,000 a year in passive income from investments and royalties, which accounts about about $350,000 in today's dollars.
His death in 1979 came after 15 years battling cancer on and off. Wayne had consented to start chemotherapy and experimental treatment at UCLA Medical Center, but doctors said in a statement at the time to Variety that he never was made strong enough to begin treatment. The actor's last public appearance was at the 1979 Academy Awards ceremony, during which he answered a rousing ovation with, "That’s just about the only medicine a fellow would ever need."
Wayne never paid much mind to award ceremonies, telling Roger Ebert ahead of his Best Actor win for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit at the 42nd Academy Awards, "Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance. I’d be pleased to win one, of course, although I imagine these things mean more to the public than to us. There are a lot of old standbys who don’t have one. That comedian… what the hell is his name? Gary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business." Wayne would go on to win the Oscar, of course, beating out four major names in film in the process — Richard Burton for Anne of the Thousand Days, Peter O’Toole for Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight for their roles in Midnight Cowboy.