Old Hollywood is full of interesting trivia like unexpected friendships between some of its most notable leading stars. But perhaps one of the most surprising was the relationship forged between Lucille Ball and The Duke. That's right! Lucy and John Wayne were actually good friends throughout their respective careers...the queen of comedy and the king of the Wild West coming together in the duo we never knew we needed to see.
It's speculated that the two actors first met through Maureen O'Hara. The actress had previously been Lucy's roommate and had become good friends with Wayne after they appeared in multiple John Ford westerns together. It is also widely believed that O'Hara and Wayne had a longstanding affair...it seems to be common knowledge in Hollywood but has yet to be confirmed. Regardless, O'Hara's friends Lucy and Wayne formed their own friendship that seemed to stand the test of time over the years. The beloved actor even appeared on two of Lucy's shows.
Any longtime fan of The Duke most likely remembers him as a serious, no-nonsense cowboy, since that's what he did best. He did win an Oscar for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit after all. So seeing him in a sitcom opposite Lucy, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz), and William Frawley (Fred Mertz) is a completely unexpected and entertaining delight. It makes more sense knowing he showed up for his pal Lucy because knowing Wayne, he would definitely need an incentive to guest star on a series like I Love Lucy.
In "Lucy and John Wayne," season 5 episode 2, Lucy Ricardo and her friend Ethel get into trouble after stealing John Wayne's footprints from Grauman's Chinese Theater. In the previous episode, "Lucy Visits Grauman's," the two of them had realized that his footprints were loose during their visit to Los Angeles and after prying them loose, took them back to their hotel room as a Hollywood souvenir. In the second episode, Ricky Ricardo has to convince the movie star to make a new set of footprints after his get broken before they can return them. It's a classic "Lucy gets into trouble" storyline but also hilarious watching Wayne play a fictionalized version of himself.
Wayne made a second appearance but this time on Lucy's later CBS TV show, The Lucy Show. Lucy meets John Wayne in season 5 episode 10, also titled "Lucy and John Wayne." She runs into the actor at a restaurant, hilariously dressed like one of his cowboy characters from his popular films. After spilling ketchup all over him, Lucy goes to his set and ends up causing some serious havoc. That's classic Lucy for ya!