you’re a movie fan, you probably have a book shelf at least partly filled with
books about John Wayne, but I doubt any of those books reveal a more complete
story of The Duke than author Scott Eyman’s “John Wayne: The Life and Legend.”
author of acclaimed biographies on Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer and John
Ford, Eyman was reluctant to write a bio of John Wayne. “After spending six
years on John Ford, the last thing I wanted to do was saddle up and head back
to Monument Valley, either metaphorically or geographically. Ten years and two
books later, it seamed like a much better idea.” He knew the Duke, “… slightly,
but until I invested four years in research I couldn’t claim any special
insights into the man other than witnessing his good humor, his courtesy, his
first met Wayne, “… in August 1972. He was not merely big, he was huge, with
hands that could span home plate–the largest hands I have ever seen on a human
being.” A man with “… a surprising graciousness of manner and a quiet way of
speaking.” He further described the Duke, “… a good-sized man could stand behind
him and never be seen.” Duke was larger than life and a man known to family and
friends for speaking intelligently on almost any topic.
book is as much a joy to read as it is re-watching John Wayne’s movies. It’s
the origin story of a self-made man who became John Wayne. Movies were as
important to him as his family and his friends and this book lives and breathes
The Duke. It includes tales from his childhood, his collage years, his start in
Hollywood, lifelong friends, his first big break and the wilderness years that
followed; a decade of forgettable “B” movies which served as his acting school
and which defined his work ethic until the end of his life.
Wayne in the 1970 Western "Chisum"
the Duke’s origins were indeed humble, he became a man obsessively protective
of his on-screen image and box office status as a screen icon while at the same
time being known for his outspoken political views and his sometimes oblivious
nature of the changing world around him. He was both Duke Morrison the private
citizen, and John Wayne the movie star. While there are many great actors, most
are defined by one or two truly great movies. John Wayne fans and cinema
scholars alike can easily name more than a dozen John Wayne movies that are commonly
regarded as genuine cinema classics.
takes the time to explain the complicated nature of John Wayne’s politics
without being an apologist. Wayne’s political views evolved from his early years
and defined him almost as much as his movies. Eyman does an outstanding job explaining
and clarifying Wayne’s personal philosophy with anecdotes from family, friends
and colleagues; many of whom disagreed with the Duke’s politics, but the common
thread throughout the book is that almost everyone who knew him, even if they
disagreed with him, liked him and respected him. He would listen to people and
allowed them to say what was on their mind. Even in disagreement there could be
friendship. Likewise, fans love his movies regardless of their politics or his.
tells the John Wayne Story with honesty and sincerity and doesn’t hold back or
sugar coat topics ranging from infidelity, the Hollywood blacklist and charges
of racism to anger on the set, poor financial management and being out of touch
with the times. It’s as much the story of John Wayne movies and his movie image
as it is the story of his family, friends and the beliefs which defined The
Duke as a unique genre in American cinema history.
definitive biography of John Wayne chronicles the major hits and flops of his
screen career and includes the personal recollections of those who knew him. At
a hefty 658 pages, the book reads at a leisurely pace and takes its time just like
some of the Duke’s movies. The book contains an 80 page section devoted to
citations, a generous bibliography and a comprehensive index. This book is the
essential read for every John Wayne fan.
addition to the aforementioned Hollywood biographies, Scott Eyman contributed
the informative and entertaining audio commentary for the out-of-print 2006
Warner Bros. DVD release of “Stagecoach.” He also wrote the short documentary,
“Stagecoach: A Story of Redemption,” also available on that disc.