Reviews for John Wayne: The Life And Legend

by Scott Eyman

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Still larger than life years after his death, John Wayne elevated the western to a new level and created a legendary screen persona defined by honesty, courage, and character. Drawing deeply on interviews with family and friends, acclaimed biographer Eyman (Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford) colorfully chronicles Wayne's life and work from his birth in Winterset, Iowa-where Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in 1907-and his childhood and youth in Glendale, Calif., to his college days at USC, where he was a football standout until an injury sidelined him, and his slow rise to stardom, his marriages, and his enduring screen presence. According to Eyman, Wayne's role in Ford's Stagecoach launched his career, for though he had already appeared in 80 movies, Wayne "leaps off the screen" and Ford is telling us that "this man warrants our attention in a way that transcends the immediate narrative of the movie." In this compulsively readable biography, Eyman examines closely Wayne's major films, from The Searchers and The Shootist to Sands of Iwo Jima and True Grit to depict the actor who "came to symbolize the American man throughout the world, whether he was wearing a soldier suit or a cowboy hat." (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This is a fine biography of two men: Marion Duke Morrison, the jock who wound up working on a movie lot and eventually stepped hesitantly in front of the camera, and John Wayne, Morrison's alter ego, the movie star who bore only a passing resemblance to Morrison himself. A studio chief gave Morrison, then a young, mostly unknown actor, his new name, and over the next several decades, Morrison built a persona around it; but, as the author points out, he never legally changed his name, never really thought of himself as John Wayne. Eyman tracks Morrison's life and Wayne's career, showing how one impacted the other (Morrison became a better actor as he became comfortable with the Wayne mannerisms and performance style). The book nicely balances the personal and the professional and offers us an opportunity to get to know the man who stood, not in John Wayne's shadow (not that, by any means) but sort of beside him. A fine show-biz biography, delivering what fans want about the star's career but probing with uncommon depth into his personality.--Pitt, David Copyright 2014 Booklist

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

The widely respected author of biographies of Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, John Ford, and Ernst Lubitsch in addition to books on Hollywood film history, Eyman has produced an authoritative and inspiring biography of Wayne, revealing a magnificent man and movie star for all his flaws and failures. Eyman interviewed Wayne years ago and also has had access to many of the star's closest friends, associates, and fellow actors. Eyman's Wayne is a far a more literate, considerate, and talented figure than previous biographers have depicted. Though he does not balk at exploring Wayne's right-wing politics, he notes Wayne's independence when he broke ranks with conservatives who opposed returning the Panama Canal to the Panamanians. Wayne had a special fondness for Mexico and Latin Americans, which is revealed in his choice of wives and in location shooting for some of his films. Eyman shows that as a star Wayne was prone to picking vehicles that made him look good instead of good pictures that would have stretched his talent. Wayne's courage near the end of his life in dealing with his cancer is memorably portrayed. The volume includes several pages of bibliographical reference. --Carl Rollyson, Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY