Posted:  July 16, 2014

John Wayne: The Life and LegendJohn Wayne was one of Hollywood’s most famous and most successful actors, but he was more than that. He became a symbol of America itself. He epitomized the Western film, which for many people epitomized America. He identified with conservative political causes from the early 1930s to his death in 1979, making him a hero to one generation of Americans and a villain to another. But unlike fellow actor Ronald Reagan, Wayne had no interest in politics as a career. Like many stars, he altered his life story, claiming to have become an actor almost by accident when in fact he had studied drama and aspired to act for most of his youth. He married three times, all to Latina women, and conducted a lengthy affair with Marlene Dietrich, as unlikely a romantic partner as one could imagine for the Duke. Wayne projected dignity, integrity, and strength in all his films, even when his characters were flawed, and whatever character he played was always prepared to confront injustice in his own way. More than thirty years after his death, he remains the standard by which male stars are judged and an actor whose morally unambiguous films continue to attract sizeable audiences.

Scott Eyman interviewed Wayne, as well as many family members, and he has drawn on previously unpublished reminiscences from friends and associates of the Duke in this biography, as well as documents from his production company that shed light on Wayne’s business affairs. He traces Wayne from his childhood to his stardom in Stagecoach and dozens of films after that. Eyman perceptively analyzes Wayne’s relationship with John Ford, the director with whom he’s most associated and who made some of Wayne’s greatest films, among them She Wore a Yellow RibbonThe Quiet Man, and The Searchers. His evaluation of Wayne himself is shrewd: a skilled actor who was reluctant to step outside his comfort zone. Wayne was self-aware; he once said, “I’ve played the kind of man I’d like to have been.” It’s that man and the real John Wayne who are brilliantly profiled in Scott Eyman’s insightful biography of a true American legend.

This book goes into every part of John Wayne’s life. From his parents and their moving to Palmdale CA. to him starting high school and meeting the girl who become the first Mrs. John Wayne. Josie they called her lived in Pasadena and was the daughter of a doctor they would have three children. They married after his football carrier ended at U.S.C. and he lost his scholarship the following year. By then he was just starting to work a little in movies. It would be a few more years before Stagecoach would be made and he would become a star. After a few more pictures and the third child was born he was living out of the house and their marriage for the most part was over. It would still be years before she would give him a divorce, she was a practicing catholic and she did not remarry until he passed. His next wife none of his friends wanted him to marry, she could drink and play poker with any man and usually win. This marriage did not last very long and they did not have any children. She actually made a mistake by taking him to court to try to get more money from him than what he first offered her, some oil leases, and a home, monthly payments. The judge gave her a home in Mexico they owned and alimony for a couple of years. She had a bad attorney. During this time he was still making movies sometimes three a year. He had this idea of never being out of the public’s eye. He started his own company called Batjac, which started sooner than I even thought it did because Angel and the Badman was one of the first movies produced by his company. Also found out that the Fighting Kentuckian was made earlier than I thought. I always liked that movie. Also goes into how he gave up some of his % for certain movies to be made and still RKO did not want to work with him or Ford which was part of the reason for their demise. From early on in his career Wayne wanted to do the Alamo and it would not be done until the 60s and with production costs and everything else the movie did not even break even. But the author shows you how a small company like Batjac is making money but needs one of the bigger companies for marketing and distributing especially worldwide and how they can come up with creative financing to make it look like the movie lost money. After Wayne divorced his second wife he married his third wife Pillar, they would have three children with her. She was an actress from Peru and a daughter of a Diplomat, she was 25 years younger than Wayne. They would never divorce which for some reason I thought they did, but after a certain age they were not living together any more. Some things I thought were interesting was that the night the movie Hondo premiered they went to a restaurant afterwards and Wayne was overheard saying when Mike Wayne was escorting his mother into the restaurant (Josephine, Wayne’s 1st wife)”That’s the finest women I’ve ever known”. He would never forgive himself for blundering into divorce and she always loved him as well. Even after he passed away he still gave her 3,000 a month for the rest of her life. This book has a lot of information to much to put in a review. I thought this was a great book into life of an actor who a lot of us grew up watching and I still enjoy his movies. A very good book. I got this book from net galley.

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