John Wayne : The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman
When it comes to John Wayne, I’ll pretty much read or watch anything. It’s been a number of years since I recall a fully fleshed out biography turn up on the man the world affectionately knows as Duke.
Writer Scott Eyman is well suited to putting forth this Wayne bio. He had previously given us the John Ford book titled Print the Legend. Anyone who has any respect for the history of films should be able to make the Ford-Wayne connection without me going into it.
Even though I’ve heard the Duke’s story repeatedly over the years in different formats, I never tire of another presentation of his life. To put it into a film perspective, it’s like watching a remake. Each version of a film tries to bring something new to a story and this book is no different. It gives us an insight into the product known as John Wayne and how it’s creator Marion Morrison learned to nurture and preserve it for the world at large.
If you love the people/actors Duke surrounded himself with over the years then a book like this is easy to read. You’ll know all the faces that appear in the pages. Pals like Ward Bond, Paul Fix and Harry Carey Jr. Fellow stars of the screen that he crossed paths with like Dietrich, Mitchum and of course Maureen O’Hara.
His association with John Ford plays a central part throughout as one should expect as well as how he handled other directors from Walsh right through to Don Siegel on his last film, The Shootist. The book also focuses on his guilt over the war years and his participation in both politics and the communist hunts that invaded Hollywood.
As a fan I guess I overlook the flaws in Wayne’s character and smile at how those that loved and worked with him reminisce about their own time spent with the man. There’s some fun stories here about his carousing as well as his love of chess and cheating to ensure he beats Chris Mitchum on the set of Big Jake.
If anything the book conveys what we fans want to know most of all. That off screen the Duke was very much like he was on screen. Likable and someone that we’d wished to have known personally who did his best to stand strong and tall.
I’ll have to dig around and see if I can find my cue cards for my speech presentation I had to give in front of my grade 6 elementary school class. The topic? You guessed it. John Wayne. I am not kidding when I say I’ve been a fan for years Pilgrim.