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Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne Paperback – May 15, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anyone seeking the true "heartland" might well veer toward Winterset, Iowa?it is not only the setting for Robert James Waller's The Bridges of Madison County but also the 1907 birthplace of John Wayne. An SMU history professor and the author of several books on film, including a 1995 bio of Wayne's longtime buddy John Ford, Davis follows Wayne's trek to Hollywood from high school in Glendale, Calif., to USC on a football scholarship, and then on to his initial film studio jobs and on through his appearances in more than 150 films between 1928 and 1976. In the 1930s, Wayne made scores of grade-B "horse operas" before Ford cast him in Stagecoach (1939), the film that made him a star and "elevated the screen persona that Wayne had developed over the past decade to the level of popular art." During the past three decades, some two dozen books on Wayne have been published. What moves this entertaining biography to a higher plain is that Davis, as the director of SMU's oral history program on the performing arts for 25 years, was in a singular position to document the memories of Wayne's family, friends and associates. He combined more than 65 interviews with extensive research through books, clipping files, printed interviews, film reviews and magazine articles, in addition to major studio production files, Indiana University's John Ford Collection and the papers of Wayne's agent, Charles K. Feldman. The exhaustive yet readable and entertaining result might explain why the back of this book carries rave blurbs by Janet Leigh and other actors and directors who worked with the Duke. Twenty-seven b&w photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Since his death from cancer nearly 20 years ago, John Wayne continues to be both praised for embodying traditional American ideals and reviled for archconservative bigotry. Davis (history, Southern Methodist Univ.; John Ford: Hollywood's Old Master, Univ. of Oklahoma, 1995) draws heavily on memoirs and oral histories by relatives, friends, and key filmmakers to explore the man behind the legend. What emerges is a sympathetic portrait of a rather ordinary man who was able to parlay his macho, no-baloney acting style into a screen image beloved by legions of fans who could identify with those very qualities of simple honesty and unpretentiousness. Davis's entertaining narrative primarily covers Wayne's personal life and the day-to-day production of his films, and the extensive use of personal recollections and anecdotes adds considerable dimension to his human side. This nicely complements the standard study, Maurice Zolotow's Shooting Star: A Biography of John Wayne (LJ 3/15/74). Recommended for public and academic libraries.?Richard Grefrath, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (May 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806133295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806133294
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,952,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on May 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This biography succeeds in its evenhanded portrayal of John Wayne. No doubt some will criticize it because Davis doesn't spend his time eschewing Wayne's politically incorrect opinions, but neither does the author lionize Wayne the man. What you have left is a concise and readable 400 page biography that covers all the movies and all the wives. Davis gives his opinions as to why the Wayne legend still survives, and what his fellow actors thought of him way back when.
Interesting is the story behind the making of the ALAMO, a film he produced, directed and starred in, the subsequent Oscar campaign, and the aftermath. Also interesting is Wayne's relationship with director John Ford, whom he loved, and their disagreements.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James W. Stapleton on October 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Author Ronald L. Davis has given us a very informative, easy to read biography of a surprisingly complex, some would say tortured soul. All the highlights are there, Duke's less than perfect childhood, his early days as a prop man for Fox Film, Duke's first big movie made in 1930, "The Big Trail", a critical success but box office failure. Then the hungry decade where Wayne honed his skills and waited for his "time" to come.

It came in 1939 when John Ford chose Duke to star in the ground breaking "Stage Coach". Wayne and Ford then had more than 25 years of hit movies, all these classics The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The cavalry trilogy etc. are mentioned in the book.

Author Davis does not forget to explore Duke's three marriages, his loving but sometimes stormy relationships with his seven children and several high-profile affairs, particularly one with Marlene Dietrich that lasted for over three years.

Wayne's last decade is also fully explored, his Oscar winning role in True Grit, the poignant last movie, The Shootist, where his characters' struggle with cancer reflected his real life situation.

Fully recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kiril G. Kundurazieff on August 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
His friends & fans simply call him Duke.

More than 20 yrs. after his death he is still coming in 1st or 2nd in polls askings Americans who their favorite actor is.

Why is this?

Come on, he's dead already!

Beginning in 1930 with THE BIG TRAIL & ending in 1976 with THE SHOOTIST, DUKE has been bigger than life, a symbol to the world of the ruggedness, tough independence, personal conviction, & courage that make up the American character.

I love him not just because he was a great actor, but because he played roles that showed us an America to be proud of. He was the type of guy you wouldn't mind sitting with in a bar for a few drinks &, definitely, you'd love him at your back in a fight!

The author of this book will help you understand & appreciate John Wayne the way I & millions the world over do.

You will never look at John Wayne, the actor & the man, in the same way ever again.

He is my favorite American Actor of all time, and, before I sold the collection a couple of years ago, I owned nearly all his films on Video.

Not the best book out there, but still informative.
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By JT on September 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
This books does a nice job covering the life of John Wayne, but as the his 1st family did not cooperate, plus others in his inner circle also did not join in, it leaves many things out. However, he has picked through the pieces and come up with a entertaining book. Where I had problems is that it is filled with errors. Most errors are trivial, like correct cities of movie shoots, characters, etc. I guess that is why I was left with an unsatisfied feeling and can't give it more than 3 stars. Plus the author spends too much time on unnecessary matters like the creation of 'corn doggers' for True Grit--who cares. A lot has happen since he wrote this book, death of his children, ex-wife and lovers. Bottom line, a good read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Overall inaccurate portrait of someone who was really a pretty good guy. Since reading this shortly after it came out I have seen more evidence that this biography gave a distorted picture. If your going to read a number of bio's on Wayne go ahead and read this but there are better efforts out there.
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