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JOHN WAYNE: AMERICAN Hardcover – September 11, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Despite its rather defiant title and a prolog that asks why "critics and historians [have] refused to grant Wayne his deserved spot in the pantheon of Hollywood greats," this is a remarkably nonpartisan biography. The authors, both professors, are neither adept analyzers of the Wayne canon nor stylish writers, but their work's importance lies in its thorough research. Many personal papers and oral histories not available to, or used by, previous Wayne biographers were consulted. Especially revealing are the stories detailing how a man who was a top box-office attraction for nearly a quarter century let several fortunes slip through his fingers by trusting unscrupulous or incompetent managers. This thorough look at one of this country's enduring stars is recommended for all film collections.?Thomas Wiener, editor, "Satelite
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Although John Wayne is arguably the most popular actor in history--he ranked among the top 10 box-office attractions for 25 consecutive years--he's been relatively neglected by film scholars. Prefatorily, Roberts and Olson grind the ax that Wayne has been marginalized by pop-culture elitists because of his political conservatism, which, as they point out, was always "outspoken but nonideological." Yet they provide a balanced, thoroughly researched portrait that traces his career from a lengthy apprenticeship in countless western potboilers through the wartime films that established his character as an American ideal to the later ones that played upon his real-life status as a proud but anachronistic icon. They're particularly insightful about the development of Wayne's distinctive acting style--the halting cadence of his speech, his distinctive walk, and other studied mannerisms. Wayne's movies remain hugely popular 15 years after his death, and indeed, he starred in some of Hollywood's finest films, as those pop-culture elitists will attest; still, this is the first substantive, serious biography of him and, as such, fills a big gap. Gordon Flagg

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 29th edition (September 11, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029238374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029238370
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write books that I would like to read, stories about sports and film icons who had an impact on American history. People like John Wayne, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali. My most recent book, "Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X" combines my interests in sports, politics, and race. It looks at two men, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, and how they changed the sports and political landscape in America.

Previously I published books that have explored the role that college football players and coaches have played during times of national crisis. In 2013, I published "Rising Tide: Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, and Dixie's Last Quarter" (co-authored with Ed Krzemienski). It details the relationship between Bear Bryant and Joe Namath during the early 1960s, a time of Civil Rights struggles, a violent backlash, and the emergence of Alabama as the finest football team in the nation. It features two iconic personalities fighting for victories on the field and their careers off the field.

In 2011 I published "A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game That Rallied a Nation." It's the story of a West Point football team during World War II, striving to win a national championship before they shipped off to the battle front. It was their last chance to be boys before the nation demanded that they be men. During the months between D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge the team gave the millions of American soldiers around the world something to celebrate. After their last game General Douglas MacArthur wired Coach Red Blaik, "THE GREATEST OF ALL ARMY TEAMS. WE HAVE STOPPED THE WAR TO CELEBRATE YOUR MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've read a lot of biographies and without a doubt, this was the most enjoyable one I've ever read. The authors did an outstanding job of melding the Duke's personal and professional life together into an easy-to-read, chronological breakdown of what many Americans - including me - consider to be one of the greatest Americans ever.
Since I was a kid watching John Wayne movies with my dad, I wanted to know more about the man behind the walkin and talkin and this book really filled in all the blanks. The best part about this book was that Duke turned out to be everything I wanted him to be. He was flawed... he was a womanizer and a bit of a drinker and he probably didn't make the best decision when it came time to fight in WWII. But, one thing is for sure. The man was not a coward and he was a patriotic and moral soul that struggled with his own demons just like the rest of us, but truly always sought to do the right thing.
The authors did an outstanding job of pointing out when the Duke may have made a mistake or had a lapse in judgement because the guy was human. But, they also documented some of the times when the Duke stood up for what he believed in, like when he stood up for U.S. soldiers repeatedly during the Vietnam war.
I had this image of who John Wayne was in my mind. He was a flawed giant that believed in a chilvarous code to country, family and God and that is exactly the image that was portrayed in this book.
Wonderfully written book that is really worth your time...!!
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Format: Hardcover
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 authors of this book tell you everything you need to know to understand & appreciate John Wayne the way I & millions the world over do.
This meticulously researched, & well thought out story of the life of DUKE is a must. From his childhood to his college years, from his first job in Hollywood thru the incredible career he led as an actor, from one marriage to the next & his political views & activism all the way thru to his battle with the Big C this book is a gold mine.
An added plus are the extensive notes & bibliography sections & a complete chronological Filmography.
You will never look at John Wayne, the actor & the man, in the same way ever again.
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Format: Paperback
Olson and Roberts, take the myth of John Wayne and place it (him) into the proper historical context and create a vivid, complete, fascinating and ultimately revealing portrait of one of film's most famous and enduring stars.
John Wayne: American, is not only about Marion Micheal Morrison, the gangly Iowa kid who grew up to become an Icon, but also about the American myth machine. Olson and Roberts include intriguing insights into the Hollywood dream factories, politics and the craft of acting.
Wayne comes off here as a suprisingly complex man who not only proved to be a fine actor but an astute business man who willingly allowed himself to be co-opted as a profitable commodity by not only the Hollywood system but by the political arena as well as the American cult of personality. Whether for well or ill, Wayne came to rdefine not only entire generations of men but also a national identity as well.
The book does honestly deal with the fact that Wayne cocooned himself within the sanctity of the manufactured image and took great pains to maintain that carefully constructed product. But what a product it was.
Olson and Roberts are reverant to their subject while managing to lend the critical eye a terrible aspect. This book is refreshing in its honesty. Admirable for its respectful treatment. And thoroughly entertaining and enlightening in its detail. Watch Wayne's films and enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Wayne (1907-1979) was a man of more complexity than many folks would suppose. Consider:

1. He portrayed macho cowboys and military leaders in the movies but never served in World War II (which caused him a good deal of guilt in later years.)

2. He was an advocate for strong family life (including strong

male bonding with his friends) but was wed three times and

had several affairs.

3. He enjoyed drink, good food and profane activities with his buddies Ward Bond and director John Ford but was noted for his

strong he-man appearance (he was 6'4' tall and at one time weighed over 260 pounds.)

4. He was at one time a member of the John Birch Society and

supported the right wing during the McCarthy era but could also

express individuality in politics (he supported LBJ and was a

friend of Jimmy Carter). He resigned from the Birchers and was

a man who valued America freedom. He was constantly having money troubles with the IRS and disdained (loathed!) big government.

5. He believed in God but did not become a member of an organized religion until converting to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed),

6. He was a good but often absent father to his seven children.

7. He was well read and memorized his lines quickly.

8. He was an excellent actor who finally won his Best Actor Oscar for "True Grit."

Randy Roberts and James Olson have told "Duke's story from

his life in middle class Iowa and Glendale (his parents despised one another and later divorced)to football player at USC to work

in the movies.
Read more ›
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