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131 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably The Best Wayne Bio To Date
I read the electronic pre-publication copy of this book compliments of NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are mine.
I initially had no specific expectations about this book. I have read several Wayne bios and assumed that this might be a rehash of the others. To my way of thinking everything worthwhile had been said.
As it turned out, either time...
Published 7 months ago by G.I Gurdjieff

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A John Wayne fan who expected more!
A concise dialogue was the trademark of John Wayne's star quality, but there is nothing concise about Scott Eyman. The bio's bits & pieces about Wayne, his immediate family & his cronies are intriguing. Having said that, I found the book to be quite lengthy, grandiose and meandering about a man who was anything but. Eyman goes into page upon page of detail about the...
Published 4 months ago by beekaytx


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131 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably The Best Wayne Bio To Date, April 3, 2014
This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
I read the electronic pre-publication copy of this book compliments of NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are mine.
I initially had no specific expectations about this book. I have read several Wayne bios and assumed that this might be a rehash of the others. To my way of thinking everything worthwhile had been said.
As it turned out, either time had blurred my recollections or Scott Eyman looked at Wayne with a fresh outlook. This was a very good book. It was broken down in three segments that covered Wayne's early life and career, his flush years as an accepted actor and bonified star, and his later years as an iconic old lion. Eyman diverted from earlier biographers by providing a lot of personal information about Wayne the actor and Wayne's personal insecurities. As Eyman readily points out, Wayne spent a good portion of his life trying to please his mother who summarily rejected him in favor of his brother who was four years his junior. By his mother's standards Wayne was incapable of doing anything right. Wayne also was publicly very low key about how he fell into movies, but he wanted to be successful and also wanted to be authentic. His attempts at getting some coaching regarding his acting are funny but also reflect a man who fought his way from the bottom up.
As for Wayne, he was often a case study in contradictions. He wanted to be a good husband and father, but he ended up coming up short in that area. Sadly, he came to the realization that he let his first marriage slip through his hands and was left with plenty of regret.He got into the movies to make money initially as a prop man and film extra.. While he wasn't a trained actor, he worked hard to learn his craft and render a good performance even when he was the king of the cheap western. When he finally had a chance to appear in better films, he continued to learn. Beyond Eyman's top notch research, this book provides a lot of detailed information about making movies on the cheap. Not surprisingly, once Wayne achieved success he would have gladly forgotten the B movies and the many years he spent making them.
This book also covers Wayne's three marriages, his familial relationships, and his conservative outlook which extended to politics.
It is also rich with a lot of anecdotes by way of family, friends, and Wayne himself. Among the greatest revelation in this book covers Wayne's relationship with Marlene Dietrich. Beyond the three films they made together, they had a sexual relationship that lasted longer than their films together with Dietrich in hot pursuit. It was Dietrich who in many ways put Wayne on the road to financial success and stability by getting Wayne to change management which was a complete game changer for Wayne.
This book does a commendable job when it comes to looking at Wayne's movie performances which evolved over the years and also defines the nature of Wayne's friendships with people like Harry Carey and John Ford. As for myself, this book was a fluid reading experience. This book moved quickly because I was never bored. It maintained its initial momentum throughout.
I found myself in the end having more respect for Wayne the man and Wayne the actor. Had I had the opportunity to meet him I don't necessarily think I would have wormed out of him the secret(s) to his successful run as an actor but I think I would have liked him because he wasn't full of himself and didn't seem to have much of an ego for someone who made it big after years of really working hard.
Well written and exactingly researched, I think this book manages to redefine Wayne for a new generation of fans and adds to his legend.
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63 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Researched and Tremendously Enjoyable, April 1, 2014
This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
When I was young, John Wayne was everywhere. His new movies were in theaters, and his old ones were on television. I remember him primarily as the quintessential cowboy—his most oft-played role—and particularly as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, for which he won the Academy Award. I also remember him as the first big celebrity to announce on television that “I licked the Big C.” And then, oh damn, he died of it anyway…but not for some time. And I read this biography to fill in the gaps, since I actually knew very little.

There are two popular assumptions made about Wayne, I think, that this biography does a thorough job of smacking down in the dirt where they belong. The first is that he was playing himself in those movies, a big, dumb galoot of some sort. In fact, he was very bright and well read. A journalist makes the error of talking to down to him, asking if he is familiar with the work of Eugene O’Neil. Wayne says that he has been to college, and yes, he has read O’Neil.

The second popular notion is that he emerged from nowhere as this enormous star, as some indeed did. Wayne did nothing to suppress such tales; in fact, he liked to pretend, our author says, that he was just doing props work and sort of fell into acting. But nothing could be farther from the truth. He wanted to act very much, and he put up with ten years of very hard work, in dust and heat and all kinds of environments, required to expend immense amounts of physical energy and strength (which he fortunately had). Ford, who most often directed him, was nasty and abusive toward most of the actors with whom he worked, including Wayne, who just took it. There was no stunt so dangerous that if his double was not available, he would not do it. But once he was in a position to do so, he went after the scoundrels in the business that underpaid him or cheated him in percentages that he was supposed to receive, but which they held onto for unconscionably long time periods.

His love life was as awful as his work was excellent. He was married three times, and all turned out badly. Like many people, he was married to his work, and the acting talent and magnetism that drew women toward him turned out to be one of the things that later alienated them. Hey, he was always at work!

I have to say I really enjoyed reading this biography, and I am glad someone put in what had to be an exhaustive amount of research to write it. I can’t imagine anyone doing a finer job.

Having said that, I must caution the reader that this is one long book, and it takes a similar attention span. That’s the joy of a well-researched biography: there’s a lot to put in it. It is well paced, with a zillion fascinating anecdotes, several of which I highlighted and then realized that since this is a galley, I can’t quote from them directly. But that’s all right; if you have the attention span to dive in and immerse yourself, it’s better to find those little treats along the way as you do so.

For the serious reader, highly recommended.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography with an excellent subject, April 26, 2014
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This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
I just finished John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman, and you'll have to forgive me because I'm still a little teared up. Reading the last chapter, detailing the Duke's last eight months, was like reliving the illness and subsequent passing of a close friend. And that is what John Wayne was to his many fans and, thanks to television, dvds and movie retrospectives (there is a John Wayne Film Festival this weekend in Dallas), Wayne continues to be a familiar presence in our lives. I read a lot of entertainment biographies, and I think that this one was one of the best. I read it slowly, because I wanted to savor the story, and it seems to me that Eyman likewise savors the retelling the life of the man who transitioned from Marion Morrison to Duke Morrison and finally to John Wayne.

Early on Eyman points out that many past books or essays on Wayne have had a certain POV. Either the author verges on hero worship or, given Wayne's somewhat controversial politics, the author likes to spend time tearing down Wayne's image. Eyman has been around Hollywood for years, and in fact knew Wayne. He never comes out and says he is more liberal than Wayne, but I got that impression, but I also got the impression that he liked Wayne as a person and that he liked him as the subject of research and writing. (A couple of years ago I read Eyman's bio of Cecil B. DeMille, and in contrast, he either did not really like DeMille the man, or DeMille just plain wasn't as nice as Wayne. Both may be true.)

Two main themes run through the book. Well, maybe three. 1) Wayne wanted to be a good actor, he studied his craft, and while he may have become "John Wayne," he did so after years of dozens of quickie westerns and hanging out around movie studios, learning his lines, working with a dialog coach and discovering how things "worked" on camera. He was not a lazy actor. Regarding what is widely considered one of his best, if not the best performances, Ethan Edwards in The Searchers: "Here, at his best, Wayne is something rare: a fearless actor exposing wildly varied aspects of himself with skill and energy. That so many people persisted in their sneering dismissal of Wayne's acting ability is their shame. Had they no eyes?" I'll stop here, but if you get the book, read the full paragraph on p. 279, with a discussion of Wayne's roles in Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Red River, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and True Grit.

2) Wayne was a die hard conservative, but he put the personal above the political and with a (very) few exceptions, those who knew him on film sets were impressed with his kindness and professionalism. For example, Robert Walker Jr. (aka Charlie X), who hung out with Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper during the Easy Rider years, was a bit wary of Wayne before working with him on The War Wagon. However, "[Wayne] defined the word 'professional.' [And everyone on the set] loved being there and they all respected Duke tremendously and loved him. He was the presence that kept it all together…. John Wayne? I had the pleasure, the honor of working with him." (p. 421)

Yes, there are discussions of some of Wayne's less admirable beliefs and utterances. He was not a perfect man, by any means.

3) Duke loved his father, but his dad's lack of success in business left the son with an insecurity that lasted until the end of his days. He looked for, and found other father figures (John Ford, Harry Carey Sr.), and he also liked the security and community he found working on a film set.

As for his non-work life, yes, there is some information about the three wives and two divorces. Yes, he liked to drink scotch. But by the time I was half way through the book I had decided that an early review had sensationalized some of that. I was more impressed by the picture of a man who adored his seven children. Which brings me to the part of the book where I started crying ----

The Duke's last public appearance was at the 1979 academy awards ceremony, where he presented the academy award for Best Picture. He "insisted" that his youngest daughter Marisa, age 12, buy a new dress. Wayne had promised that he would one day take her to the event, when she was older, but "who knows when I'll be able to take her again. I want her to look like a princess." Wayne loved those kids. And there isn't a moment in the book where the kids or grandkids say anything negative about their dad.

Finally, I read a lot of biographies, and one thing I don't like is when they "end" with the "death" of the subject. That may seem like the best time to end a biography, but I always want to know more. What happened next? Eyman provides a nice epilogue, briefly discussing Wayne's will and his family and finally providing a nice discussion of his legacy.

I just realized I haven't said anything negative about the book, but I'm really having trouble thinking of anything to say. Sometimes I wished more time was spent discussing movies I particularly like, but the book is already over 570 pages of text, and I guess there just wasn't room. Note that I went into the book loving John Wayne on p. 1 and I loved him still on p. 574, and maybe that colors MY POV. An enjoyable read.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Star, the actor, the man, April 3, 2014
I received a free reader's copy of this book through Goodreads.
As one who grew up during the Golden Age of Hollywood, I have always enjoyed reading histories and biographies of movie stars, great and small. Arguably, no star was greater than John Wayne.
However, it was not always apparent that the handsome young man named Marion Morrison would ever be anything better than the failure his father was . The thoroughly researched book that Scott Eyman has written tells the story of how he became John Wayne.
He began "as an awkward, insecure boy " who grew up in an awkward, insecure household , unloved by his mother who doted on his brother, and with a father who tried and failed at every job and failed at every opportunity which came along. That "grinding difficulty and persistent financial humiliation of his childhood and young manhood was sometHing he always sought to escape...." It was, I think a major clue to the way he lived his life.
It was that drive to be somebody, I believe, that underlaid the reason he did not try harder to join up during the war: Wayne worked so hard to achieve respect security and stardom, that he intuited years away from movies would set him back. Wayne never said that, nor did the author, but read the book and see what I mean. It was a decision he always regretted.

Drawing extensively on interviews with "people who knew him when" Eyman relates the years Wayne spent grinding out B movies on Poverty Row, working hard, learning every detail of the craft of making a movie. He made many friends during those years and never forgot them. He learned how to fight for respect and hold on to his determination to make it out to the big movie studios. When the break came, Wayne never stopped looking back, nor did he cease looking for the next picture, even up to the final days. He had to work, for it was work that defined his life.
As the author writes, " first ( Wayne) created the personality ( he wanted to show on and off screen) then he projected it. in the process he became a Star.
It's all here, the successes and failures in both his public and private lives. The book is filled with interview with people who loved him and those with whom Wayne differed politically; with those who were very close to him and those who knew him only briefly; with other professionals who could not stand the idea of working on a set with him- until they did and discovered the warmth and dedication, and pure talent of the man.
He was a big man, sometimes a hard man, always a gentleman who demanded and returned respect. Even at the end of his life, he fought through weakness and pain to appear at the Oscars to present an award. The surge of applause was prolonged and heartfelt. He was a Star, and had earned the respect of his peers.
A great biography, well worth the time spent to read. We will never see his like again.
Note: contains some, but not enough, photos, and I would have like a filmography. Still a five star book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A John Wayne fan who expected more!, June 29, 2014
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A concise dialogue was the trademark of John Wayne's star quality, but there is nothing concise about Scott Eyman. The bio's bits & pieces about Wayne, his immediate family & his cronies are intriguing. Having said that, I found the book to be quite lengthy, grandiose and meandering about a man who was anything but. Eyman goes into page upon page of detail about the workings of the anti-communist movement in Hollywood, about people who were only occasionally in the extreme periphery of Wayne's life & about his varied personal opinions as to Wayne's behaviors. And Eyman opinionates that "The Alamo" [which I love] was too long & dialogue bound!
As a star & a person, Wayne was bigger than life, but this bio is comes off quite dry. I recently read "Pieces of My Heart" co-authored by Eyman and Robert Wagner and I could hardly stop reading it! Maybe because Wagner is still living, that bio was actually about Wagner & it was an involving vital read.
So "John Wayne" is worth reading, but be aware that you may find it to be repetitive, regressive & lethargic reading for at least half of the book. And I am a devoted fan of John Wayne himself!
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reflects a time in American history and a man who perfectly personifies it, April 1, 2014
This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
‘The Life and Legend’ written by Scott Eyman is just released biography of the man who became an icon of a particular time, the personification of Western films and a symbol of a macho American man on whom many women still fantasize – one and only John Wayne.

Marion Mitchell Morrison, better known for his movie name John Wayne, was born at the 20th century beginning, at the right time to become one of the most famous actors of all time, when mainstream movies were still far more than just desire to earn money as quick as possible. And although he later told how he became an actor almost by accident, it seems that he only wanted to draw a little extra attention because he wanted to become actor for most of his young days due to which he decided to study drama.

In addition to becoming a synonym for Western movies in which he fought against injustice and villains showing how man with his courage, integrity and strength can improve the world, Wayne became a symbol of America and the birth of the American dream that his movies celebrated. Since Wayne appeared on the scene he was linked to the conservative right-wing currents and even though he was called out by those with other attitudes he didn’t abandon his political beliefs until the death back in 1979.

Wayne didn’t have any aspiration to become a politician although if he decided differently similar to some of his colleagues he would certainly be successfully due to his popularity. His life story other than the one in the movie world was also very interesting, he sought marital happiness three times, and his romantic affair with Marlene Dietrich is hard to be imagined when we remember unbreakable men he had always acted in his movies.

Scott Eyman managed to make a good overview of Wayne’s life using records of many conversations he had with actor himself, but also with his friends such as Henry Fonda or John Ford, his children and wives, and rest of Wayne’s family. Though I didn’t read any other Wayne’s biographies, Eyman stated he used many previously unpublished documents of people who worked with him or were his friends which both more precisely describe his private and business life.

In my opinion the author well-judged that it’s not necessary to go into detail about every movie that Wayne filmed, while on the other hand at times it seems as Eyman was not at all times equally objective about the events of actor’s life.

Those readers who hope to find in the book some startling discoveries or the incredible truths might be a little disappointed, but still it is a book that in a very good way reflects a time in American history and a man who perfectly personifies it with his cinematic heroes and his personal life.

In this sense, ‘The Life and Legend’ is certainly recommended reading for all fans of the character and work of John Wayne, all those who want to learn lesser known parts of his biography because regardless of his errors we learn about on the book pages, Wayne with his appearance is, and certainly will remain for some time, a benchmark for male actors.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended for film buffs, April 15, 2014
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This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
Finished it in two days; it's that good.

I won't add much to what the other reviewers have already noted. He was an underrated actor and Eyman (who probably is liberal himself) notes that liberals predictably, and wrongly, don't give Duke credit as an actor. There's something to this, as any American who's ever received a "John Wayne" lecture from a European would know. A genuine lover of film - no matter what their politics - knows he was a very good actor. I agree with the author that Duke's best performance was Ethan Edwards in "The Searchers." But I think he should have given Wayne a little more credit for "True Grit" and "The Shootist." In "The Shootist", you actually see Duke playing a man who's scared. However, until I read this book, I didn't know how bad Duke's health was while he was making that film. Maybe he was scared. In any event, it was a terrific performance which probably didn't get the merit it should have. (Ron Howard was very good in the film too.)

As for "True Grit", Wayne genuinely deserved the Oscar. His performance was far more nuanced and interesting than the ham and eggs served up by Richard Burton in "Anne of a Thousand Days." There are different styles of acting and perhaps no one style is the right one. No, Duke could not have done what Burton did in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" or "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold." But then, Burton could not have played Rooster Cogburn. After seeing "True Grit", British writer George MacDonald Fraser (author of "Flashman") said that Duke would have made a great Falstaff.

I wished Eyman had spent a little more time on "El Dorado", one of the greatest westerns ever made. Because it showed that Duke's style of acting was generous and that he understood comedy. Duke knew when to step back and let Mitchum have his scenes. ("Let me hear you laugh!") And he knew when to let the young and very talented James Caan have his time as well. Unlike some superstars, Duke was unselfish when it came to sharing the screen and his films were the better for it. Mitch was great in the film and it made Duke look all that much better. Their scenes together are brilliant. "El Dorado" is not "great" or epic in the sense that "Red River" or "The Searchers" is, but it's a film I can watch over and over.

Not coincidentally, Eyman writes about Duke's almost worship of Oliver Hardy. Any great actor is humbled by another's talent. Indeed, it's virtually impossible to enjoy art or film unless you have some humility.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Most detailed book on John Wayne I've read to date!, April 18, 2014
Brought to you by OBS reviewer JoAnne

I have read other books about John Wayne, and I have to say that this is yet the most detailed one. You not only learn about Wayne himself, but many other friends and acquaintances. The book relates how young Marion Morrison grew up, his relationships with both parents and how it shaped his life. His youth was difficult and, in my opinion, somewhat sad, yet he managed to grow with honesty, generosity and grace.

John Wayne was a complex human being, not the person seen on the screen, yet everything he did was for his family; and every movie he made was for his fans. We are shown the triumphs in his life and the regrets; the happiness and the sorrow he went through, and the deep, abiding love for his family and his friends.

We are given not only details regarding the movies Mr.Wayne made, but what was going on in his personal life at the same time, and those of the people he worked with. I learned many things I never knew – and I read a lot of biographies. Some were understandable; others, not so much (in the fact that while his actions were generous, I felt he was ill-used). There are also quite a few anecdotes regarding several actors, including Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum and Ward Bond that I found fascinating at the least.

In all, this book is well worth reading, not only for the fans of westerns and John Wayne, but for anyone who wants to know how he became an American icon, and still remains so today.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography of perhaps our greatest movie star., May 24, 2014
This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
Had been hesitating in publishing this review-I have known Scott Eyman for over 30 years and I have been his main researcher for almost as long (I also got the co-dedication in this book), so I was worried I might be too close to both the author and the subject to write a review that people reading it would feel honest words were typed here. I also was worried that after so many really good (and more than a few great) books that my anticipation for this one might be too much and it would not live up to my expectations.

Nothing to worry about after all-it is BETTER than my expectations. The one thing that concerned me the most about both the subject and the book was politics-Wayne was legendary for being the personification of the Hollywood "conservative," and I have been a bleeding heart liberal for as long as I can remember, so I was truly worried that the politics would overwhelm both the man and his movie legacy. I knew a great deal of the raw material, having gathered it from so many places and sending to Scott, and I was able to glean here and there what I did find, but Scott weaves a tapestry of facts, figures, anecdotes, critical opinion, gripes and praise into a book that makes you feel like you are in the room with the Duke-he is not telling you his story directly, but you feel his presence as you pore over the text and turn the page to delve deep into this character who turns out not to be the immovable mountain of granite that has been chiseled out through the years. I came away from this book loving the man and respecting his beliefs, and that is quite an accomplishment (I doubt that would happen with a book about Ward Bond, by the way.).

He read Tolkien....he shopped from catalogs passionately....he was emotionally devastated when his closest friends died...he respected both friends, co-workers and adversaries who disagreed with him...he was the favorite movie star of Jimmy Carter, who visited him in the hospital during his last days and even attended his inauguration gala as a "member of the loyal opposition" yet respected him...he was loyal to friends and family who reciprocated...he was insecure as an actor unless he worked with directors who challenged him, sometimes brutally, and then he would give us characters that seem to make up the fabric of our country...and he was a man who had his faults-with women, with business partners, with family, yet he never stopped being true to himself or others and to many who worked with and for him, unless an occasion arose where he had to pull rank, he never forgot that he was one of those whose name shows up on the screen as you are making your way out of the theater but most people never notice it. The stories told about Duke-both on sets, in his home and other places-by people like John Ford, Maureen O'Hara, Haskel Wexler, his children, his business associates, are parts of a whole that convince you that this man was so much more than a movie cowboy, and that anyone who feels that a movie western hero is simple and only speaks with a gun really does not know that genre or this country. That, after a childhood where he had a father who almost defines the word ineffectual and a mother who never felt pride despite his success and fame, that Wayne was able to accomplish what he did, might just boggle your mind.

For me, the mark of a great biography of a very famous person like Wayne, is that by the time you finish reading it you never find yourself feeling like the author left things out: because something contradicted their perception of the subject, because the author was painting a portrait and these ingredients were not necessary or there was no way to make them fit, because it was not interesting and no one would care anyway-those are always the parts that are needed, because that is what made them the person we were interested in to begin with, loved and adored onscreen, made us think about things and maybe even got us angry over their motivations and actions. A great biographer trusts-trusts themselves to give us a flesh-and-blood person, trusts the subject to give them a character that will hold your attention and trusts the reader enough to let them perceive all the things they have put into the literary stew that they deigned to shell out some bucks for. Scott Eyman is a great biographer-there should be no need for another telling of the Wayne tale for years, because unless some manuscript or recording of or by Wayne is unearthed that totally contradicts everything that we have learned about the man over both his lifetime and now over thirty years since he died and distilled into this book, I see no need.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read adds resonance to growing body of evidence about Wayne's true life., April 1, 2014
This review is from: John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Hardcover)
Richard Douglas Jensen covered much of this first in his May 2012 book, "When The Legend Became Fact - The True Life of John Wayne," and Eyman adds resonance to those stories. Congrats to both authors for publishing true history and not succumbing to the public relations spins that mar history. Both Eyman and Jensen do film fans a great service showing the true story of a film legend, who was not what he appeared to be on screen, but in many ways now all the more fascinating as a true person.
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John Wayne: The Life and Legend
John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman (Hardcover - April 1, 2014)
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