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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good work -- but a little shallow, August 11, 2007
This review is from: Gene Autry: His Life and Career (Library Binding)
This biography of the Singing Cowboy, the second complete one ever written, joins Holly George-Warren's "Public Cowboy No. 1," which also came out this year. As such they have some obvious similarities -- and also some marked differences.
I discussed George-Warren's book in another Amazon review. Cusic's biography is well written and researched, although I did spot a few factual errors having to do with the dates movies were released and the like. Minor things, but they hurt an author's credibility.
Nevertheless, Cusic does an excellent job of giving us a brisk trip through Gene Autry's remarkable life, providing anecdotes from friends, family and associates from his childhood in Texas and Oklahoma to his final days as a revered American icon. Especially fascinating are some lengthy direct quotes from Autry himself as recorded by Johnny Bond, one of the performers on his radio program, apparently from the manuscript he prepared from material he collected about his boss over the years, but never actually turned into a book. These quotes, while doing nothing to tarnish "The Cowboy's" legacy, provide a more candid, unselfconscious view of him than do his many oft-quoted statements given in numerous interviews. I've read extensively about Gene Autry for years, and I had never seen these quotes before.
Up to a point, Cusic presents Autry warts and all -- after all we all have our faults, even living legends. But for whatever reason, he steers almost entirely clear of the two aspects of Gene Autry's personality that shocked many fans who had already read "Public Cowboy No. 1:" His progressively more destructive drinking, and his numerous extramarital liaisons with women he encountered during his career, especially actress Gail Davis. I can't imagine that Cusic discovered no evidence of those less-admirable things about Gene Autry in his numerous interviews for his book; perhaps he couln't bear the thought of bringing them forth. But a definitive biography must be honest and candid.
The lack of any photographs in "Gene Autry: His Life and Career," also is a minus.
But having said all that, the book is still well worth a purchase and a read, as it gives a good portrait not only of Autry's life, but also of his character, with the exceptions I mentioned above. His fabled generosity is dealt with at length, showing that he was indeed the "guy in the white hat" in real life as well as on the screen.
The final chapters especially demonstrate Cusic's considerable affection and respect for his subject -- and why Autry deserved every bit of his astounding success.
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