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Probably The Best Wayne Bio To Date
on April 3, 2014
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.