(Review) John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman

Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Nonfiction, biography
Pages: 672
Rating: 5 stars for excellent


Marion Robert Morrison was born May 26, 1907. He later changed his name to Duke Morrison. His acting name was John Wayne, but he preferred to be called Duke. He was born in Iowa, but the family later moved to the towns of Palmdale, and Glendale, California. He attended college on a football scholarship. He worked the props in films at Fox Studio in the 1920's. The film, The Big Trail, made in 1930, was his first lead in a film. It was not a success. His first major break came in the film Stagecoach. The director of Stagecoach was John Ford.

John Wayne acted in several B films, before becoming a lead actor in major films. Several of his films are classics: Wake of the Red WitchThe Quiet Man, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and True Grit.

John Wayne: The Life and Legend, examines the childhood, film career, political beliefs, family, relationships, and personality of John Wayne.

My Thoughts:
I love this bio on John Wayne! I have been a fan of John Wayne most of my life. My dad loved John Wayne films. Back in the day before cable, if a John Wayne film was on TV, our family would be watching it.
Several years ago I read another bio of John Wayne, written by his third wife, Pilar Wayne.
John Wayne: My Life With the Duke by Pilar Wayne and Alex Thorleifson.
The book was interesting, but I don't trust a bio written by an estranged wife of the subject.
Several reasons led me to give John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman 5 stars.

  • Heavy research. Scott Eyman interviewed several of John Wayne's children, friends, co-workers, and John Wayne himself. 
  • Several short biographies are given on people John Wayne worked with. For example: Gail Russell, Maureen O'Hara, and John Ford.
  • From page 402 to 417, John Wayne's personality is explored. The person he was, not the John Wayne of films. 
  • A filmography of John Wayne's career. Most of them are written in brief, several are given a detailed inspection. 
  • References are made to John Wayne's ultra-conservative political beliefs. I've read other reviewers remark they found the author, Scott Eyman, to have a problem with John Wayne's political leanings. I guess I missed something in respect to the author showing a bias. He stated John Wayne's political beliefs, and choosing to be close friends with other people who believed as he did, but I did not see the author as bias. 
  • His marriages are examined. I'm thankful Eyman did not give uncomfortable information regarding the three marriages. I am not interested in reading a titillating expose on a celebrity. I find them boring. I'm more interested in knowing the real person behind the acting name. 
  • I felt the book gave me a full dimension of John Wayne's personality and life. I see both positive and negative aspects. 
  • One of my favorite stories of John Wayne is when he went to see the wife of a friend. She was in the hospital sick with cancer. John Wayne as a kind gesture brushed her hair.