John Wayne: The Life and Legend
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The New York Times bestselling biography of John Wayne: “authoritative and enormously engaging…Eyman takes you through Wayne’s life, his death, and his legend in a detailed, remarkably knowledgeable yet extremely readable way” (Peter Bogdanovich, The New York Times Book Review).
John Wayne died more than thirty years ago, but he remains one of today’s five favorite movie stars. The celebrated Hollywood icon comes fully to life in this complex portrait by noted film historian and master biographer Scott Eyman.
Exploring Wayne’s early life with a difficult mother and a feckless father, “Eyman gets at the details that the bean-counters and myth-spinners miss…Wayne’s intimates have told things here that they’ve never told anyone else” (Los Angeles Times). Eyman makes startling connections to Wayne’s later days as an anti-Communist conservative, his stormy marriages to Latina women, and his notorious—and surprisingly long-lived—passionate affair with Marlene Dietrich. He also draws on the actor’s own business records and, of course, his storied film career.
“We all think we know John Wayne, in part because he seemed to be playing himself in movie after movie. Yet as Eyman carefully lays out, ‘John Wayne’ was an invention, a persona created layer by layer by an ambitious young actor” (The Washington Post). This is the most nuanced and sympathetic portrait available of the man who became a symbol of his country at mid-century, a cultural icon and quintessential American male against whom other screen heroes are still compared.
grabbed in an impromptu fashion. He learned to swim in the legendarily shallow Los Angeles River and recalled raucous weekends on the waterfront. “Me and a bunch of kids would come down to the Balboa Peninsula to do some ‘poor boy sailing’ in these round bottom boats. I remember we all used to go over to this big mud flat over there and do surf dives in the mud.” A surf dive? A surf dive, he would explain, was accomplished by following a wave back to the ocean and then diving, belly down, into
had skipped out on the meeting. “Jim powdered,” remembered McLaglen. “He absolutely did not show up for the meeting. He totally powdered.” Wayne was understandably furious, and never really forgave Arness for his flagrant disloyalty. “Get that other guy you work with,” he snapped at McLaglen, meaning Richard Boone, the star of Have Gun, Will Travel. So Richard Boone played Sam Houston. Besides casting difficulties, there were money problems. The proposed budget of $5 million wasn’t anywhere
me. Thank Christ, he thought of me kicking that steak out of the guy’s hand. And then he was going to cut out the scene at the end, of me coming back to Stewart and saying, ‘Get in there, you sonofabitch.’ He said, ‘The scene isn’t important, and then you’re walking out.’ And I said, ‘Oh God, Jack.’ He said, ‘Well, we’ll ask Jimmy,’ and thank Christ he asked Jimmy and Jimmy said, ‘Oh, Jesus, Jack, he needs this scene.’ . . . I’m sure he knew that he had to do the scene. . . . The kicking the
asked for $3,500. Schary thought that was too much and the deal was never made. In fact, MGM contract files show that Ryskind was employed by MGM twice: once in 1934 and once in 1935 to work on A Night at the Opera, along with an undated deal from the 1930s to buy the title Strike Up the Band. Ryskind was never employed at MGM during the 1940s, and had his last screen credit for adapting the Ginger Rogers vehicle Heartbeat in 1946—before the blacklist wave broke. Everybody wants to be the
learned you can’t always judge a person or a situation by the way it appears on the surface,” he remembered. “You have to look deeply into things before you’re in a position to make a proper decision.” Jenny never got healthier and eventually had to be put down. Clyde Morrison tried planting corn and wheat, because they were more valuable crops than hay or alfalfa, but corn and wheat needed more water than he had. With a lot of work, the plants might sprout, but the jackrabbits ate everything.