Over the years Scott Eyman has established himself as one of our finest film biographers.
My shelves are filled with excellent Eyman titles such as PRINT THE LEGEND: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN FORD, LION OF HOLLYWOOD: THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF LOUIS B. MAYER, ERNST LUBITSCH: LAUGHTER IN PARADISE, and EMPIRE OF DREAMS: THE EPIC LIFE OF CECIL B. DEMILLE.
Eyman's latest book, JOHN WAYNE: THE LIFE AND LEGEND is one of the most enjoyable biographies I've had the pleasure to read in recent years.
Turner Classic Movies are aware, Eyman can speak knowledgeably on every facet of Wayne's life.
One of his book's achievements is that he's created a lengthy book -- 658 pages, including the index -- which is a page-turning read even for someone who already knows a great deal about the Duke's life and career.
John Wayne has always been extra-special to me, the star of many favorite films; he's also a local icon in Orange County, where I grew up and still live today. I remember his Newport Beach home being pointed out during a harbor cruise years ago, and of course after his passing the county airport was named in his honor. I especially looked forward to learning more about the Wayne off camera, and Eyman's book did not disappoint.
One of the most interesting aspects is the portrait the book offers of Wayne as an educated, well-read man, knowledgeable on many topics; that really should be no surprise, as one would have to be smart to be as good as Wayne was. Those who like to say Wayne was "playing himself" don't really get that, or what a fine actor he was.
As Eyman writes, Wayne built his persona "brick by brick"; he quotes Harry Carey Jr., to whom the book is dedicated, as saying "He worked hard to be a graceful big man. It didn't just happen."
JOHN WAYNE is a treasure trove of anecdotes. One of my favorites was Wayne telling his pal Rod Taylor "I would crawl over the mountains of Beverly Hills on my hands and knees if I could do a movie with Doris Day!" And he really meant it. I love that, especially as USC film professor Drew Casper has suggested Wayne and Day would have been a great team in TEACHER'S PET (1958).
One of the things I appreciated is that while the book is thick, it's better edited than some recent biographies I've read. There's a lot of information but it reads smoothly, without disconcerting changes of topic.
The book includes a section of two dozen glossy pages of photos, many of which I'd never seen before.
A recommended read.
Sincere thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing a review copy of this book.