Thursday, October 23, 2014
JOHN WAYNE: THE LIFE AND LEGEND Scott Eyman
Examining the life and very long career of John Wayne from a largely positive angle, the book makes a case for him as a fine actor and misunderstood human being who had more facets to him than people realized. Frankly, the lengthy book probably won't change the minds of people who saw Wayne as distinctly limited, especially in his middle-aged years (although he could give very good performances and was more talented than his detractors would suggest) nor those who saw him as a swaggering hypocrite. Wayne became quite the war hawk when he was too old to serve in the military, but during WW2, when other actors with big careers enlisted, he fell back on deferments that other stars rejected. [His attempts to get into the O.S.S. do not seem that whole-hearted.] Eyman scrutinizes Wayne's friendships, romantic involvements, movies, and performances, and the book may make you want to search out such classics as Stagecoach and The Searchers, if you haven't seen them already. While Eyman does include some negative critical and political reaction to Wayne, his approach is, frankly, so worshipful at times that the book can't be considered objective by any standard -- but that, of course, is the author's right.
Verdict: Informative and well-done for the most part if just a bit slanted. ***.