A rare behind-the-scenes look at John Wayne: the legend, hero, and Hollywood icon of numerous epic Western films, including an Academy Award-winning performance in True Grit.
No legend ever walked taller than “The Duke.” Now, author Michael Munn’s startling new biography of John Wayne sets the record straight on why Wayne didn’t serve in World War II, on director John Ford’s contribution to Wayne’s career, and the mega-star’s highs and lows: three failed marriages, and two desperate battles with cancer.
Munn also discloses publicly, for the first time, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s plot to assassinate Wayne because of his outspoken, potentially influential anti-Communist views. Drawing on time spent with Wayne on the set of Brannigan—and almost 100 interviews with those who knew him—Munn’s rare, behind-the-scenes look proves this “absolute all-time movie star” was as much a hero in real life as he ever was on-screen.
According to this congenial biography by film journalist Munn, movie legend Wayne (1907 1979) was a hard worker who held tight to his beliefs and what he thought he should show on screen. Wayne's career did have its share of controversy (although he starred in cutthroat war films, Wayne didn't sign up for military service in WWII; he rejected communism, which made him the object of Stalinist threats; and the actor's given name is still debated), and Munn deftly addresses those hullabaloos while providing an overview of the actor's accomplishments. After playing football at USC, Wayne worked as a studio prop man, coming into early contact with director John Ford, who would direct Wayne in some of his most memorable performances, including 1952's The Quiet Man. Throughout their association, Ford treated Wayne erratically, disparaging his talents and lashing out at him for accepting a lead role from rival director Raoul Walsh (The Big Trail, 1930). Yet Ford and Wayne collaborated on 1939's Stagecoach, which gave birth to the serious western and the Ford-Wayne movie subgenre. Other highlights include Wayne's emergence as a heavy in 1948's Red River and his ferocious performance in 1956's The Searchers. Munn portrays the actor in his personal life as a man's man, who sustained friendships with tough cohorts like stuntman Yakima Canutt but failed in romance. Although the book takes an odd turn toward the end, when Munn links Wayne's patriotism and heroic persona to the heroic actions after September 11, overall, it's a fine tribute.
Absolutely honest and a great tribute to the Duke.