American Titan: Searching for John Wayne

Marc Eliot. Morrow, $28.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-0622-6900-3
In this incisive biography, Eliot (American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood) reveals the man behind the on-screen paragon of stoic, all-American manhood: an insecure actor (he would passively bow to the humiliating on-set insults showered on him by his mentor, director John Ford); a husband with mother-in-law issues and messy public divorces; a sex slave of Marlene Dietrich; an assiduous avoider of military service during WWII as he became the movie industry’s reigning action hero; and a sometimes guilt-stricken right-wing bully who helped enforce the McCarthy-era blacklist against leftists in the movie industry. Eliot’s narrative is briskly paced, with plenty of entertaining show-biz profiles and anecdotes, and not given much to thumb-sucking rumination, but his critical appreciations (and depreciations) of Wayne’s movies are pithy and evocative, from the mediocre Blood Alley, which imported Lauren Bacall “to add some romantic relief for the women” who wanted more than to “see Wayne beat up some Commies,” to the sublime western The Searchers, in which Wayne displays “deep passion... humanity, great physical strength and endurance, weariness, courage... [and] eerie coldness.” Eliot’s canny, well-judged study gives us the complexity of Wayne the man and the archetype. Photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/13/2014
Release date: 11/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4830-4882-6
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-06-226902-7
Paperback - 704 pages - 978-0-06-234433-5
Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-06-226903-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4830-4883-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-237828-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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