Cover image for American titan : searching for John Wayne
American titan : searching for John Wayne
Eliot, Marc.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow Publishers, [2014]
Physical Description:
413 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
From the New York Times best-selling biographer of Jimmy Stewart and Clint Eastwood comes a major, in-depth look at one of the most enduring American film icons of all time.

An audience favorite and top box office draw for decades, John Wayne symbolized masculinity, power, and patriotism, and inspired millions of Americans. Yet despite his popularity and success, he was unfairly dismissed as a "B" movie actor lacking elegance, creativity, range, and depth. This book challenges conventional wisdom and reevaluates Wayne's life and vital cinematic legacy, ultimately placing the man known as "Duke" among a select and brilliant pantheon of "actor auteurs"--artists whose consistency of style in their work reflects their personal creative vision.--From publisher description.
A long, rough stagecoach to fame, powered by a Ford -- War, Hollywood, and Wayne in the forties -- Searching through the fifties -- From the ashes of The Alamo to the fires of Vietnam -- With True grit and an Oscar by his side into the sunset.

Format :


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Item Holds
PN2287.W454 E55 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PN2287.W454 E55 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From the veteran New York Times bestselling biographer comes a major, in-depth look at one of the most enduring American icons of all time, "the Duke," John Wayne.

As he did in his bestselling biographies of Jimmy Stewart and Clint Eastwood, acclaimed Hollywood biographer Marc Eliot digs deep beneath the myth in this revealing look at the most legendary Western film hero of all time; the man with the distinctive voice, walk, and demeanor who was an inspiration to many and a symbol of American masculinity, power, and patriotism.

Eliot pays tribute to the man and the myth, identifying and analyzing the many interesting contradictions that made John Wayne who he was: an Academy Award-winning actor associated with cowboys and soldiers who didn't like horses and never served in a war; a Republican icon who voted for Democrats Roosevelt and Truman; a white man often accused of racism who married three Mexican wives. Here are stories of the movies he made famous as well as numerous friends and legendary colleagues such as John Ford, Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, and Dean Martin.

A top box-office draw for more than three decades--starring in 142 films from Stagecoach and True Grit, for which he won the Oscar to The Quiet Man and The Green Berets--John Wayne's life and career paralleled nearly the entire twentieth century, from the Depression through World War II to the upheavals of the 1960s. Setting his life within the sweeping political and social transformations that defined the nation, Eliot's masterful portrait of the man they called Duke is a remarkable in depth look at a life and the "American Century" itself.

Author Notes

Marc Eliot is a New York Times bestselling author and American biographer. He has written over a dozen books on the media and popular culture including the biographies of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney and Bruce Springsteen, and Clint Eastwood. His writing has also appeared in several publications including L.A. Weekly and California Magazine.

Eliot lives in New York and Los Angeles.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Astute readers might find themselves wondering: hey, didn't we see this book already? They're probably thinking of Scott Eyman's John Wayne: The Life and Legend, which came out earlier this year. Eliot's new book tells pretty much the same story, about a young man who stumbled into acting and whose on-screen persona became a film legend (even though that persona bore only a passing resemblance to the man himself). It's a case of bad timing, more than anything else, that makes this book seem redundant: if Eyman hadn't already published his biography of the screen icon, Eliot's might have captured a large audience. But given that it tells the same story without any unique insights, the book can't help coming across as a bit been there, done that. Still, it's a solidly written account of Wayne's life and does a credible job with the question of how the legend affected Wayne, the person. Libraries with room on the shelves for two new Wayne biographies should slide this one in beside Eyman's work.--Pitt, David Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Marion Morrison of Winterset, IA, moved to Southern California in 1914 at age seven. He went to the University of Southern California on a football scholarship, which led to bit parts in the movies, and was noticed and rebranded as John Wayne. In 1939, the director John Ford made him a star in the movie Stagecoach. Wayne made two dozen films with Ford and remained a renowned actor until his death in 1979. Eliot, who has written biographies of Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood, and Walt Disney, studies Wayne as an auteur. Eliot's focus is on the films-how they got made, their messages, the acting, and the critical and public response. He particularly highlights Wayne's politics. Unlike most of the big stars of that time, Wayne did not serve in the armed forces in World War II, and Eliot traces his superpatriotism and anticommunist fervor to that fact. The actor detested the 1952 Western High Noon, starring Gary Cooper, as thoroughly un-American and repeatedly pushed a hard-line message in his films such as The Alamo (1960) and The Green Berets (1968). It's a readable, solid book based on library research. Screenwriter and playwright Brode's book is a well-illustrated guide to the Duke's films, describing each with a short life lesson (e.g., the lesson from 1968's Hellfighters is "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do; his woman must either accept and live with that or cut and run." VERDICT Eliot's book is a great account of the star's life more for film buffs in general than for fans of Wayne. Brode's well-done work will make an excellent present for those who love Wayne's films.-Michael O. Eshleman, Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The author of other biographies--Cary Grant (CH, Apr'05, 42-4542), Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince (1993), and American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood (2009), to cite just three--Eliot is perfectly positioned to write a biography of John Wayne. He knows Wayne's era well and makes a credible case for viewing him an actor auteur, largely responsible for his performances no matter who directed him or what studio employed him. However, in some places Eliot does not consider that it may have been Wayne's directors learning from other directors about how to shoot the actor as much as it was Wayne himself determining his screen image. Thus, Howard Hawks in guiding Wayne through his performance in Red River was mindful of John Ford's treatment of the actor in several classic Westerns. Eliot also sometimes neglects the role of the supporting cast in building Wayne's image (a notable example is Walter Brennan's work as narrator and Wayne sidekick in Red River and Rio Bravo). The main question is whether to purchase Eliot when Scott Eyman has just published John Wayne (CH, Sep'14, 52-0172), a revisionist biography along the same lines as Eliot's. Certainly any collection devoted to Hollywood film needs both books, but Eyman's is the better of the two. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. All readers. --Carl Rollyson, Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY