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Book review: John Wayne biography examines actor's work, patriotism

Book Review: “John Wayne: The Life and Legend” by Scott Eyman is due out this week.
by Ed Godfrey Published: March 30, 2014

Wayne probably over-compensated by becoming such a fierce patriot. And it helps explain why he made such an embarrassing piece of propaganda as “The Green Berets.”

And then there was his misguided involvement in trying to rid Hollywood of the Communist menace.

An ardent conservative, Wayne came by his politics honestly.

He grew up in poverty with an unaffectionate mother, but rose above it, which shaped his views of self-sufficiency. He began his career in the film industry by doing whatever menial job was required on the set and ended it as a movie icon.

Wayne was hated by some with opposing political views, which is one reason he was underrated as an actor. That and the fact that he was reluctant to step outside of his comfort zone, choosing to play the same type of role.

But Wayne was more interested in pleasing his fans than his critics.

Even those in Hollywood, with opposing political views who got to know Wayne, liked him. That’s because for Wayne, the person always trumped the politics.

In interviews with those who worked with Wayne, worked for Wayne and even waited tables for him, Eyman’s biography reveals an actor who was a true professional, a hard worker and a man who was well-liked and generous.

The biography also features many interviews by Eyman of Wayne before the actor’s death in 1979 to cancer, a disease Wayne called the Red Witch.

Wayne was a flawed individual, narrow-minded in some views, but as Wayne once said, “I’ve played the kind of man that I would have liked to have been.”

Which is why “The Duke” still sits tall in the saddle today.

— Ed Godfrey

by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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