Books: John Wayne: The man behind the myth

Born as Marion Robert Morrison, the actor acquired first the nickname "Duke" and then the screen name "John Wayne" later in his life. The road to stardom was slow and tedious. Although close to the famous director John Ford, John Wayne had to wait a long time to feature in the director's movie. Even after featuring in John Ford's movie, John Wayne still had to wait a few more years for stardom. On one hand, the critics labelled him as a bad actor while on the other hand, the masses just loved him. He was called a right winger but there was no  doubt about his patriotism. His movies showcased American values.

Unsuccessful in three marriages, he loved his children dearly and did everything in his capacity to bring them together. He bounced back from the financial ruin, accelerated by dismal show of The Alamo and compounded by his agent's financial mismanagement. The political messages in his movie earned him the wrath of communists and spawned multiple assassination attempts which were thwarted by his friend & the government. Always conscious of being a star, he took extra care to build up his screen image and maintain it to the outside world. So, his health problems were carefully hidden from the fans.

Wayne was sad when he couldn't enlist in WWII because of the intervention by the studio. He made a lot of movies; some of them are forgettable. Throughout his career, he was moving from one movie to another. Yet, he was one of the biggest box-office draw for a number of years. Before he retired, he got an Oscar for "True Grit" although there were other memorable movies which would have earned him the Oscar years before.

Film journalist Michael Munn traces the life of John Wayne from the conversations with the legendary actor and also those with the people who were associated with the actor both professionally and personally. Divided into chapters highlighting the different phases of John Wayne's life in a sequential manner, the author narrates the phase which is interspersed with excerpts from the various interviews. This narration is similar to a voice-over technique employed in movies and documentaries thereby making this book a compelling read for the actor's fans. Michael tries to debunk the myths associated the actor and uncover the real person who stands taller than the myth.

This is recommended for a John Wayne fan. If you do not know this person, I suggest you see a lot of John Wayne movies before taking up this book. Thanks to Blockbuster and Netflix, I have seen many of them and come to love him although I belong to the "Clint Eastwood" era of westerns.What can I say? They don't make heroes like John Wayne anymore. There is no point in trying too as no one can say the dialogues like he does.

Tags: Books,Michael Munn,John Wayne


  1. I too love Clint Eastwood westerns. Yet to see any of John Wayne movies. Heard a lot about him, first time being in Die Hard, when the villain says John Maclean fancies himself John Wayne.

  2. @Harish - :) You should see the movies. They are larger-than-life movies. The western sensibility of larger-than-life is different from ours. I initially did not like him. But after being on a staple diet of Wayne movies, I ended up being an admirer.


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