Essential Books on John Wayne
There are countless books on John Wayne, and it comes with good reason, he was an actor who became a cultural icon through his starring roles in Western films and is widely regarded as one of the greatest male stars of classic American cinema.
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of history’s most famous actors to the height of his craft, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on John Wayne.
John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth by Michael Munn
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 megastar’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.
John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman
John Wayne died more than thirty years ago, but he remains one of today’s favorite movie stars. The celebrated Hollywood icon comes fully to life in this complex portrait by noted film historian and master biographer Scott Eyman.
Exploring Wayne’s early life with a difficult mother and a feckless father, “Eyman gets at the details that the bean-counters and myth-spinners miss…Wayne’s intimates have told things here that they’ve never told anyone else” (Los Angeles Times). Eyman makes revealing connections to Wayne’s later days as an anti-Communist conservative, his stormy marriages to Latina women, and his notorious – and surprisingly long-lived – passionate affair with Marlene Dietrich. He also draws on the actor’s own business records and, of course, his storied film career.
“We all think we know John Wayne, in part because he seemed to be playing himself in movie after movie. Yet as Eyman carefully lays out, ‘John Wayne’ was an invention, a persona created layer by layer by an ambitious young actor” (The Washington Post). This is the most nuanced and sympathetic portrait available of the man who became a symbol of his country at mid-century, as well as a cultural icon and quintessential American male against whom other screen heroes are still compared.
John Wayne’s America by Garry Wills
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lincoln at Gettysburg brings his eloquence, wit, and on-target perceptions of American life and politics to this fascinating, well-drawn protrait of a twentieth-century hero. In this work of great originality – the biography of an idea – Garry Wills shows how John Wayne came to embody Amercian values and influenced our culture to a degree unmatched by any other public figure of his time. In Wills’s hands, Wayne’s story is transformed into a compelling narrative about the intersection of popular entertainment and political realities in mid-twentieth-century America.
John Wayne: American by Randy Roberts
“John Wayne remains a constant in American popular culture. Middle America grew up with him in the late 1920s and 1930s, went to war with him in the 1940s, matured with him in the 1950s, and kept the faith with him in the 1960s and 1970s…In his person and in the persona he so carefully constructed, middle America saw itself, its past, and its future. John Wayne was his country’s alter ego.”
Thus begins John Wayne: American, a biography bursting with vitality and capturing the changing scene in Hollywood and America from the Great Depression through the Vietnam War. During a long movie career, John Wayne defined the role of the cowboy and soldier, the gruff man of decency, the hero who prevailed when the chips were down. But who was he, really? Here is the first substantive, serious view of a contradictory private and public figure.
John Wayne: My Father by Aissa Wayne
In this absolute gem among books on John Wayne, Aissa Wayne delves into her father’s childhood, his film career, and his life off the screen. The result is an affecting portrait that offers a new perspective on the humanity of one of America’s most enduring heroes.
This beautiful collector’s book is a celebration of John Wayne and the films he made. It includes a foreword by Ann-Margret, an afterword by Leonard Maltin, and hundreds of photos from the set and behind-the-scenes.
From capsule reviews of Duke’s lesser-known films to extensive analyses and behind-the-scenes stories of his fan-favorite work, this book details all 169 of Duke’s movies, from long-forgotten gems to the Hollywood classics that made John Wayne into the world’s biggest movie star. You’ll also find hundreds of gorgeous full-color and black-and-white photos from the set, along with movie posters, lobby cards, costumes, collectibles and more, including a number of full-spread photos that showcase Duke in all his wide-screen glory.
John Wayne was more than just an on-screen personality beloved by millions the world over. His movie persona was just that – a persona. The man behind the legend, whom friends and family called “Duke,” “Everlovin'” and “Dad,” was an even stronger example of old-school American masculinity than the characters he played on the screen. But until now, most only knew the man on the marquee.
With Duke: In His Own Words, the Wayne Family has opened their private archives to enable the creation of this amazing compendium of John Wayne’s personal letters, telegrams, cards and memos. In these unaltered exchanges with people from every station of life and all corners of the globe, Duke’s true identity jumps off the page. Whether he’s writing to fans or family, platoons or presidents, he’s always candid, colorful, and quick with a joke.
John Wayne was more than a movie star. He was a symbol for everything good and decent about America, inspiring everyday people to reach just a little bit more and try a little bit harder. During his 72 years and more than 150 movies, John Wayne imparted a seemingly-endless amount of advice, wisdom, and good old-fashioned common sense to his fans. In The John Wayne Code, that wealth of knowledge has been collected together for the first time by the people who loved and knew him best.
The Official John Wayne Big Book of Dad Jokes by Jeremy Brown
From giving as good as he got at the Harvard Lampoon to his comedic work in such films and TV shows as Donovan’s Reef, North to Alaska, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, I Love Lucy, Dean Martin Celebrity Roast and The Red Skelton Hour, John Wayne was never shy about exhibiting his wry, knowing sense of humor.
It’s this facet of Duke that The Official John Wayne Big Book of Dad Jokes captures. A father of six children himself, Duke was no stranger to making kids crack up (or at least trying to).
This book presents those stories of Duke as practical joker and willing victim, embedded within more than 400 clever, yet dreadful jokes, stories, riddles and puns. Perfect for family members of every age! Some of the jokes are Duke- and Western-themed, but most are simply good, original Dad jokes: some good, some bad, some awful, but all funny.
Readers will also find inside nearly three dozen fun photos of Duke exhibiting his good humor for all to see, laughing with his kids or fellow actors on set and behind the scenes, making this book a treasure for fans and fathers alike.
John Wayne Speaks by Mark Orwoll
With more than 1,100 impeccably sourced quotes from throughout John Wayne’s 172-film career, John Wayne Speaks provides what has often been missing from other Duke Wayne reference books: accuracy, context, and comprehensiveness.
These quotations offer a deep dive into Wayne’s films and acting persona – the iconic American man of action whose sense of values and decency are a veneer covering a boiling pot of determination, courage, outrage, and even violence. The quotes in John Wayne Speaks are at once inspirational, humorous, touching, and revealing.
Author and veteran journalist Mark Orwoll has created an overlay of categories into which each quote fits, making the manuscript easy for readers to find the type of quote – or even the exact quote, footnoted to identify its film – they may be searching for. Movie lovers will also appreciate the author’s opinionated capsule reviews and production notes from Wayne’s complete filmography.
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