Marion Robert Morrison was born in 1907 in Winterset, Iowa. When Marion entered pictures, he adopted the name John Wayne, but his friends called him Duke. Wayne’s career as the heroic ideal in western, adventure, and war films sometimes made him appear one dimensional, but in real life he was much more complex. Wayne came from humble means, but was hard working, honest, and had the drive and desire to better himself. He was a good student, as well as an outstanding athlete. His football skills were impressive enough to earn him a scholarship to USC. He had a good relationship with his father, but his mother was remote. She made no attempt to hide her favoritism toward Wayne’s younger brother, Robert.
|Stagecoach made John Wayne a star.|
John Ford’s 1939 production of Stagecoach made Wayne a full-fledged movie star. His performance as the Ringo Kid was widely praised. It was also the beginning of Wayne’s successful association with mentor and friend Ford, a truly complicated relationship, interestingly detailed by Eyman.
|Wayne received his one and only Best Actor Oscar|
for True Grit in 1970. The award was presented
by Barbra Streisand (right).
Wayne’s personal life consisted of three failed marriages to Latina women, whose ups and downs were chronicled in the tabloids, as well as the Hollywood press. There is a funny retelling of Duke’s divorce from his second wife Esperanza “Chata” Bauer. Chata was trying to get a big divorce settlement from Wayne, so she drove to court every day in a beat up old truck, trying to look needy. One day when the divorce proceedings didn’t go Chata’s way she cried and left the courthouse in a Cadillac that somehow replaced the dilapidated pickup truck.
Eyman’s biography is a fair assessment of one of Hollywood’s biggest and most enduring stars. For Wayne fans it’s a must, but for those interested in film history, it’s a fascinating read as well. Publication for this new biography is set for April, 2014, but can be preordered at Amazon. The biography is available in both hardback and Kindle versions.
John Wayne: The Life and Legend
By Scott Eyman