"In a virile, red-white-and-blue biography of an ostentatiously virile man, Davis examines how Wayne built and maintained the image that soon grew "to overshadow his private identity and. . . came to represent America itself". . . .Plenty has been written about Wayne and his movies, but Davis' biography is exemplary, highly informative, and eminently readable; in short, one for serious fans." Booklist
"What moves this entertaining biography to a higher plain is that Davis, as the director of SMU's oral history program on the performing arts for 25 years, was in a singular position to document the memories of Wayne's family, friends and associates. . . .The exhaustive yet readable and entertaining result might explain why the back of this book carries rave blurbs by Janet Leigh and other actors and directors who worked with the Duke." Publishers Weekly
Decades after his death, John Wayne is still the favorite movie star of many Americans. More than an actor, Wayne is a cultural icon whose stature seems to grow with the passage of time. In this illuminating biography, Ronald L. Davis focuses on Wayne's human side, portraying a complex personality defined by frailty and insecurity as well as by courage and strength.
Davis traces Wayne's story from its beginnings in Winterset, Iowa, to his death in 1979. This is not a story of instant fame: only after a decade in budget westerns did Wayne receive serious consideration, for his performance in John Ford's 1939 film Stagecoach. From that point on, his skills and popularity grew as he appeared in such classics as Fort Apache, Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and True Grit.
A man's ideal more than a woman's, Wayne earned his popularity without becoming either a great actor or a sex symbol. In all his films, whatever the character, John Wayne portrayed John Wayne, a persona he created for himself: the tough, gritty loner whose mission was to uphold the traditional values of the frontierand the nation.
To depict the different facets of Wayne's life and career, Davis draws on a range of primary and secondary sources, most notably exclusive interviews with the people who knew Wayne well, including the actor's costar, Maureen O'Hara, and his widow, Pilar Wayne. The result is a well-balanced, highly engaging portrait of a man whose private identity was eventually overshadowed by his screen personauntil he came to represent America itself.
Adams Morgan, trained in the theater, has appeared in venues around the United States. He has narrated for National Public Radio and performed radio dramas and historical re-enactments. He lives in New York City.