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John Wayne

The 10 Best 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.
DUKE: The Official John Wayne Movie Book

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.
Duke: In His Own Words

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.
The John Wayne Code: Wit, Wisdom, and Timeless Advice

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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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

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