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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.

John Wayne

John Wayne’s Cause of Death and His Last Words

John Wayne is a legendary Western movie star who the world will always recognize for his contributions to the medium. However, his final words on his deathbed didn’t have anything to do with movies or his career. Rather, he used them to speak sentimental, heartfelt words aimed at his daughter, Aissa Wayne, who stayed at his bedside.

John Wayne’s cause of death was stomach cancer

John Wayne wearing a cowboy hat

John Wayne | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

According to History.com, Wayne died on June 11, 1979, of stomach cancer at the age of 72. However, it wasn’t his first encounter with cancer, as he fought it for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the doctors reported that the actor was too weak to begin chemotherapy and experimental treatment, which the actor approved of.

Wayne coined the term “The Big C” for cancer in 1964. He ultimately needed to have his left lung and four ribs removed. Wayne seemed to recover at the time, despite regularly being short of breath. However, he didn’t stop his habit of smoking and chewing tobacco regularly, which certainly didn’t help with his situation.

John Wayne’s last words were to his daughter, Aissa Wayne

Outsider confirmed that Wayne was surrounded by his family during his stay in the hospital. He was never left alone, as the doctors tried to do all they could to strengthen his physical state. However, their efforts ultimately failed. Wayne spent his last days before his death in and out of consciousness.

Wayne’s name is generally associated with a tough sense of masculinity, but he also had a sentimental side of him. These stories particularly come from his family, including Wayne’s final words.

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, was at his bedside at the time of his death. She was holding her father’s hand and asked him if he knew who she was. He responded with his last words, “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

‘The Shootist’ was his final acting role

Wayne’s final movie role before his death was starring as J.B. Books in The Shootist. The film follows his character, who is an aging gunfighter who has cancer. He heads to Nevada and rents a room from the widowed Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). Many folks confront Books for various reasons involving his notoriety. However, Books doesn’t plan to die quietly but will go out with a bang.

Wayne surprised critics and audiences with his performance, as many folks previously believed that he simply played himself in all of his roles. However, he wouldn’t ultimately earn an Oscar nomination for his role.

Wayne earned his first two Oscar nominations for Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, it wouldn’t be until 1969’s True Grit that he would finally earn the golden statue. Many of his fans still believe that he deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his final work on The Shootist.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Miserable’ Because of ‘Venomous Remarks’ on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Western genre went through a series of changes over the years. However, John Wayne will always remain one of the most iconic depictions of the Western film genre with performances in big titles, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he didn’t have such an easy time on the set. Wayne had a “miserable” time filming because of John Ford‘s “venomous remarks.”

John Wayne played Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard shouting at assembly

L-R: John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance follows Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) as he returns to a small town for a funeral. The press questions his arrival, but they’re about to hear the story of his connection to a local man named Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The story brings audiences back in town when Tom saved Stoddard from Liberty Valance’s (Lee Marvin) crew of outlaws. However, Stoddard and Tom are the only two willing to stand up to him and his crew.

Wayne’s performance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is iconic. He once again delivers his Western charm along with his repeated use of the line “pilgrim.” As a result, popular culture continues to refer back to the legendary actor’s performance.

John Wayne was ‘miserable’ because of John Ford’s ‘venomous remarks’ on the set

Wayne worked with Ford on many films, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, the filmmaker often targeted Wayne with “venomous remarks,” verbally attacking him. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth detailed some of the comments that Ford made toward the actor, which really made him angry.

“But the most damage Ford did was to the friendship me and Duke Wayne might have had,” co-star Woody Strode said “He kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player, and because I had been a professional player, Ford kept saying to Duke, ‘Look at Woody. He’s a real football player.’”

However, the comments didn’t stop there. Ford brought up Wayne not serving in the military while on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As a result, he praised Stewart’s service. This is a particular weak spot for the actor, who deeply regretted not serving in the military when he had the chance.

Strode continued: “It’s like he’d needle him about whatever reasons he had for not enlisting in the war by asking Jimmy, ‘How many times did you risk your life over Germany, Jimmy?’ And Jimmy would kind of go, ‘Oh, shucks’ or whatever, and Ford would say to Duke, ‘How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?’ … What a miserable film to make.”

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ goes down as one of the best Westerns of all time

Ford never came forward with a specific reason for verbally attacking Wayne on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Perhaps it was to get a better performance out of the actor. However, it clearly left an impact on the cast and crew.

Fortunately, that didn’t negatively impact the finished product. Wayne fans often assert that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the best Western films of all time. It continues to impact filmmaking to this day. The film only earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but it remains a classic that many viewers rewatch.

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John Wayne Was ‘Ready For a Fight’ With His ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ Co-Star

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Wayne‘s most iconic roles. However, he didn’t have the most enjoyable time behind-the-scenes. Wayne’s frequent collaborator, John Ford, gave him a difficult time. As a result, he was “ready for a fight” with co-star Woody Strode, who once explained the severity of the situation.

John Wayne plays it tough as Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance finds Wayne playing a local man named Tom Doniphon in a small Western town. Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) comes into town for his funeral, which confuses the press. However, the distinguished man tells the story of how Tom helped protect him against a crew of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

Moviegoers embraced Wayne’s signature dialogue delivery. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance includes one of Wayne’s most iconic words: “pilgrim.” He repeatedly calls Stewart’s Stoddard this, which was an insult within the time period. Nevertheless, Tom maintains Western masculinity as shown in both his narrative and the way the actor plays the part. The character is typically accompanied by his handyman, Pompey (Strode)

John Wayne was ‘ready for a fight’ with co-star Woody Strode

Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth chronicles the iconic actor’s career, including his work on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford repeatedly harrassed Wayne on the set with rude remarks that intentionally pushed his buttons. However, the actor took it out on Strode.

“This really pissed Wayne off but he would never take it out on Ford,” Strode said. “He ended up taking it out on me. We had one of the few outdoor scenes where we hightail it out to his ranch in a wagon. He’s driving and I’m kneeling in the back of the wagon. Wayne was riding those horses so fast that he couldn’t get them to stop. I reached up to grab the reins to help, and he swung and knocked me away.”

Strode continued: “When the horses finally stopped, Wayne fell out of the wagon and jumped off ready for a fight. I was in great shape in those days and Wayne was just getting a little too old and a little too out of shape for a fight. But if he’d started on me, I would have flattened him. Ford knew it, and he called out, ‘Woody, don’t hit him. We need him.’”

However, Wayne ultimately calmed down to allow them to continue filming. Nevertheless, Strode felt that “miserable” tension on the set as a result of Ford’s behavior.

“Wayne calmed down, and I don’t think it was because he was afraid of me,” Strode recalled. “Ford gave us a few hours’ break to cool off. Later Wayne said to me, ‘We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals.’ But I blame Ford for all that trouble. He rode Wayne so hard, I thought he was going to go over the edge. What a miserable film to make.”

James Stewart has top billing on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ultimately gives Stewart top billing over Wayne in all of the promotional materials. However, the film itself and the theatre marquees place Wayne’s name above his co-star. Some audiences contemplate which role is truly the main character of the story, as they both experience hardship and change.

However, neither actor would get an Oscar nomination for their performances in one of the greatest Western movies ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only earned a nomination for Best Costume Design, although it lost to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Nevertheless, the movie remains a vital part of cinema history.

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