Scott Eyman
author of JOHN WAYNE
Kirkus Reviews talks to biographer Scott Eyman about John Wayne: The Life and Legend, his new, highly praised account of the star's life, including Wayne's tempestuous love life and his conservative politics in liberal Hollywood.


KIRKUS REVIEW

A comprehensive and compelling examination of The Duke.

Hollywood biographer Eyman (Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, 2010, etc.) goes beyond a mere cataloging of film credits and biographical highlights to illuminate the process that transformed Marion Morrison (1907-1979) into cinema’s most enduring symbol of masculinity, John Wayne. The poor son of a diffident man and a difficult mother, Wayne enjoyed social success in his school career due to his good looks, winning manner and athletic prowess. However, after an injury ended his football scholarship at the University of Southern California, he angled his way into a job as a prop boy at various movie studios. His commanding height, strength and graceful bearing were noted by director Raoul Walsh, who cast him in a small role, which led to a mostly undistinguished career cranking out generic, low-budget Westerns for Poverty Row studios such as Monogram and Republic. Eyman vividly evokes the humiliation and difficulty of those years in the trenches, where the canny Wayne devoted himself to learning every aspect of moviemaking and performing effectively for the camera. When John Ford gave Wayne his big break in Stagecoach (1939), the actor was ready. Eyman devotes much attention to the complicated but rewarding relationship between Wayne and Ford—the two would partner on an astonishing number of classic films—which would cement Wayne’s image in the public mind as film’s pre-eminent avatar of American manhood. Wayne’s personal life was as full of incident as his roles, including a tempestuous series of marriages, a long-term affair with screen siren Marlene Dietrich and controversy surrounding his conservative political views. Throughout, Eyman portrays Wayne as a man of hidden dimensions: a regular guy who liked to smoke and drink with his buddies and who was also a formidable chess player; a controlling figure on the set also capable of tremendous kindness and generosity; and an untrained actor who mastered the art of film performance.

Insightful, exhaustive and engrossing—a definitive portrait of the man and the legend.


Recent Interviews

Yoojin Grace Wuertz

author of EVERYTHING BELONGS TO US

February 27, 2017
EVERYTHING BELONGS TO US by Yoojin Grace Wuertz In Yoojin Grace Wuertz’s debut novel Everything Belongs to Us, the setting is Seoul in 1978. At South Korea’s top university, the nation’s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind. For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn’t be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin’s parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father’s world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty. But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam, whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever. “Engrossing,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. “Wuertz is an important new voice in American fiction.” View video >

Kathleen Kent

author of THE DIME

February 20, 2017
THE DIME by Kathleen Kent Dallas, Texas is not for the faint of heart. Good thing for Betty Rhyzyk she's from a family of take-no-prisoners Brooklyn police detectives. But in Kathleen Kent’s new novel The Dime, her Big Apple wisdom will only get her so far when she relocates to The Big D, where Mexican drug cartels and cult leaders, deadbeat skells and society wives all battle for sunbaked turf. Betty is as tough as the best of them, but she's deeply shaken when her first investigation goes sideways. Battling a group of unruly subordinates, a persistent stalker, a formidable criminal organization, and an unsupportive girlfriend, the unbreakable Detective Betty Rhyzyk may be reaching her limit. “Violent, sexy, and completely absorbing,” our critic writes in a starred review. “Kent's detective is Sam Spade reincarnated—as a brilliant, modern woman.” View video >

Upcoming Kirkus Interviews

March 7, 2017
Brad Parks
author of SAY NOTHING