Based on over five years of interview and archival research, John Wayne: American explains the appeal of Wayne's abiding Americanness. Indeed, we cannot understand America itself without understanding John Wayne. Born in a dyed-in-the-wool Republican town in Iowa, a football star and student leader, and a scholarship boy at USC, Wayne went to Hollywood because it was the truest meritocracy in America, the one place where his lack of wealth and connections could not hurt him. After spending the first decade of his career on Poverty Row, he emerged as a star in Stagecoach. But it was during World War II that Wayne - and America - emerged as superpowers. Wayne came to politics reluctantly, joining the mainstream of America in its confrontation with communism - and maintaining his opposition ever since. At heart, however, Wayne was a nonideological conservative. He loved his freedom, his friends, his women, and his booze. He believed in simple justice, and common decency, and he will always be beloved as a result.
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Randy Roberts, a professor of history at Purdue University, is the author of Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes. James S. Olson, a professor of history at Sam Houston State University, is the author of The Ethnic Dimension in American History.From Booklist:
Although John Wayne is arguably the most popular actor in history--he ranked among the top 10 box-office attractions for 25 consecutive years--he's been relatively neglected by film scholars. Prefatorily, Roberts and Olson grind the ax that Wayne has been marginalized by pop-culture elitists because of his political conservatism, which, as they point out, was always "outspoken but nonideological." Yet they provide a balanced, thoroughly researched portrait that traces his career from a lengthy apprenticeship in countless western potboilers through the wartime films that established his character as an American ideal to the later ones that played upon his real-life status as a proud but anachronistic icon. They're particularly insightful about the development of Wayne's distinctive acting style--the halting cadence of his speech, his distinctive walk, and other studied mannerisms. Wayne's movies remain hugely popular 15 years after his death, and indeed, he starred in some of Hollywood's finest films, as those pop-culture elitists will attest; still, this is the first substantive, serious biography of him and, as such, fills a big gap. Gordon Flagg
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