American Legends: The Life of John Wayne by Charles River Editors


The Life of John Wayne by Charles River Editors is a fine read for the novice John Wayne fan or for members of the “younger” generation who have heard of Wayne and do not really know who he was and what he stood for.

This is really a sort of “Readers Digest” encapsulation of Wayne’s life, career and politics. Some of the information is open for debate; as the name that he was christened under and the subsequent change. Despite evidence that shows he was born Marion Robert Morrison which was changed to Marion Michael Morrison after his brother Robert was born, the book states that Duke’s name was changed to Marion Mitchell Morrison. This name was the one that Wayne laid claim to and indeed if you google this name it will take you to the actor. On a side note, so will Marion Michael  Morrison.

Another bone of contention was the liberal use of quotes from a 1971 Playboy interview with Wayne that is used to imply that he was racist. It is fair enough to utilise interviews and press statements released by Wayne to show his rabid anti-communist views and actions that he took during a lamentable time in American history; it’s another thing entirely to accuse the man of prejudicial and racist views.

The book finishes, appropriately enough with Wayne’s death and then lists his film credits. Not a book to write home about by any means but, as I said earlier, it is a fairly good starting point for the curious. I am not what you could call an aficionado but I knew a lot more than what was included in this book.

At just over 2 pounds, the price will not break the bank, but for a little bit more you can read books that deliver a lot more information about the legendary actor and his life, his politics and his work in Hollywood. It could be just what the average commuter is looking for; that certain something to keep their mind occupied during the daily mendacity of work travel.

It appears to me that Charles River Editors has found what they perceive as a niche in the market and are taking advantage of people who don’t feel they have enough time to read “proper” books about topics that they have an interest in. While I would not go so far as to provide a negative review for this book, I would recommend that you look a bit further if you really want to learn about John Wayne.

A 3 out of 5 stars only because they have tried to put quite a bit of information in the least time possible, but not worthy of purchase if you are already a fan of Duke Wayne.

Cropped screenshot of John Wayne and Angie Dic...
Cropped screenshot of John Wayne and Angie Dickinson from the trailer for the film Rio Bravo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

9 thoughts on “American Legends: The Life of John Wayne by Charles River Editors”

  1. I read Pilar Wayne’s (My life with the Duke) take on the Duke, aka her husband til his death, that was far more insightful. She could only get so deep with him. Hiding his feelings due to his. I childhood. I guess like any major star of that time there are many sides to them, it’s what we choose to believe. I agree with you on the racism, I have a friend who takes that view, that he was a racist and a biggot, some people just read a few quotes and build a picture. I’ll always defend him. If anything he like many others of the time, are a product of their time. We should look at them from that perspective.


    1. Funny, I have that book and have read it several times. It’s difficult for a lot of people to get past Duke’s image of far-right hawk and outspoken defender of America. He was truly one of a kind and it takes reading several different takes on the man. But I never believed for a second that he was racist. Thanks for sharing that mate!


      1. Your welcome, I think Wayne also has in his favour, both The Alamo and The Green Berets which are Pro America. He simply stood up for what he believed in, and there was nothing racist about what he did. I found the book to be an eyeopener in some respect, some stuff I knew and took as common sense seeing a lot of his work. Definitely overlooked as an actor, not the best, but boy could he act when he had the right material.


      2. Agreed! I once told someone to really listen to his conversation with Robert Mitchum at the beginning of El Dorado. He has a line (in answer to Mitchum’s question) and he replies, “Yeah, all over Texas.” A 4 word sentence that is said so naturally and realistically that I’ve never seen anyone else copy it. A very underestimated actor. 😀


  2. I think Garry could write one of these. He has a whole John Wayne library! Which does NOT mean there’s not room for more. This is definitely his bailiwick.


  3. “The book finishes, appropriately enough with Wayne’s death”

    John Wayne’s not dead – he’s frozen!


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