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Michael Munn

Autor(a) de John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth

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About the Author

Michael Munn is a film historian and the author of twenty-five books, including Richard Burton: Prince of Players (Skyhorse Publishing), and the bestseller John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. As a journalist, he has written extensively on cinema, crime, ancient history, and World War II. He lives mostrar mais in Suffolk, England. Lee Pfeiffer is the editor of Cinema Retro magazine, which is dedicated to films of the 1060s and 1970s (www.cinemaretro.com). He is the author or coauthor of many books about classic cinema including volumes dedicated to the James Bond films, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne. mostrar menos

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John Wayne was only his stage name. Named after his grandfather, Marion Mitchell Morrison, he was born on 26 May 1907 in Winterset, Iowa, as Marion Robert Morrison. But, four years later, his name was "unofficially" changed to Marion Michael Morrison because his parents wanted to call their second born, whom his mother favored, Robert. I wonder how he really felt about that?

The author, Michael Munn, had the opportunity to work with him towards the end of his life on the set “Brannigan” filmed in London, and interview and talk with him often for the eventual publication of this book. Plus, John Wayne gave Munn a list of names of people to contact who could also tell stories and to help set the record straight on separating fact from fiction when it comes to his life, which publicists have glamorized over the years. Let's just say, this biography brings John Wayne back down to earth. There are so many myths put out by his early publicists, that it's really unfortunate that John Wayne never got around to writing his own autobiography. In any case, this biography focuses more on John Wayne's acting career. I just find it strange all the quotes from John Wayne and other actors, actresses and film directors were from way back in the 1970's, but the book wasn't published until 2003.

I really enjoyed this book and seeing what really goes on inside Hollywood when filming movies. John Wayne did not have it easy and was considered an outcast for his outspoken beliefs in the war efforts. But, he stood his ground as the critics ripped him apart and the American people stood by his side. He is truly an American legend that will always be remembered for his own patriotism anytime America is attacked by outsiders. That is what he stood for! Now to watch some of those old movies to see if I can recognize any of the things mentioned in the book. I'm sure I will appreciate "The Alamo" more now that I know that was his personal baby he was most proud of...even though the critics tore it apart. John Wayne's famous quote in the movie, The Alamo, which he tried to live by: "It's good to feel useful in this old world. To hit a lick against what's wrong or to say a word for what's right, even though you might get walloped for saying that word I may sound like a Bible-beater yelling up a revival at a river-crossing camp meeting, but that don't change the truth none: there's right and there's wrong. You've gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living. You do the other and you may be walking around, but you're dead as a beaver hat."
**spoilers below**

The Morrison family moved to Antelope Valley, California, and took over his grandfather's homestead, which was nothing more than a rundown shack with no electricity, when Marion (John Wayne) was 7-years-old, in 1914. He hated it there and so did his mother. It was just too primitive and seemed to have rattlesnakes everywhere. His father failed at growing crops and two years later he moved the family to Glendale, California, where he would get a job as a clerk in the Glendale Pharmacy. Marion loved it in Glendale. He made friends and acquired his first dog, Duke. The dog went with him everywhere, and everyone started calling the dog Little Duke and he was called Big Duke. He was happy to be rid of the name "Marion". His new "official" name was now Duke Morrison. He graduated Glendale High as class president in 1925. Here, he was introduced to acting, which he really wasn't that good at. He worked for a few years as a prop man and was noticed by a producer looking for a fresh young face for the movie, "The Big Trail". He accepted his first movie role, but they didn't like his name, so came up with John Wayne, named after Mad Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War Hero. This is the accepted story. Anyhow, the movie was a flop and he was stuck in B Western movies until his role in "Stagecoach", in 1938. He wouldn't get a lead role until around 1948/49 in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. In spite of all the critics saying he couldn't act, in 1950, he became among one of the top ten actors/actresses and remained so for the next 20 years. He dabbled in directing a few movies of his own without great success. But, his biggest dream had always been to direct "The Alamo".

His love and study of American history taught him the value of this country and its freedoms. He was an avid reader and read what happened to Russia in 1917 when the Communists took over. In 1947, President Truman put out a witch hunt for Anti-American sentiments and known Communists, and that included ten big-name producers and directors in Hollywood. John Wayne grew such a strong, open voice and stance against Communism, inside and outside of Hollywood, that he became the symbol of American Patriotism. Not only did many in Hollywood turn their backs on him, but, in 1947, even Joseph Stalin in Russia had a hit out on John Wayne for his life because he believed he was leading the fight to destroy Communism in America and in the film industry.

Frank Sinatra and John Wayne did not get along. Frank was in the mafia and also had hired one of the Hollywood Ten communist producers to produce a film, The Execution of Private Slovak, a story of the only American to be executed as a deserter during the second World War. Once the critics got a hold of this knowledge, and Senator John Kennedy put a lot of pressure on Frank, he ended up paying the producer $75,000 to NOT produce the film.

Later, at a children's benefit, Frank Sinatra had been heavily drinking and approached John Wayne trying to start a fight over the reason why John disliked and disagreed with him. John said they could discuss it at a later time. This pissed off the drunk Frank and several men had to drag him away to avoid a fight at the benefit.

In 1966, John Wayne did a 3-week tour in Vietnam. Even there, a sniper had it out specifically for him. Word was out that the great American was there and Chairman Mao had put out a reward for his life. The sniper was captured in John Wayne's presence before being taken away.

In 1974, the Harvard Lampoon sent him a letter calling John Wayne the biggest fraud in history and challenged him to come speak to 1600 Harvard students. So, he met their challenge and drove into campus in a tank to avoid being hit in the kisser by flying eggs. But, his wit and quick humor won over the students and they ended up loving him. He gave a speech that our young adults NEED to hear today. He told them that a university should be a quiet place where people go to learn, not to destroy property that belongs to someone else. He said that teachers and professors were people and should be treated with respect. Education was a privilege, not a right. And that they were not going to sit by and let the students destroy the schools and the system.

In 1964, John Wayne had been treated for, and survived, lung cancer. He takes full blame for the cancer because he was a smoker, as were most other actors back then. 1964 was a bad year all around for John Wayne. He did John Ford's last film, which he was all wrong for; he played a Roman soldier, which he was all wrong for; and did the worst circus film, Circus World, ever made. Then he began coughing up blood. After the filming of In Harm's Way, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had the golf ball sized tumor removed on 16 Set 1964, and 4 months later he was filming The Sons of Katie Elder.

Besides his home in Newport, John Wayne invested in a twenty-six bar ranch in Arizona that was quite successful and he also owned a farm near Stranfield, Arizona, growing cotton and grain. He loved being out at the Arizona ranch, but he still hated horses and drove everywhere in his truck.

In 1976, he went in to have some kind of corrective surgery on his prostrate gland when, by chance, they discovered a problem with the mitral valve to his heart due to his coughing fits. He was left filming commercials. But as his voice grew weaker and weaker, in 1978 he admitted himself into the hospital thinking he had bronchitis. But it was the faulty valve. At age 70, and with only one lung, he had the valve replaced from a pig's heart in a 12 hour long operation where his heart was removed from his body and kept alive with a pump. He made it out alive, but his greatest fear was having the cancer return. And in December 1978, he started having severe stomach pains. In January 1979, he had exploratory surgery and found he had stomach cancer. They removed his entire stomach in a 9-hour operation. He survived this but didn't have much of a life left. Everything he ate went straight to his intestines. He could hardly eat a thing, just minute amounts of bland food. His drinking days were over. He was going through daily radiation treatments when he stepped onto the stage for the last time at the Oscars at the Los Angeles Music Center to announce the Best Film of 1978 award. He was bone thin and looked emaciated. He would die just 2 months later.

On his death bed, Maureen O'Hare spent 3 days with him in his home talking of old times to keep his spirits up, but when she left, she knew she would never see him again. On May 2, 1969, he collapsed on the ground in agony and his son Ethan drove him to UCLA Medical Center. They found that the cancer cells had multiplied into his colon. He underwent another fruitless operation in which they removed most of his colon. But within 10 days he had another major blockage. At this point, he was morphined up and the family were called together. He would die, age 72, on 11 June 1979, at 5:23 pm. The Duke was buried in an unmarked grave on a hilltop in Pacific View Memorial Park, overlooking the ocean.

Note on his stomach cancer in 1979: A lot of critics would like to blame the setting where the film, "The Conqueror", was filmed in Snow Canyon in where radioactive dust had settled 140 miles from the atomic blast was tested in Nevada. About half the crew on that film ended up with, and survived or died, of some form of cancer, including the leading actress, Susan Hayward. She also smoked, but ended up with a brain tumor, skin cancer and uterus and breast cancer.

NOTE: John Wayne was good friends with James Arness of Gunsmoke and was able to secure roles for him in up and coming movies, such as "Sea Chase" in 1954. In fact, John Wayne was offered the part as Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, but he turned it down. James Arness was under contract with John Wayne's company, Batjac, and offered to release him for the role. John felt James Arness wouldn't become a star in films but would do good in television. James Arness died in 2011.

1948 - Fort Apache
1948 - Red River put John Wayne on the map
1949 - She Wore a Yellow Ribbon - his first lead cast directed by John Ford
1952 - The Quiet Man with Maureen O'Hare in Ireland
1955 - Sea Chase - filmed in Hawaii - John Wayne had a severe ear infection for 2 whole months from scuba diving with Pilar before filming started. He was on heavy pain meds. Also, Lana Turner, the leading lady, was an alcoholic and hated everything and everyone. The love scene comes off very fakey because she kept telling John Wayne not to mess up her hair or her makeup. He was pissed. How's he to make love to a woman who won't let him touch her.
1956 - The Searchers - claimed to be one of John Wayne's best performances. It was a totally new act for him. The hate in his eyes comes from him imagining the KGB threatening him and his family, which another threat had been thwarted just begore this film. About 10 Russians who had settled in Hollywood were found out, beaten and sent on planes back to Russia.
1959 - Rio Bravo with Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson...sounds really good.
1959 - The Horse Soldiers- filmed in Louisiana. Pilar and Aissa were there in Alexandria so John Wayne could keep an eye on Pilar, who was addicted to sleeping pills. John Ford was on the wagon for alcoholism and wouldn't allow John Wayne to drink ...treated him like shit the whole time. A stuntman, Fred Kennedy, died on the scene. He was 50 and really was too old but begged to perform a stunt for extra money. When he fell off the horse, he broke his neck and died on the way to the hospital. This threw John Ford back off the wagon and he couldn't finish the film. John Wayne had to rewrite and finish it up.
1960 - In North to Alaska, John Wayne finally becomes a big box-office star. This began as a title with no movie. Producers scrambled to get at least a story going before John Wayne showed up. This was his first comedy romance, and he found he was a natural and the public loved him.
1961 - The Comancheros
1962 - Hatari
1963 - Donovan's Reef
1965 - The Greatest Story Ever Told - the movie was a flop and needed some big names to bring in the viewers. So, during the last 15 minutes of the movie you will see John Wayne, Sidney Porter, and Pat Boone. Still, the movie was a flop.
1966 - El Dorado - same story as Rio Bravo with slight differences
1971 - The Cowboys
1972 - The Train Robbers
1974 - McQ - John Wayne turned down the role of Dirty Harry because they first offered it to Frank Sinatra who had to turn it down because he hurt his hand. When it became a huge success played by Clint Eastwood, then John Wayne decided to produce a watered-down rip-off version called McQ. John Wayne didn't have his usual friends and co-stars around him this time and he was living alone on his yacht. Pilar and his daughter came to visit but left early. It was believed he was having a fling with his secretary Pat Stacy, who was about 35 years old, half his age. She wrote a book "Duke: A Love Story" (which I have not read yet) that shows Dukes warm, generous, and courageous character as stated by James Stewart. But, he was about 67 years old at this time...he couldn't run...he couldn't fight...he couldn't even breathe properly...and he wore a toupee that was too dark for him. His marriage was over. John Wayne was a lonely man. When he returned home to Newport, Pilar and all her belongings were gone.
1976 - The Shootist - John Wayne’s last film. His illness was getting to him, plus he contracted another ear infection that left him bedridden for a week or so during filming. He had major temper outbursts, then crying and apologizing to the people he was hurting. He was angry because he couldn't drink, smoke or have any fun anymore. His coughing fits wracked his whole body!

Some films produced by John Wayne's Backjac company, which the critics gave mostly bad reviews, but the public must have loved because they all made good profits:

Blood Alley
The Sea Chase
The Conqueror
The Searchers
The Wings of Eagles
Jet Pilot
Legend of the Lost
The Barbarian and the Geisha
1960 - The Alamo - John Wayne's dream film. He prepared for 10 years. But when he was ready, no producer wanted to produce it. They all turned him down unless John Ford directed it. But this was John Wayne's dream; he wanted to direct it. So finally he was able to get financing as long as he, himself, agreed to play the leading role of Davie Crockett and pitch in the other million dollars. Once all the logistics was established, he found he couldn't get any top American actors to play the other leading men of Travis or Bowie. Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier didn't want to work for him and turned down the parts. So he hired a British actor, Laurence Harvey, to play the part of Bowie. John Wayne's son, Patrick was cast as Captain James Butler Bonham and his youngest daughter, Aissa, played Captain Dickinson's daughter. Costs added up quickly with the stars, co-stars, supporting actors, and the 2000 extras. The money ran out before the first single foot of film was rolled out, and John Wayne mortgaged his house, his production business-Backjac, family cars, everything to produce The Alamo. P. 405-406: - John Wayne's words to the press regarding The Alamo: "I hope that seeing the battle of the Alamo will remind Americans that liberty and freedom don't come cheap. I hope our children will get a sense of our glorious past, and appreciate the struggle our ancestors made for the precious freedom we enjoy - and sometimes take for granted." The Alamo was shot in 81 days. It was so stressful on John Wayne that he lost 35 pounds and went from 60 cigarettes a day to a hundred Camels a day and developed a smoker's cough. In the end, the critics tore the film and John Wayne apart because of his politics. After filming of The Alamo, John Wayne found himself in debt worse than he thought. He found his accountant basically lost millions of his dollars due to bad investments and frivolous spending over the past 20 years, and he wasn't the only one hosed. Other actors also found themselves screwed by this guy, Bo Roos. But John Wayne's lawyer told him it was useless to sue a broke man and that he would be the one looking like a fool for not even inquiring about his finances for 20 years.
1963 - McLintock! #2 in the top ten box-office stars
1969 - The Green Berets - critics, as usual gave it the worst reviews ever, but the public loved...another box-office hit that made millions.
1969 - The Undefeated - During shooting John Wayne fell and fractured a couple of ribs, then tore a ligament in his shoulder, on top of having to use oxygen to breath because they were shooting at a higher elevation in Colorado. Pilar had gone with him to Colorado, but they fought and she ended up leaving. Pilar had joined a cult...Christisn Science, and they were growing apart.
1969 - True Grit - kept John Wayne in the box-office. Clint Eastwood was now his new competition with his new, fresh style of westerner movies. Critics say he was overacting in the film, but he finally did win the golden globe award for acting in True Grit, presented to him by Barbara Streisand.
1970 - Chisum
1970 - Big Jake - his son Ethan plays his grandson in the movie
Brannigan - John Wayne was a dying man. His coughing fits were BAD and frequent. Here, is where the author of this book meets and talks with him, and even plays an extra as a number of people walking down the street. But, it was so crowded you can't see him at all in the movie.
… (mais)
MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
The material was interesting and I enjoyed 'getting to know' a favorite actor. But while I liked having the author's viewpoint as a personal friend of Mr. Stewart's, the writing was somewhat ponderous and over-detailed. All things considered, the book is worth a read to fans who have time to spare, but is absolutely not the definitive biography of James Stewart. If you are on a schedule, look elsewhere.
tiasreads | Dec 11, 2019 |
Excellent bio of actor Richard Burton written by someone who knew him and who interviewed many of the people who knew and worked with Burton.
knahs | May 19, 2012 |

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