REVIEW: American Titan: Searching for John Wayne by Marc Eliot

John Wayne is a difficult subject. Sometimes that makes great food for a biographer, sometimes it presents a battle they just cant win.

 

Eliot gives a lot of space to Wayne’s work, offering an exhaustive — and honest — critique on the man’s cinematic legacy, from his triumphs (The Searchers, True Grit) to his failures (it’s hard to watch his pro-Vietnam picture, The Green Berets without wanting to punch something). 

Along the way, perhaps inevitably, some of the complexities of Wayne’s character are ignored. Eliot never quite has the teeth to tackle Wayne’s more unpleasant aspects, his racism for example is mentioned but never really explored.

It's not a bad biography by any means, well-written and informative up to a point but the search for John Wayne is not wholly successful. Perhaps neither we nor the author really want to find him.

Dey Street/Harper Collins, out now.

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Guest Sunday, 15 September 2019

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