Title: Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero by Nancy Schoenberger
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publication Date: TBR October 24, 2017
Wayne and Ford – Cover reflects the two titans
John Wayne, a beloved actor, director, and American icon, and the film director, John Ford together created the classic western movies that continue to cement the image of a tough fighting, but triumphant masculine legacy.
Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero might include a misnomer in “friendship.” John Ford was brutal to the point of being vicious with his actors while simultaneously wrenching from them their best work. From Wayne and Ford’s collaboration comes the vision of the strong American male, capable, independent at the same time honorable.
Ford first noticed the stagehand (Marion Morrison) as the tall, good-looking, and robust Wayne that he would eventually use to star in his classic “Stagecoach” in 1939. Wayne had the walk and talk of a budding Hollywood star and his larger-than-life magnetic presence filled the screen, though Ford allowed Wayne to mature slowly in the “B” movie spotlight. Their on-again/off-again sometimes explosive relationship would eventually churn out a classic collection of the western genre over a twenty-year span.
John “Duke” Wayne is portrayed generally as he is remembered, even-tempered, kind, and patient, while Ford comes off as a major shock–(I mean, who knew?)–belittling even the beautiful and talented Maureen O’Hara. Ford’s abuse didn’t stop with the verbal, graduating several times into the physical. If he was remembered as being a hard drinking, eye-patch wearing, often cruel taskmaster, it was because he was. However, Wayne apparently saw the genius behind those eyes and continued to work with him until he split and went off to direct his own picture, “Alamo” (1960). Unfortunately, it was not a huge box office success, perhaps more a failure of timing.
Extensively researched, Nancy Schoenberger draws on a treasure chest of letters, personal documents, pictures, and interviews to paint the complicated picture of the turbulent relationship between the two. There is sufficient back story into the person that Ford would become to examine the man, and while not excusing the intolerant temperament gives way to unbiased explanation.
Wayne, the father, seemed the loving nurturer often including them on his sets whereas Ford built a wall between him and his children, as he seemed to do with his “friends,” perhaps not entirely unexpected given the information revealed regarding his childhood.
Read aloud to my husband on a cross-country trip, we often engaged in lively discussion the shocking details of Schoenberger’s revelations. At the first opportunity, we rented and viewed “The Shootist,” reportedly his last movie released in 1976, and enjoyed it all the more knowing the details behind the scenes, including the contributions made to the movie by the well-known actors anxious to be involved in what might be Wayne’s farewell offering. So many great John Wayne flicks! Among my favorites, however, were “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” 1962, and “True Grit,” 1969, for which he won Best Actor Oscar, his first and only Academy Award.
This novel was offered as an ARC through NetGalley and Doubleday and is scheduled for release on October 24, 2017. We loved the book and now more so The Duke! More than a biography really, an exposé, and recommended to anyone who has ever wondered if what you saw was the real thing. It was.
Rosepoint Publishing: Five of Five Stars
The Author: Nancy Schoenberger partnered with Sam Kashner to write a NY Times Best Seller regarding Elizabeth Taylor and her love affair with Richard Burton that was translated into Spanish, Italian, and German as well as several other celebrity bios. She has also published her poetry. ©2017 Virginia Williams