NR Digital

All-American

by John J. Miller
John Wayne: The Life and Legend, by Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster, 672 pp., $32.50)

In “Among the Euro-Weenies,” a classic report on European attitudes toward America in the 1980s, P. J. O’Rourke describes going to dinner in London. “Your country’s never been invaded,” sniffs a companion. “You don’t know the horror, the suffering. You think war is . . .” As he pauses to pick a condescending metaphor, O’Rourke selects one for him: “a John Wayne movie.” Rather than reject the idea, however, O’Rourke embraces and enlarges it: “We think life is a John Wayne movie.”

Apparently we still do. Earlier this year, Harris Interactive released its latest annual poll on America’s favorite movie stars — and there was Wayne, holding steady at No. 7, even though he’s been dead for longer than No. 3 star Jennifer Lawrence has been alive. It remains to be seen whether future generations will remember Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt as fondly, but clearly the hero of True Grit holds an enduring appeal. Scott Eyman thinks he knows why: “Wayne became more than a movie star for his time,” he writes in his excellent and definitive biography. “He became indivisibly associated with America itself.”

Send a letter to the editor.