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When an injury cost him his scholarship, Duke turned to work as a propman at the Fox studio to earn enough money to stay in school.

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Director John Ford took the handsome young go-getter under his wing and began giving him small roles. Duke had appeared in high school plays and had worked backstage there, too.

A big break ended his college plans. But the newly named John Wayne -- others at the studio came up with that moniker and he never assumed it legally -- was wholly unprepared for the starring role in "The Big Trail" In spite of studio publicity for the picture and its young lead, the widescreen epic directed by Raoul Walsh failed at the box office.

Books by Douglass Daniel

Two more duds ended Wayne's contract at Fox. For much of the s, Wayne appeared in some dramas and serials but mostly in low-budget Westerns shot in just days at shoestring studios like Monogram and Mascot.

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His mentor Ford allowed him to languish -- and to learn -- until he found the right role for Wayne as the star of "Stagecoach. Wayne "had incrementally put together the pieces of a screen character over 10 long years -- a voice, a name, a walk that would grow more pronounced in the future, an overall attitude," Eyman writes.

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While Wayne considered trying to parlay his new stature into a career as an all-around actor, the author says, he realized that John Wayne was a character worth developing. For nearly a half-century, Wayne excelled in the make-believe business. Consider that America's favorite movie cowboy preferred a yacht over a saddle. He might bashfully kiss a girl on-screen but was an unfaithful young husband when the cameras stopped rolling.

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The nation's favorite movie soldier never served in the military -- a sore point for those who found his hawkish views on the Vietnam War nothing short of hypocritical given that he put his career first during World War II. Wayne's lack of military service and his support of Hollywood's red scare are examples of Eyman's evenhanded treatment of complicated subjects and the solid research that backs up his conclusions. People turned off by Wayne's right-wing politics and the simplistic themes of his movies often underestimated his intelligence. He was a debater in high school, president of its Latin Society and a member of its newspaper staff.

Daniel is a writer and editor with the Associated Press.

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If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. April LC: PN pp. Daniel has captured the essence of the artist known as Richard Brooks.

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The struggle of the Outsider who became an Insider in Hollywood in spite of being a ruffian cannot be put down. I admired Mr.

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  • Brooks when I worked with him and through this wonderful book I grew to love him.