We gave it a B+
Freud called the deepest layer of the subconscious mind the id, but in America it’s known as John Wayne. On some level most Americans want to be him. Probably even liberals. Definitely Republicans. As Wills points out, Wayne and his roles have been an inspiration and model for Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Oliver North, and Pat Buchanan, but his appeal transcends politics. Wills connects it with our enduring frontier mentality, consummately embodied in the sort of character played by Wayne in Westerns like Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, as well as war films like Sands of Iwo Jima — tough, shrewd, gruffly humorous, and essentially solitary. While Wills isn’t writing biography, we get enough of the real Marion Morrison (Wayne’s birth name) to distinguish man from myth (he dodged the World War II draft; he hated horses). The focus is on Wayne’s films — the subtleties of his performances, the contributions of writers and of directors like John Ford, the political and cultural subtexts. John Wayne’s America is a cautionary tribute to Wayne’s irrepressible power and popularity — one that leaves you with a desire to rush out and rent all his movies.