THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)

"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

Total Pageviews

Tuesday, February 26, 2013




The poster indicates that Robert Young is the star, but the movie indicates that he isn't.

DIRECTOR: Fritz Lang;  ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Harry Joe Brown;  EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Darryl F. Zanuck;  WRITER: Robert Carson from novel by Zane Grey;  CAMERA: Edward Cronjager and Allen M. Davey

CAST: Robert Young, Randolph Scott, Dean Jagger, Virginia Gilmore, John Carradine, Slim Summerville, Chill Wills, Barton MacLane, Russell Hicks, Victor Killian, Minor Watson, George Chandler, Chief John Big Tree, Chief Thundercloud, Addison Richards, Irving Bacon, Iron Eyes Cody, Francis Ford, Tom London, Reed Howes, Eddy Waller

WESTERN UNION is an old-fashioned epic told in the grand style.  But who said there was anything wrong with that?  It begins with Vance Shaw (Randolph Scott) fleeing from a posse and riding through a buffalo herd and concludes with an interesting twist and an extremely well-staged gunfight, not to mention that in-between a huge fire engulfs and destroys the telegraph expedition's construction site.

It is the story of the stringing of the telegraph between Omaha and Salt Lake City and all the obstacles encoutered in doing so.  There are the Indians who disapprove and white outlaws who steal the company's livestock and sells it back to the company.  Not only that, the outlaws dress as Indians, give the Indians firewater, and prod them into attacking the construction crews.

Edward Creighton (Dean Jagger) is the chief engineer and surveyor in charge of the Western Union effort.  He hires Vance Shaw to be his troubleshooter.  He knows that Shaw has a shady past, but since Shaw has done him a good deed he thinks the outlaw possesses the qualities that deserve a fresh start.

Robert Young is Richard Blake, a brash young Eastern tenderfoot sent West to serve as one of Creighton's assistants.  He got the job because his father made a nice financial contribution to the company.  But the tenderfoot is made of sterner stuff than first appearances would dictate and after several false starts he wins his spurs.

The Old West was hard on women and Western movies could be as well.  Virginia Gilmore as Creighton's sister is along as window dressing and to add a romantic angle in which Shaw and Blake compete for her attention.  We have seen this before and it doesn't add much to the story.

(L-R) Chill Wills, Dean Jagger, Randolph Scott, Robert Young

There was a real Edward Creighton.  He was in charge of stringing the telegraph from Omaha to Salt Lake City.  His memory is much honored in that part of the country as indicated by the fact that Creighton University in Omaha is named in his honor.  The other characters in the story are fictitious.

But did Creighton and Western Union have to fight outlaws and Indians in order to complete its mission?  In a word, no. 

The movie is billed as Zane Grey's WESTERN UNION and is purportedly based on the last novel written by the prolific novelist.  Supposedly it was published just three days before his death.  The novel does exist but some claim that it was written after the screenplay.  It doesn't really matter.  As in so many other cases Grey's name exists as a brand name used in advertising to attract customers.  More times than not the only elements of his stories to make it into the films are the title and a few of the principal characters.

Zane Grey
After the director, Fritz Lang, agreed to take on the film and after he received a copy of the script he re-wrote it in order to inject some historical accuracy.  The producers rejected his efforts.  It was more accurate but it was too dull.

Here's what Lang had to say in a later interview: "In reality nothing happened during the whole building of the line except they ran out of wood for the telegraph poles."

So there was no resistance on the part of the Indians, there was no thievery and skulduggery by white outlaws and they didn't provoke the Indians into attacking the line?  Well, then it was a good thing the director didn't get his way.  The real story would have been one dull Western. 

Fritz Lang

Robert Young received top billing in the film, but he is not the star.  That would be Randolph Scott as the good-badman, Vance Shaw. And it may very well be his best performance, even surpassing his more acclaimed roles in the Boetticher films and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (MGM, 1962).

Scott had been starring in low-budget A-Westerns such as FRONTIER MARSHAL (Fox, 1939) and WHEN THE DALTONS RODE (Universal, 1940) or co-starring in more prestigious films such as JESSE JAMES (Fox, 1939, Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda) and VIRGINIA CITY (WB, 1940, Errol Flynn).

WESTERN UNION should have led to bigger and better things for the actor, but it didn't work out that way.  He went back to the same kinds of roles that had been given to him before.  But he built a following and became a popular performer probably because people knew what to expect in a Scott film and they were rarely disappointed.  And on occasion films such as CORONER CREEK (Columbia, 1948) and MAN IN THE SADDLE (Columbia, 1951) would rise above the norm.

Many of the films would be produced by Harry Joe Brown, one of the producers on WESTERN UNION, and during that period the producer and actor would form their own production company to produce the Scott films.

Then came SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (Batjac/WB, 1956), the first of the Boetticher films, and Scott finally received the long overdue praise that he deserved for his acting.

Reportedly Don Ameche and Lloyd Nolan were original choices for the Young and Scott roles, respectively.  Ameche would have been acceptable, but if Nolan had been cast rather than Scott the result would have been a different film -- an inferior one -- and it would not have made my list of favorites. Nolan was a good actor in the right role, but he also is on my list of actors who should have never been cast in Westerns.  

Randolph Scott as Vance Shaw dominates WESTERN UNION

Dean Jagger's breakthrough role occurred in 1940 when he was cast in the title role in BRIGHMAN YOUNG -- FRONTIERSMAN (Fox).  He would go on to become one of Hollywood's most dependable supporting actors and would win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH (Fox, 1949).  He is very good as a sincere and dedicated straight arrow, Edward Creighton.

Robert Young is also on my list of actors who should never have been cast in a Western.  However, in this one he portrays an Eastern tenderfoot and that's exactly what he appears to be.  His top billing is misleading since his role ranks behind that of both Scott and Jagger.

Virginia Gilmore doesn't have much to do in this film and it is a role that any actress chosen by lot could have filled.  Three years later she married Yul Brynner, which was a role I suppose that not just anybody could fill.

Barton MacLane was always more believable as an Eastern gangster than a Western outlaw, but he does okay as the chief villain, Jack Slade. 

Chill Wills, as Homer Kettle (great name), is well-cast as a rough, uncouth assistant to Creighton who has fun giving the tenderfoot a hard time -- but not as hard a time as the one he eventually experiences.  Slim Summerville as a cowardly cook is on hand for comedy.  A little Slim Summerville goes a long way and we get way too much in this film.

John Carradine is Doc Murdoch and he gives one of his patented oddball performances.  Apparently, the role was orignally intended for B-Western sidekick Gabby Hayes, who had to drop out due to illness.

Native Americans were rarely treated kindly in the Westerns of this era -- and this one is no exception.  Here they are child like and easily manipulated by bad men for bad purposes and by good men for good purposes.  

Iron Eyes Cody (who really wasn't an Indian, but that's another story) is briefly seen as a drunken Indian. 

Receiving more screen time is Victor Daniels, a Cherokee whose screen name was Chief Thundercloud.  He is the chief's son who is drunk on the white man's firewater and thus is out of control and is foolishly wounded by the tenderfoot.  Daniels is best known as the screen's original Tonto in Republic's two Lone Ranger serials released in 1938 and 1939, respectively.

Tonto (Chief Thundercloud) and the Masked Man

Chief John Big Tree as Pony-That-Walks in John Ford's SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (Argosy/RKO, 1949)

The chief is portrayed by Chief John Big Tree, a member of the Seneca tribe.  He became a member of John Ford's stock company and had roles in THE IRON HORSE (1924) and STAGECOACH (1939), and most prominently in DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939) and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949).    

Frederich Christian Anton Lang, better known as Fritz, was born in Vienna in 1890.  That and the fact that he was one of the founding fathers of film noir  would appear to combine to make him an unusual choice to direct a Western.  He directed only three and one, WESTERN UNION, is a classic. That's not a bad average.

His others were THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (Fox, 1940) and RANCHO NOTORIOUS (RKO, 1952).  The first is a totally fictitious account  of Frank's actions after the assassination of his brother.  It isn't a bad film.  RANCHO NOTORIOUS has its partisans, but I don't see it.  For one thing, the three leads -- Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, and Mel Ferrer -- are all on my list of people who should never have been cast in a Western.

WESTERN UNION is beautifully filmed in glorious Technicolor by cinematographers Cronjager and Davey, which is one of the film's strong suits.  They take full advantage of the rugged vistas provided by Horse Rock Canyon in Arizona and especially Zion National Park and the area around Kanab, Utah.


"Randolph Scott, an ex-outlaw who joins the expedition as a scout turns in a strong persuasive characterization." -- Variety

"Despite its dated drawbacks, WESTERN UNION remains a grand entertainment, probably the best of the epics of the period....Scott's exemplary -- possibly his best before RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY -- and the usually heavy-handed Lang directs with deft levity." -- Brian Garfield in Western Film: A Complete Guide

"Fritz Lang tells a straight, tense, lusty story with an almost naive enthusiasm, and the film's large budget pays off in the unsurpassed Utah scenery that's present in abundance." -- Steven H. Scheuer

"...Randolph Scott...shapes one of the truest and most appreciable characters of his career....Any way you take it WESTERN UNION is spectacular screen entertainment." -- Bosley Crowther in The New York Times


Sunday, February 24, 2013


Tony Horwitz makes a rather startling confession in his introduction to A Voyage Long and Strange.  After viewing the famous rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts, he writes:

“I scanned the data stored in my own brain about America’s family of Europeans. ‘In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue’…John Smith and Jamestown…the Mayflower Compact…Pilgrims in funny hats…Of the Indians who met the English, I of course knew Pocahontas, Squanto, and … Hiawatha?

“…As far as dates, I’d mislaid an entire century, the one separating Columbus’s sail in 1492 from Jamestown’s founding in 16-0-something. Maybe nothing happened in the period between. Still, it was disturbing not to know. Expensively educated at a private school and university --- [and now an even more shocking admission!] – a history major, no less! I’d matriculated to middle age with a third grader’s grasp of early America.”

But it gets worse. Horwitz later writes: “…like most Americans, I was ignorant of the Jamestown story, even though I’d spent much of my life in Virginia.” [!!??]

His confession reminds me of a story the late Lewis Grizzard used to tell, which ended with the punch line, “Damn brother, I don’t believe I woulda told that.”

But Horwitz sets out to fill in the void in his knowledge of early American history and he succeeds admirably. He may have been a poor historian, but he is an outstanding journalist who has traveled the world and been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work, strange though it may be that he would be so curious about what was happening around the globe, but not be intellectually engaged with what had happened in his own backyard.

His book is really a pretense for travel. After extensive research, he writes about that century that he knows nothing about, and then he melds the past and the present by traveling to the areas where the significant events occurred and writes about what he finds there today. So, even if, unlike Horwitz, the reader is familiar with the people and events of that era, the current information will still be worthwhile.

Finally, Horwitz entertains the reader with his wit and charm and at the same time provides an
opportunity to learn American history in a painless fashion. And after those confessions in his introduction and what he has done about them, I’m sure he now feels better about himself. I would.

Tony Horwitz

Friday, February 22, 2013

THE BIRD ARTIST by Howard Norman

The Bird Artist is a mystery, but an unusual one. In most mysteries a crime is committed early in the story (or maybe even before the story begins) and the reader knows that eventually there will be a solution and perhaps even a confession. But this isn’t what happens in The Bird Artist.  In fact, the novel employs a plot device popularized by a TV series.

Remember Columbo, which starred the late Peter Falk? Remember how the series utilized what came to be labeled the “inverted detective story” format? There was never any surprise about what crime was committed or who committed it, because that was shown at the beginning of the episode. The plot primarily revolved around how Columbo unraveled the mystery and trapped the perpetrator.

Here is the opening paragraph of  The Bird Artist: (There is no need for a spoiler alert because if you read the book this is the first thing you will read.)

“My name is Fabian Vas. I live in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. You would not have heard of me. Obscurity is not necessarily failure, though; I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living at it. Yet I murdered the lighthouse keeper, Botho August, and that is an equal part of how I think of myself.”

And there you have it. The book begins with a confession and immediately we know there was a murder and we know the identity of both the victim and the murderer. The what and the who questions have been answered. All that remains is the why. And even the answer to that question becomes apparent quite early in the story.

This quirky and offbeat novel is set early in the 20th century in, as mentioned above, Witless Bay, Newfoundland. And it is filled with quirky and offbeat characters who have quirky and offbeat names. Fabian Vas and Botho August are introduced in the first paragraph. But it doesn’t stop there. Here are some of my other favorites: Mari-Lyma Fsjkskedjial, Sander Muggah, and Odeon Sloo.

Reading the names leads one to wonder if Norman as a child might have been unduly influenced by Dr. Seuss. But maybe not. The most famous book ever written about Newfoundland was the award-winning The Shipping News written by Annie Proulx. Here are my favorite character names in that novel: Tert Card, Nutbeem, Billy Pretty, Wavey Prowse, Beety Buggit, Alvin Yark, Ed Punch, and Diddy Shovel. Perhaps names of this sort are common in that province.

Despite the fact that the reader of The Bird Artist knows from the first paragraph that a murder has been committed, there is much humor in the novel. And much of that humor stems from the uniqueness of the characters and their high threshold of tolerance for the eccentricities and foibles of their friends and neighbors.

I must confess there were times when I thought, no way, that would never happen or that person would not act or react in that way. That just isn’t logical. But then I would think: I’ve never been to Newfoundland; I don’t know anyone from Newfoundland; I don’t know anyone who has visited Newfoundland; I don’t even know anyone who knows anyone from Newfoundland. Maybe at that time and in that place it would be logical – especially in a place named Witless Bay.

Howard Norman




DIRECTOR: John Ford;  PRODUCER: Samuel G. Engel;  WRITERS: Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller (screenplay), Sam Hellman (story), Stuart N. Lake (book);  CAMERA: Joseph MacDonald

CASTHenry Fonda, Jane Darnell, Victor Mature, Cathy Downs, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt, Ward Bond, Alan Mowbray, John Ireland, Roy Roberts, Jane Darwell, Grant Withers, J. Farrell MacDonald, Russell Simpson, Francis Ford, Fred Libby, Mickey Simpson, Charles Stevens, Harry Woods

Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda): "Mac, you ever been in love?"

Mac (J. Farrell MacDonald): "No, I've been a bartender all my life."

Henry Fonda is Wyatt Earp
When Legend Becomes Fact.
If one is looking for an historical retelling of the Tombstone war, one must look elsewhere.  A good place to begin would be with two biographies: Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend by Casey Tefertiller and Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends by Allen Barra.

Notice that legend appears in both titles.  Both writers do their best to identify what is fact and what is legend, while Hollywood has done very little of that down through the years, though the last two Earp films, TOMBSTONE (Cinergi, 1993) and WYATT EARP (WB, 1994) came much closer than any of its predecessors. (Disclosure: I have never been able to sit through an entire viewing of WYATT EARP which lasts over three hours, but seems longer.  But its pretty accurate.)

And television?  Well, there was an extremely popular series starring Hugh O'Brian that ran from 1955 to 1962, and its title was The Life and Legend (of course) of Wyatt Earp.  Its source material is the same as that for MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, that being Stuart N. Lake's book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal.

Lake's book, supposedly a biography, is loosely (very loosely) based on fact and John Ford's movie is loosely (very loosely) based on Lake's book.  See the problem?  The names have not been changed, but the facts have been (to protect the guilty?).

There is an easier way to fact check CLEMENTINE If you're not ready to read the two biographies, though I certainly do recommend them. You can go here to the IMDb site for a list of the film's factual errors and you will not have to read the books and I will not have to detail the historical inaccuracies.

Director John Ford is clearly on record as being much more interested in a good story than in historical truth.  As he was once quoted: "You build a legend and it becomes fact."  That is what Lake did with his biography and what Ford did with the film.  On another occasion Ford said: "A legend is more interesting than actual facts.  When given the choice of filming the legend or the facts, I will always film the legend."

And of course there is the famous line from the newspaperman in Ford's THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Ford/Paramount, 1962): "This is the West, sir.  When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

One last thing about the truth-stretching in the film and then we will move on. Ford claimed that as a young man he had become acquainted with Earp who explained the famous shootout at the OK Corral to him and that he had filmed it that way with a few minor changes.  If that is true, somebody fibbed.  Either Earp fibbed about what happened or Ford fibbed about filming it the way Earp described it, for what we see on the screen, though extremely well-staged, is nothing like the actual event, but much more exciting.

Wyatt meets Clementine

The Cast. At this point in their respective careers, Henry Fonda had become John Ford's favorite actor, and with good reason. It was the first film for both Ford and Fonda (and Victor Mature) after military service during World War II.  Prior to the war they had teamed to film some enduring classics: YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (Fox, 1939); DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (Fox, 1939); and THE GRAPES OF WRATH (Fox, 1940).  Still to come soon after CLEMENTINE were THE FUGITIVE (Argosy/RKO, 1947) and FORT APACHE (Argosy/RKO, 1948).  Fonda was magnificent in all these films, but especially so in THE GRAPES OF WRATH and CLEMENTINE.
Marshal Earp and Doc Holliday

Victor Mature, as Doc Holliday, gives what many believe is his finest performance.  My only reservation is that he looked far too healthy to portray the consumptive gambler-gunfighter.  I've always wondered if the role shouldn't have gone to another actor in the film, the underrated and always interesting John Ireland, who portrays Billy Clanton.  He possessed the gaunt features, angular physique, and talent to have done justice to the role.

John Henry (Doc) Holliday
Old Man Clanton
Walter Brennan is Old Man Clanton, the patriarch of his ranching-rustling family and the main villain in the story.  Here he is not only an irascible old-timer, he is a mean, irascible old-timer, and he gives one of his best performances.  Soon thereafter he would revert to his usual role as irascible, but harmless, old-timer sidekick type in films such as RED RIVER (UA, 1948), THE FAR COUNTRY (Universal, 1955) and RIO BRAVO (WB, 1959). He would also parody his Old Man Clanton role to marvelous effect as Pa Danby in SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (UA, 1969).

"Wide-awake, wide-open town, Tombstone.  You can get anything you want there." -- Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan)

Ford objected to the casting of Linda Darnell in the role of Chihuhua, Holliday's Latin girlfriend, but the studio was attempting to develop her into a major star and insisted that she be given the role.  It is an important character, though entirely fictitious, and Ford was correct in his assessment.  She would go on to do some good work in a few films, but she was miscast in this one.

the beautiful Chihuahua

CLEMENTINE (Cathy Downs): "I love your town in the morning, Marshal.  The air is so clean and clear -- the scent of desert flower."
WYATT (Henry Fonda): "That's me -- barber." 
Wyatt and Clementine

Cathy Downs, a contract player at Fox, was given the role of the title character.  It was only the second credited role in her career and, as it turned out, the high-point. She would go on to star in B-movies, including sci-fi films in the 50's, and then concentrate on television for the remainder of her career.
Wyatt's brothers, Morgan and Virgil, are portrayed by Ward Bond and Tim Holt.  Beginning with this film Bond would become an important member of the Ford stock company.
Holt, also returning from the war, was a popular B-cowboy at RKO for many years.  He sometimes took supporting roles in major productions, but would always return to the saddle and during the postwar years would star in some of the best B-Westerns ever made.  He was an excellent horseman and from an early age a champion polo player.
Chihuahua and a playful Wyatt
"Full of wonderful details and vignettes; exquisitely photographed by Joseph P. MacDonald.  One of director Ford's finest films." -- Leonard Maltin

"One of the greatest movie Westerns...hardly the most accurate film version of the Wyatt Earp legend, but it still is one of the most entertaining." -- Bosley Crowther in The New York Times

"[It] was easily one of Ford's best Westerns, its simplicity and beauty weakened only by an untypical and excessive number of closeups of Linda Darnell.  MY DARLING CLEMENTINE is quite certainly the best of all the Wyatt Earp films." -- William K. Everson in A Pictorial History of the Western Film 
"It is perhaps the best use of Henry Fonda's special persona ever realized....what makes the film so powerful -- it works well both at the personal-story level and the level of mythology." -- J.A. Place in The Western Films of John Ford

"The character of Wyatt Earp...was Fonda's best performance and creation." -- Andrew Sinclair in John Ford

"It's a great legendary myth.  Fonda quietly imbues the Earp character with stunning power.  And Ford's visual images...while not spectactularly scenic...could be hung as fine paintings....Lyrical, introspective, dreamlike; one of the most beautiful films directed by John Ford, with Henry Fonda fixing foursquarely the mythic image of Wyatt Earp." -- Brian Garfield in Western Films: A Complete Guide

Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp in the movies:

George O'Brien (1934)
Randolph Scott (l939)

Richard Dix (l942)

Henry Fonda (1946)
Will Geer (1950)

Joel McCrea (1955)
Hugh O'Brian (1955-1962)

Burt Lancaster (1957)

James Stewart (1964)
James Garner (1967)
Harris Yulin (1971)

James Garner (1988)

Kurt Russell (1993)

Kevin Costner (1994)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A NATION RISING: Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America's Hidden History by Kenneth C. Davis

 Kenneth C. Davis rose to prominence as the author of the popular “Don’t Know Much About …” series, which was inspired by the Sam Cooke song lyric “don’t know much about history.” His most recent two books have been more ambitious efforts to continue what he had begun in his earlier books, but to do so in a more thorough and expansive manner.  

They could be called his “Hidden History” books.
The title of the first is Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women & Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation. The second, which is a follow-up to the first, and the subject of this review, is titled A Nation Rising: Untold Tales of Flawed Founders, Fallen Heroes, and Forgotten Fighters from America’s Hidden History. In other words, the reader gets more “hidden history,” not to mention more alliteration.

But hidden from whom? Well, like his “Don’t Know Much About…” series it would have to be the general public, for it certainly is not hidden from the people in the various fields that he writes about. But then he does write about a staggering assortment of subjects in his “Don’t Know Much About” books, everything from history and geography to dinosaurs, mummies, myths, and mythology. 

My two favorite titles in the series are Don’t Know Much About the Universe and Don’t Know Much About Anything – which are, and I suppose would have to be, the last entries in the series.
Kenneth C. Davis
After writing about America’s colonial and revolutionary period and the founding of the nation in the first “hidden history” book, Davis moves on to the first half of the 19th century in A Nation Rising. His subjects include the trial of Aaron Burr (an early media circus); Indian wars and massacres (committed by both sides); slave uprisings and rebellions and retaliations; and public and political opposition to immigration that sometimes resulted in violent confrontations. (Since this account ends around 1850, can a “hidden history” of the Civil War be far away?)                      

Davis’ overarching theme is best expressed by the quotation that he takes from Nancy Isenberg’s biography of Aaron Burr, Fallen Founder.

Isenberg wrote:


“What separates history from myth is that history takes in the whole picture, whereas myth averts our eyes from the truth when it turns men into heroes and gods.”

Because Davis writes about some of the darker episodes of our early history and attempts to explode some myths and set the record straight, as he sees it, it is not a book that everyone will agree with and many will find to be an irritant.


For example, this Amazon customer, who found the book to be more than irritating:
“Thanks for ripping me off, Davis, but I understand that's just what you liberals do; rip off hard workers and spit on America with cowardly cheap shots from behind your trust-fund Macs and lattes in your rent subsidized NYC apartments.”

Another wrote:

“If you are a liberal who thrives on apologetic politics of how bad our founding fathers are, then you will love this book. However, if you are a fair-minded person who is interested in the history of this great nation, then either avoid this book completely, or at least skip the introduction…. I must confess that I stopped before I got through the first historical segment on Aaron Burr because I could not take anymore.”

There are also favorable reviews by Amazon customers. And a "People" magazine reviewer even went so far as to describe reading Davis as being like "returning to the classroom of the best teacher you ever had." 

Ironically, the man who writes about practically everything in the universe – including the universe – did not graduate from college. Or maybe it isn’t ironic at all.


The Many Hats of John Wayne

John Wayne and Raymond Hatton

Walter Brennan

Ken Curtis
Ken Curtis and James Arness

Randolph Scott and Janis Carter

Audie Murphy
Lt. Audie Murphy

Alan Ladd

Joel McCrea

Richard Widmark
Charlton Heston

James Stewart

Glenn Ford