John Wayne’s Favorite ’True Grit’ Scene Includes a Stunt Performed by The Duke Himself

by Chris Piner
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Having a Hollywood career that spanned over three decades, John Wayne not only became a household name, but unlike A-listers today, the “Duke” did his own stunts. During his career on the silver screen, many moviegoers had the pleasure of watching Wayne signify what it meant to be an American hero. This led him to win an Academy Award for his most memorable role in True Grit

Before taking the part in the 1969 classic, critics were somewhat relentless after his 1968 film, The Green Berets. Supporting the Vietnam war, the critics saw the film to be too political for the actor known for Westerns. It was only a year later that Wayne silenced the critics thanks to his acting and dedication to True Grit. Even with the role of Mattie Ross re-casted, eventually going to Kim Darby, both Wayne and Darby created a blissful friendship that transferred to the screen. 

In True Grit, John Wayne played a bounty hunter and U.S. Marshall named Rooster Cogburn who found himself without family or friends as he only relied on the company of alcohol. Spiraling downward, Cogburn’s life would change thanks to Ross hiring him to hunt down her father’s killer, Tom Chaney. During the film, Wayne’s character did more than fight with Chaney as he struggled with his addiction to alcohol. Ultimately overcoming his addiction and pride, Cogburn changed his life for the better. 

John Wayne Performed His Own Stunts At 61

Wayne’s portrayal in True Grit garnered him rave reviews and appeared to give his career a second wind as he won an Oscar for Best Actor. But while the film became a pillar in John Wayne’s career, in the book American Titan: Searching for John Wayne, author Marc Eliot detailed how the actor appeared to fall in love with where the film took place. And with the story consuming him, Wayne decided at the end of the film, when his character told  Mattie, “Come see a fat old man sometime,” he would do his stunt which included a horse jumping a four-rail fence. 

At the time of filming, Wayne was 61 years old and had numerous health concerns. It wasn’t long before filming that Wayne had a lung removed due to cancer. Still, dedicated to his craft, the famous gunslinger chose to perform his own stunt, proving to critics that he was very much alive and still the Duke. 

Among the reviews praising Wayne for his commitment, the most notable was by Charles Champlin, who co-founded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. In his Los Angeles Times, Champlin wrote, “Rooster Cogburn sits like a crown atop [Wayne’s] forty years of playing John Wayne…..until you’ve seen John Wayne with the reins in his teeth, you haven’t seen it all.”

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