Watch John Wayne’s Final Public Appearance at the 1979 Oscars

by Samantha Whidden
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Nearly two months before his death from stomach cancer in 1979, western film legend John Wayne made an appearance at the 51st annual Oscars. 

During the annual event, Wayne also gave a touching speech to the audience. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. That’s just about the only medicine a fellow could ever really need,” Wayne said about the audience claps and cheers. “Believe me when I tell you that I’m mighty pleased that I can amble down here tonight. Well, Oscar and I have something in common. Oscar first came to the Hollywood Scene in 1928. So did I. We’re both a little weather-beaten, but we’re still here and plan to be around for a whole lot longer.”

Following his speech, Wayne announced the five nominations for nominees for outstanding picture and directing of the year. These were The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Midnight Express, An Unmarked Woman, and Heaven Can Wait. Wayne then revealed that The Deer Hunter, which starred Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, won the award. 

Following his presentation, Wayne was greeted by a full stage of his Hollywood friends. Unfortunately, on June 11th, a little over two months after the Oscars, Wayne passed away after his latest fight against cancer.

How Many Oscars Does John Wayne Have?

John Wayne’s acting spanned over 50 years. During his acting career, Wayne starred in more than 170 films. His first Oscar nomination was for Best Actor in “Sands of Iwo Jima,” which was released in 1949. He ended up earning another nomination for Best Picture, which was his film “The Alamo” in 1960. Finally, in 1970, not only did he score a nomination for Best Actor for “True Grit,” but he also won the award. 

However, Wayne didn’t expect to actually win an Oscar for his performance in the film. During an interview with Roger Ebert, he shared, “Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance. I’d be pleased to win one, of course, although I imagine these things mean more to the public than to us. There are a lot of old standbys who don’t have one.”

Wayne also spoke about “True Grit” director Henry Hathaway getting the positive attention he deserved. “For years, Henry got the thankless jobs at Fox. They’d give him the problem pictures with three stars whose contracts all expired in six weeks. Henry was known as a craftsman, but his stature as a director wasn’t recognized. On this picture, he did a hell of a job. He took great care of those kids.”

Wayne went on to note that he didn’t think he won the Oscar for “Sands of Iwo Jima” because he thought the Oscars were reviewing the film instead of him and the war. “That little clique back there in the East has taken great personal satisfaction in reviewing my politics instead of my pictures.”

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