John Wayne Thought His 1949 Best Actor Nomination Should’ve Been for a Different Film From That Year

by Madison Miller

John Wayne was in a seemingly countless number of movies during his expansive five-decade-long acting career.

Despite a long time starring in popular films, Wayne was only able to win an Oscar once. He won Best Actor for his role in the popular Western film, “True Grit.” Even though he only took home one Academy Award trophy, Wayne had been nominated several times over the years.

In fact, in 1949, he was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. However, he thought his performance in another movie that released that year was more deserving.

John Wayne Disagreed With Nominations

In 1949, John Wayne starred in both “Sands of Iwo Jima” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.”

He received a nomination for “Sands of Iwo Jima” for Best Actor, however, he believed his role as Captain Nathan Brittles in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” deserved that honor.

“She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” was a 1949 Western film directed by John Ford. It focuses on Captain Nathan Brittles as he leads his troop to deal with a situation happening near the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservations. At the same time, he is trying to bring his officer’s wife and niece to a safe eastbound stage to avoid the outbreak of a new Indian war.

In “Sands of Iwo Jima,” Wayne plays Sergeant John M. Stryker. He is hated by his men and they see him as a sadist. However, the film explores his personal demons as the men grow to understand why he is so strictly disciplined.

John Wayne and John Ford

This film is one of many that showcases the longstanding working relationship between Wayne and Ford.

At the time of casting, Ford had specifically said he didn’t want Wayne to star in his film. A part of the reason had to do with the fact that he’d be playing someone 20 years older. However, after “Red River” came out, Ford completely shifted gears.

He offered Wayne the role now that he believed he was worthy of the acting he envisioned for it. At the end of the film, he gave him a cake that said, “You’re an actor now.”

According to PBS, the friendship and working relationship between the two lasted over 50 years. The two first met when Wayne’s name was still Marion “Duke” Morrison and was working as an assistant property man on the Fox lot. He was given a few walk-on roles in films. Ford recommended him to director Raoul Walsh and Wayne got a roll in “The Big Trail.” The movie was a massive disappointment and actually set Wayne’s career on a backward track.

Interesting Work Dynamic

The two would often go on long cruises to Mexico and the Pacific Islands on Ford’s yacht alongside others like Henry Fonda and Ward Bond. In 1938, Ford gave him the role in “Stagecoach.”

From 1945 to 1972, the two made 12 films together.

Although the two were massively successful as work partners, there was reportedly some conflict behind-the-scenes. Ford was passionate about serving in the war. However, Wayne was focused on his career. The pressure he got from people like Ford made him uneasy and guilty about never serving.

Despite Ford being Wayne’s icon, Ford was infamous for his mistreatment of Wayne on-set. According to The Atlantic, while they were filming “Stagecoach,” for example, Ford would tear everything Wayne did apart. He would say, “Why are you moving your mouth so much?” or “Don’t you know that you don’t act with your mouth in pictures?” or even “Can’t you walk, instead of skipping like a god—n fairy?