John Wayne Thought He Wouldn’t Win an Oscar for ‘True Grit’: Here’s Why

by Matthew Wilson
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John Wayne never thought he would an Oscar. By the time 1969’s “True Grit” came out, Wayne was in the later phase of his career. The actor, known for his string of military films and westerns, had pretty much given up on an Academy Award.

But Rooster Cogburn proved to be one of his most iconic creations. The character and his eye patch captivated audiences and there was buzz when it came time for award ceremonies. Wayne was once again nominated for the coveted Oscar gold. But the actor was once bitten, twice shy.

Wayne had been nominated for an Academy Award in 1950 for his role in the film “Sands of Iwo Jima.” But the actor lost out to Broderick Crawford, who appeared in the satire “All the King’s Men” that same year. Wayne wouldn’t be nominated for another Oscar for almost 20 years when he made “True Grit.”

“Well, whether or not I win an Oscar, I’m proud of the performance,” Wayne told Roger Ebert. “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. That comedian… what the hell is his name? Gary Grant. He never won one, and he’s been a mainstay of this business.”

John Wayne Didn’t Think He Would Win

At the time, Wayne didn’t think he would win the award because of his politics. The actor was a supporter of the Vietnam War, a highly criticized conflict at the time. He didn’t think his political viewers meshed with Hollywood’s more liberal leanings.

But the actor was happy that the film and its director was receiving positive attention.

“But to get back to ‘True Grit,’ the thing that makes me happy is that Henry Hathaway is getting some credit,” Wayne said. “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’s co-stars, Kim Darby and Glen Campbell).”

But Wayne’s worries were unjust. Because the actor took home the Academy for his performance. “True Grit” would go down as one of the actor’s best films in his career.

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