Tidbits: True Grit

On April 7, 1970, the legendary actor John Wayne won his first and only Academy Award, for his performance in director Henry Hathway’s Western True Grit. Wayne appeared in nearly 250 movies in his career, with this being his only Oscar win.

Campbell, Darby and Wayne

Wayne earned the Oscar for playing Rooster Cogburn, despite an abundance of conflict among the cast.

  • Director Henry Hathaway later said he hated Glen Campbell’s performance, which he described as wooden. He claimed the singer was only cast so he could have a hit with the theme song to help promote the film.
  • John Wayne did not get along with Robert Duvall during filming, and at one point threatened to punch the young Method actor if he argued with director Hathaway again.
  • Wayne initially promised the role of Mattie Ross to his daughter Aissa Wayne, but director Henry Hathaway refused to cast her.
  • Wayne was disappointed by the casting of Kim Darby as Mattie Ross, and the two hardly spoke at all off camera.
Duke as Rooster Cogburn

Despite the film’s commercial success, Wayne was not pleased with the finished film. At the ceremony at which Wayne won the Oscar, he personally told Richard Burton that he felt he should have won the instead, for his portrayal of King Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days.

John Wayne’s Best Actor Oscar win was widely seen as a sentimental choice, more in recognition of his forty-year career than for his performance in True Grit. Wayne himself thought he had played much better characters in much stronger films. Still, the character of Rooster Cogburn is one he revisited in the film by that title in 1975 and is a memorable role for the Duke.

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