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John Wayne

True Grit’s TV Rights Sparked A Legal Battle With John Wayne

Just how much is an Academy Award worth? That’s exactly what John Wayne wanted to know after he starred in the 1969 film “True Grit.” In the Western, based on the Charles Portis novel of the same name, a drunken, grizzled, one-eyed U.S. Marshal (Wayne) teams with a Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell) and a teenage girl (Kim Darby) to track down the killer of the girl’s father.

“True Grit” is not only a throwback to director Henry Hathaway’s older Westerns, but it’s a drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The movie gave audiences a respite from the gritty realism and counter-culture movement happening in U.S. cinema in the late 1960s. After the movie’s release there was talk that Wayne might win his first Academy Award for Best Actor. Even Roger Ebert, admittedly not the biggest fan of The Duke, praised his performance in the film.

“Wayne towers over this special movie. He brings an ease and authority to the character. He never reaches. He never falters. It’s all there, a quiet confidence that grows out of 40 years of acting.”Despite Wayne’s Oscar buzz and the critical success of “True Grit,” Paramount Pictures was in a hurry to sell the film’s television rights. It prompted a battle that played out in the courtroom, far from the Colorado plains of the western drama.

Paramount sold the TV rights while it was still in theaters

John Wayne in True Grit

“True Grit” was released in theaters on June 11, 1969 to immediate critical acclaim. The New York Times called it “a marvelously rambling frontier fable packed with extraordinary incidents, amazing encounters, noble characters and virtuous rewards.” The film also features what Wayne considered the best scene he ever shot.

The western was also a commercial success, and Paramount Pictures wasted no time in trying to capitalize on the momentum. In September of 1969, while the film was still in theaters, Paramount sold the television rights to “True Grit” along with 24 other films to ABC in a $15 million package.

In the book “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” author Scott Eyman explains why Wayne and fellow film producers took umbrage with the Paramount sale. It all centered around the value in the potential Oscar win for Wayne. Eyman notes a letter from film producer Joseph Hazen to Paramount on behalf of Wayne and co-producer Hal Wallis. In his letter, Hazen pleads:

“There is nothing to be gained by making a sale of ‘True Grit’ now. As 66% owners of the profits from the network telecast of ‘Grit,’ it is our deep conviction and strong feeling that Paramount should neither offer nor sell ‘True Grit’ to the networks at this time, and that it should definitely and positively await the results of the Academy Awards before it offers the picture for network showing.”Paramount ignored their request and sold the rights anyway, prompting Wayne and the producers to sue the studio. If you know anything about classic westerns, you know to never bet against The Duke, and the same applied in the courtroom.

In April of 1970, Wayne won his first Oscar for Best Actor. It was enough ammunition for The Duke to take down the big, bad studio. The court agreed that Wayne’s Academy Award made “True Grit” much more valuable and Wayne’s group received a settlement from Paramount for more money.

John Wayne smiling Glen Campbell True Grit

It was John Wayne’s only OscarJohn Wayne is one of the most iconic and well-known names from the classical Hollywood era. So it makes sense that Wayne might have been a bit more sensitive to the issue given that the impending Academy Award would be his one and only Oscar.

In 1949, he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Sgt. John Stryker in “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” In 1960, Wayne produced, directed, and starred in “The Alamo.” The movie was nominated for Best Picture. However, it was only his role as Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit” that allowed Wayne to bring home some hardware.

It was well-deserved, and some argued overdue, after his snub for “The Searchers.” Wayne’s performance in “True Grit” was praised by Variety:

“It’s mostly Wayne all the way. He towers over everything in the film – actors, script [from Charles Portis’ novel], even the magnificent Colorado mountains. He rides tall in the saddle in this character role of ‘the fat old man.’”Perhaps even more important than the statue, Wayne’s performance in “True Grit” redeemed the actor after his castigated propaganda war film, “The Green Berets.” The movie also created an aging character archetype that would launch the second half of his career. “It was a role he would play, with some variations, for the rest of his life,” Eyman writes in his book. “Not a culture warrior, but an old man dredging up enough strength for one last hurrah.”

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

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