John Wayne Almost Stormed the 1973 Oscars to Drag an Actor off Stage: ‘He Had to Be Restrained by 6 Security Men’

The biggest Oscars 2022 moment that audiences can’t stop talking about is the time when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock over his joke aimed at Jada Pinkett-Smith. However, it isn’t the first time that an actor wanted to storm the stage. John Wayne almost marched onto the 1973 Oscars stage to drag an actor off, but six security men had to restrain him to keep that from happening.

The 1973 Oscars audience wasn’t expecting Sacheen Littlefeather’s stand-in for Marlon Brando

1973 Oscars attendee John Wayne wearing a suit at Heathrow Airport in London, UK
John Wayne | Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Marlon Brando‘s extraordinary performance in The Godfather earned him an Oscar win for Best Actor. However, he boycotted the event in response to the way that Hollywood portrays Native Americans. He wanted to draw attention to the Wounded Knee Occupation, which was an ongoing protest to bring global attention to their unsafe living conditions and mistreatment from the government.

Instead of Brando walking onto the stage to accept his award, Sacheen Littlefeather, also known as Marie Louise Cruz, walked onto the stage. She was representing Brando and spoke about “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry … and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee”.

John Wayne wanted to drag Sacheen Littlefeather off the stage at the 1973 Oscars

The Globe and Mail interviewed Littlefeather about the 1973 Oscars and the infamous Wayne encounter that almost happened. She explained that “half booed and the other half listened, and said, ‘Let her speak.'” However, Littlefeather was only given 60 seconds to speak or she would be arrested.

She further noted that Wayne was waiting backstage at the 1973 Oscars to drag her off the stage. However, “he had to be restrained by six security men.”

“I did not put up my fist in protest; I did not use profanity,” Littlefeather said. “I used politeness; eloquence and quiet strength were my tools of delivering a message about the rights of Native American people to be employed in an industry where a stereotype was being put forth that was not healthy for us. We did not have jobs in the industry, we were excluded.”

As a result of Littlefeather drawing attention to Wounded Knee, the FBI came at her “with a vengeance.”

“They boycotted me; they went around to the production companies and said if you hire her we will shut you down,” Littlefeather said. “They planted lies about me and started malicious gossip. I was not allowed to be on any talk shows, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, and the like. I was the subject, talked about maliciously, but I was not allowed to be on their shows.”

John Wayne had a statement for Marlon Brando for not showing up

Wayne’s frustration at the events of the 1973 Oscars didn’t stop with trying to storm the stage. He had other thoughts regarding Brando’s decision to boycott the event and have Littlefeather stand in his place.

Wayne said in Entertainment Weekly: “If [Brando] had something to say, he should have appeared that night and stated his views instead of taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit.”

However, Brando didn’t stay silent on the matter. He talked about the big Oscars moment to the media. Brando didn’t want to see so many of his peers so upset at him, but he believes that they didn’t handle the situation properly and should have heard her out.

“I was distressed that people should have booed and whistled and stomped, even though perhaps it was directed at myself,” Brando said. “They should have at least had the courtesy to listen to her.”

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