John Wayne Was Angry to Lose an Oscar to a Movie He Turned Down That ‘Threw Acid’ on American Living

The awards season often wasn’t very kind to Western film legend John Wayne. However, he earned a spot in the hearts of many moviegoing crowds around the world. The actor truly believed that Sands of Iwo Jima was finally his time to win, but it wasn’t in the stars. Wayne lost out on winning the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role to a film he turned down because he thought it “threw acid” on the American way of living.

John Wayne earned a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar nomination for ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’

Oscar-winning actor John Wayne holding a cigarette
John Wayne | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Sands of Iwo Jima follows Marine Sgt. John Stryker (Wayne), whose own men despise him as a result of his bad attitude and difficult training regimen. However, they begin to appreciate Stryker’s outlook on the war and his perspective on training as the war in the Pacific pushes forward. These men will need all of the help that they can get to survive the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Sands of Iwo Jima finally earned Wayne some attention at the Oscars for his work. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for Wayne, Best Writing, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Recording.

John Wayne was angry to lose the Oscar to ‘All the King’s Men’

John Farkis’ Not Thinkin’ … Just Rememberin’ … The Making of John Wayne’s The Alamo digs into more than the film in the book’s title. He explores Wayne’s career through multiple projects, including Sands of Iwo Jima. He had multiple brushes with the film awards season, but he wasn’t always very pleased with the outcome. In the case of Sands of Iwo Jima, Wayne unhappily lost the acting Oscar to Broderick Crawford in All the King’s Men.

“I guess that I am never chosen because the kind of acting which I do is not considered acting by anybody,” Wayne said. “They would say, ‘Well, it is only John Wayne being John Wayne. He is not acting.’”

Wayne originally turned down starring in All The King’s Men on the basis that the movie is “un-American.”

“I wouldn’t have minded losing so much if anyone else had won,” Wayne said. “[The film] smears the machinery of government for no purpose of humor or enlightenment … degrades all relationships … and threw acid on the American way of life.”

‘True Grit’ finally earned the Western star a win at the Academy Awards

Wayne was very particular about what films he would attach his name to. He refused to take part in movies that he thought were “un-American” in any way. However, he had a strong understanding of his audience and what he felt they would want to see from him. That perspective would ultimately pay off for the actor.

Wayne didn’t go without an Oscar for the remainder of his career. He ultimately took home the statue for his iconic performance in 1969’s True Grit. However, he did previously earn another nomination for 1960’s The Alamo. Wayne is a legendary Western icon, who finally became an Oscar-winner for perhaps the biggest film of his entire career.

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