John Wayne’s Heartfelt Final Public Speech at the Oscars Earned Thunderous Applause

John Wayne touched many lives around the world, both internal and external to the entertainment industry. He didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his colleagues as a result of his conservatives values and beliefs. However, Wayne certainly received thunderous applause at the Oscars for his heartfelt speech, which would mark his final public appearance before his death.

John Wayne was enrolled in a cancer vaccine study

John Wayne 1979 Oscars Rick Schroder, Shirley Jones, Sammy Davis, Jr., Brooke Shields, Racquel Welch, Yul Brynner and David L. Wolper in formal clothes smiling at each other
John Wayne, Rick Schroder, Shirley Jones, Sammy Davis, Jr., Brooke Shields, Racquel Welch, Yul Brynner, and David L. Wolper | Bettmann/Getty Images

The legendary actor was first diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964, but he ultimately was cancer-free a few years later after very invasive surgery. Wayne coined the term “the Big C” to refer to cancer, putting himself in the news at the forefront against the disease.

However, his cancer returned in the form of stomach cancer, which he enrolled in a cancer vaccine study for. Wayne’s final acting role was in The Shootist, where he played an aging gunfighter dying of cancer. It was almost too real to the actor’s battle with the disease. Wayne fought his cancer to the best of his ability.

John Wayne made his final public appearance at the Oscars

Wayne made his final public appearance at the 1979 Oscars. He got a marvelous introduction, as he took the stage to a loud round of applause. However, the reception would only grow mid-way through his speech after delivering heartfelt words that greatly speak to his legacy.

“Thank you, ladies and gentleman,” Wayne said. “That’s just about the only medicine a fellow could ever really need. Believe me when I tell you that I’m mighty pleased that I can amble down here tonight.”

Next, Wayne discussed his similarities to the Oscars, which rightfully touched the hearts of many audiences around the world.

Wayne continued: “Well, Oscar and I have something in common. Oscar first came to the Hollywood scene in 1928. So did I. We’re both a little weather-beaten, but we’re still here and plan to be around for a whole lot longer.”

In response, the crowd erupted in applause to honor the American legend as he continued to fight his stomach cancer.

“My job here tonight is to identify your five choices for outstanding picture of the year and announce the winner.”

Wayne introduced each of the category’s nominees: The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman, and Heaven Can Wait. He announced The Deer Hunter as the Best Picture winner, where he passed the golden statues to the winners.

The actor died on June 11, 1979

Wayne’s appearance at the 1979 Oscars would be his final appearance as he fought against his stomach cancer. Unfortunately, he died on June 11, 1979. The close proximity to his meaningful speech at the award show is particularly shocking. However, he remains a legendary face and a personification of the Western movie genre.

Wayne was buried in the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetary in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach.

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