In a long and storied career, John Wayne achieved quite a lot with his 1969 film, True Grit. Going into the project, he could never have imagined its success or that it would earn him an Academy Award in the category of Best Actor. He did, however, point to one scene that he felt was a standout in the overall film due to the fact that he felt a personal connection to it. For that reason, he elected to perform his own stunt work in that sequence.
Wayne had actually lobbied for his daughter to play the part of Mattie Ross — after Mia Farrow dropped out, and Michele Carey, Sondra Locke and Tuesday Weld each turned it down for contractual reasons — but the part ultimately went to Kim Darby. He got along with Kim, and their off-screen interactions helped to give the movie the boost it needed to make it a success.
Wayne’s Role In ‘True Grit’
John Wayne’s character, Rooster Cogburn, is a bounty hunter and a US Marshal who has no family and his only relationship is with alcohol. This situation changes when Mattie Ross, played by Darby, hires him to help find Tom Chaney, who killed her father. Cogburn takes the offer, and in the process of carrying out the task, he overcomes his drunkenness and pride, thus changing his life.
The Scene That Made Wayne To Do His Own Stunts
Marc Eliot, a New York Times best-selling author, in his book American Titan: Searching for John Wayne, took an in-depth observation into the life of the Oscar-winning actor, his career, and his role in True Grit. The biography states that Wayne fell in love with the location of the film and also had a scene that struck some cords in his heart.
This scene was close to the end of the movie when he says to Mattie, “Come see a fat old man sometime,” and then he rides away on a horse and two two scale a four-rail fence. At the time of the production, the actor was not in his best form as he had just had a lung removed due to cancer and was also 61 years old. However, he decided to perform the stunt without help from his stunt double. His reason for doing so was that he wanted to prove to the whole world to know that he was alive, well and still up for more challenges — especially in the movie world.
Unexpected Turn Around By Critics
The biography also discussed how critics reacted to Wayne’s incredible performance in True Grit after their condemnation of his earlier war film, The Green Berets, which supported the Vietnam War and was released only a year earlier in 1968. True Grit, however, redeemed his image in the eyes of the critics, who in particular heralded his performance as Cogburn.
As an example, Ellot cited Charles Champlin’s review in the Los Angeles Times in which he wrote, “Rooster Cogburn sits like a crown atop [Wayne’s] forty years of playing John Wayne…..until you’ve seen John Wayne with the reins in his teeth, you haven’t seen it all.” As noted above, awarded John Wayne his much-coveted Oscar.