Many minor awards poured in for the Duke throughout his career, but one major honor seemed out of reach — until the legend was 62 years old and he won an Oscar for acting in “True Grit.” An interviewer for Playboy asked if it meant much to him
. “Sure it did — even if it took the industry 40 years to get around to it,” Wayne said.
Here are the top 10 John Wayne awards.
1. Academy Award nomination, 1949
Wayne’s role as tough Sgt. John M. Stryker in the World War II film “Sands of Iwo Jima” earned him a best performance nomination at the 22nd Annual Academy Awards.
2. World Favorite Film Actor, 1952
John Wayne and actress Susan Hayward were chosen by Hollywood’s Foreign Press Association as the world’s most popular movies actors, according to John Reid, author
of “Movies Magnificent: 150 Must-See Cinema Classics.”
3. Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, 1960
In February of 1960, Wayne was honored with a Walk of Fame star embedded in Vine Street’s sidewalk in Hollywood. The icon was an Academy Award-winning American film actor, director, and producer who exemplified masculinity, and stood out on screen with his distinctive gait and voice. Off screen, he was known for his conservative, anti-communism beliefs.
4. Academy Award nominations, 1960
“The Alamo,” the result of the Duke’s first try at directing, was handsomely rewarded with seven Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Film Editing, Best Musical Score, Best Song (Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster's "Green Leaves of Summer"), and Best Sound.
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Yet the honor was somewhat contentious. Wayne’s aide Russell Birdwell waged a steady campaign for votes by purchasing and writing numerous newspaper ads touting the film, according to Turner Classic Movies
5. Academy Award, 1969
This time, when Wayne walked to the podium for one of those “beautiful golden men,” he could keep the award. He won Best Actor in a Leading Role for “True Grit.” He said that in his acceptance speech, he always picked up the award for his friends.
“I feel very grateful, very humble, and all thanks to many, many people,” he said that night as recorded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Some, according to History.com
, saw Wayne’s Oscar as a much-tardy honor for Hollywood’s long-shining star.
6. People's Choice Awards, 1975-1979
For four consecutive years, the awards show named Wayne the Favorite Motion Picture Actor.
7. John Wayne Airport, 1979
The Orange County Airport, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles, was renamed the John Wayne Airport six days after the Duke died in June 1979.
8. Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1980
Wayne was honored as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, considered the highest civilian award given in the United States. The “quintessential patriot,” according to former President Jimmy Carter, “was both an example and a symbol of true American grit and determination.”
Through his on-screen characters, the Duke led millions on gallant quests in the interest of justice and fairness, according to Carter. He exemplified “the enduring American values of individualism, relentless bravery, and perseverance in pursuit of what is right.”
9. Congressional Gold Medal, 1980
When word spread in 1979 that the Duke was dying of cancer, his friend, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, presented a bill to honor the legend. Elizabeth Taylor, who at the time was married to Sen. John Warner, as well as Wayne’s former co-star Maureen O’Hara, spoke in support of the bill’s passage. Congress unanimously approved the honor, and a gold medal that simply read “John Wayne — American” was awarded posthumously to Wayne and given to his family in 1980.
10. America's Long-Favored Actor, 1994-2015
Wayne’s fame climbed five notches to land him a second-place finish on the Harris Poll’s 2015 list of America’s Favorite Movie Stars
. The Duke is the only one to appear on the list since its inception in 1994. The inaugural ranking came when Wayne’s latest film was nearly 20 years old.
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