John Wayne

On This Day: John Wayne and Bob Hope Gave an Incredibly Racist Bit Before Presenting Joanne Woodward Her Oscar on March 26, 1958

Movie star John Wayne rightfully received a lot of criticism for racist statements that he made over the years. His harmful words ultimately overshadowed his monumental career in Western and war movies. So much so, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences asked Wayne to present the Oscar for Best Actress on March 26, 1958.

John Wayne said racist statements in his 1971 Playboy interview

John Wayne, who was involved in a racist bit at the 1958 Oscars. He's wearing a tux in a black-and-white picture.
John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Wayne said racist statements in his 1971 Playboy interview that will always haunt his memory. He wasn’t very fond of Native Americans, calling them selfish for not sharing their land. The actor didn’t think white folks did anything wrong by taking the country.

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Additionally, Wayne had negative statements about Black people. Perhaps the most infamous part of the interview saw him admit, “I believe in white supremacy until the Blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.”

These words continue to drive far-right conservative movements, making Wayne the face of such a perspective long after his death.

John Wayne and Bob Hope did a racist bit at the 1958 Oscars

The official Oscars YouTube page uploaded a video showcasing John Wayne and British-American comedian Bob Hope before the Western star presented actor Joanne Woodward with an Academy Award for Best Actress. However, some of the jokes during the ceremony didn’t age particularly well. Wayne and Hope had a racist bit that rubbed contemporary audiences the wrong way.

“And now to present the award for the Best Actress; the rough, tough idol of a million feminine hearts. Two-gun, two-fisted Mr. John Wayne, right here,” Hope said in his introduction.

“Don’t you think you put it on a little thick?,” Wayne asked, to which Hope responded, “Well, actually, John, I wrote that introduction for myself, but the place is crawling with integrity. Where’ve you been lately, Long John?”

Wayne said that he was shooting a film in Japan, and Hope asked, “Isn’t that a little far West for a Western?”

“We had no choice,” Wayne said. “They’ve used all the Indians. They’re all hired under television here.”

“What’s the plot?,” Hope asked. “Two rustlers hijacking a stagecoach full of wonton soup? Duke, let’s get back to the plot here, huh?”

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Aside from Wayne and Hope’s racist bit, Woodward’s earnest reaction to her Oscar win. She took home the golden statuette for Best Actress against Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Lana Turner in Peyton Place, Anna Magnani in Wild Is the Wind, and Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County.

“I can only say I’ve been daydreaming about this since I was 9 years old,” Woodward said in her acceptance speech. “I thank you very much. And thanks most of all to Nunnally for having more faith in me than I think anybody could have. Thank you.”

Woodward went on to earn another three Oscar nominations for 1968’s Rachel, Rachel, 1973’s Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, and 1990’s Mr. & Mrs. Bridge. However, she lost out to a tie between Funny GIrl‘s Barbra Streisand and The Lion in Winter‘s Katharine Hepburn, A Touch of Class‘ Glenda Jackson, and Misery‘s Kathy Bates, in each year, respectively.

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