‘Red River’: John Wayne Blamed Montgomery Clift for Not Getting an Oscar Nomination

‘Red River’: John Wayne Blamed Montgomery Clift for Not Getting an Oscar Nomination

Legendary actor John Wayne wasn’t very happy to not receive an Oscar nomination for Red River. He blames his co-star Montgomery Clift for not getting a slot during awards season. However, Red River continues to stand the test of time as one of history’s greatest Western films. Here’s a look at why Wayne blamed Clift for his lack of a Red River Oscar nomination.

John Wayne and Montgomery Clift co-star in ‘Red River’

Thomas Dunson (Wayne) is a headstrong man who started a Texas cattle ranch in Red River. His trail hand, Groot (Walter Brennan), protégé named Matt Garth (Clift), and an orphan help him make it a success. However, the economic impact of the Civil War leaves them in need of some money.

Thomas and Matt head out on a cattle drive journey to Missouri for a greater selling opportunity. However, their age difference is just one of the components that wedge a divide between them. The two men continue to butt heads over the course of their long, exhausting journey. Critics praised the performances in Red River, including Wayne and Clift’s on-screen chemistry.

John Wayne blamed Montgomery Clift for not getting an Oscar nomination

John Farkis’ Not Thinkin’ … Just Rememberin’ … The Making of John Wayne’s ‘The Alamo’ walks readers through the Western icon’s journey. The book’s title includes The Alamo, but the author also digs into Wayne’s other projects, including Red River. The actor was unhappy to not receive a nomination for his work on the film, and he blamed Clift for getting all of the campaign attention during this time.

“Montgomery Clift was in the picture too, you know?” Wayne said. “And they wanted to give that poor kid an Academy Award so bad they simply forgot about me. ‘Clift was acting,’ they said. ‘Duke’s only playing himself.’ I played an old man in that. And I was only forty.” 

However, Wayne’s peers also praised him for his acting chops, even though he rarely received recognition for his skill. The most frequent criticism is that he simply plays himself in his movies. However, John Ford called Wayne, “a splendid actor who has had very little chance to act.”

“Wayne is under-rated,” Red River director Howard Hawks said. “He’s a much better actor than he’s given credit for. He holds a thing together, he gives it solidity and honestness, and he can make a lot of things believable. If he’s kind of grousing around in a scene you know that there’s something wrong with the scene. He has a very true sense of cinema.”

‘Red River’ got 2 Oscar nominations in non-acting categories

Wayne was shut out of the awards season, but Red River itself wasn’t entirely out of the running. The film still earned Oscar nominations for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story and Best Film Editing. However, Red River lost to The Search and The Naked City in each respective category.

The major portion of awards season ignored the performances. Wayne perceived that Red River was pushing Clift for an Oscar nomination, but left him in the dust. However, there’s no telling that he would have made the cut regardless. After all, even Clift didn’t score a nomination for his performance on the film.

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