John Wayne won his only Oscar from his second acting nomination for portraying Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn in True Grit.
John Wayne portrays the Marshall who is a hard drinking law man. Here is a performance criticized in that it is usually described as a very standard western performance by John Wayne, therefore should not have been rewarded. I will disagree and say this is not a standard western performance by John Wayne at all, and in fact this is a strangely daring performance in some ways. The ways being that he does not do this as John Wayne the western hero at all, instead he plays it as Wallace Beery the western hero. In almost his entire performance he imitates Wallace Beery both physical in the way Beery protruded his mouth forward when he spoke, as well as the way he speaks like Wallace Beery in the way he begins sentences, with a lot of oh, and wells given extra emphasis.
This whole Wallace Beery facade is a strange move on Wayne's part, and I can't really say it is a good one. It is odd the way he just is Wallace Beery in the part, I really found no purpose or point to being Wallace Beery in the role of Rooster Cogburn. It never becomes effective and frankly makes his performance here seem far more dated than say his performance in any other western he was ever in. Wayne does not even keep his Beery impersonation throughout and in the scene where he talks to Mattie about his past he lets up on it, making that scene probably his best scene in the film. Every other scene seems over acted because he is acting in the style of an actor whose whole technique was over emphasis on everything he did.
Wayne I do not think is entirely terrible though. He does not stop the film still with his performance, even if it is overacted. Also he is not exactly dull either, which was something else Wallace Beery commonly was. It is not like every emotion he portrays is off or anything extremely bad, instead he just gives a thoroughly unimpressive performance throughout. John Wayne simply was given an award for this performance, because they wanted to give him one, not because this was his best performance, if they gave him an award in 1952 or 1956 I really doubt there would be that many complainers about John Wayne winning an Oscar. This performance though is just a mistaken approach, that sets it actually below a standard Wayne performance, making this actually one of his more lacking of efforts.