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Will Smith fans say 1973 Oscars where John Wayne tried to attack Sacheen Littlefeather & Clint Eastwood openly mocked her were worse

Wayne was held back by security during Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather's speech for Marlon Brando's Best Actor win at the 1973 Oscars
UPDATED AUG 16, 2022
John Wayne tried to attack Sacheen Littlefeather during her speech before Clint Eastwood mocked her at the 1973 Oscars (Hulton Archives/Getty Images, Twitter)
John Wayne tried to attack Sacheen Littlefeather during her speech before Clint Eastwood mocked her at the 1973 Oscars (Hulton Archives/Getty Images, Twitter)

Update: Nearly 50 years after suffering harassment and discrimination for protesting Native American mistreatment, the Sacheen Littlefeather has been called to be the guest of honor at an evening hosted by the Academy Museum on Sept. 17.

Back when she accepted the award in 1973, she was heckled with mock ululations and so-called “tomahawk chops” offstage, and threatened with arrest and physical assault. In that historic moment in both Oscars and live television history, a 26-year-old Littlefeather had gone on Marlon Brando’s behest to decline the best actor award (for his role in The Godfather). 

“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” then-Academy president David Rubin wrote in the organization’s apology letter, dated June 18. “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.” 


Will Smith's fans have rushed to his defense after many deemed his violent outburst Sunday night as one of the "ugliest moments" in Oscars history.

The 'I am Legend' star slapped veteran comedian Chris Rock on stage for cracking a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith at the 94th Academy Awards held at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 27. Rock was on stage to present the award for Best Documentary Film when he decided to poke fun at Jada's shaved head, which is allegedly a result of her suffering from an autoimmune disease. When Rock said she could star in "G.I. Jane 2", Smith walked onto the stage, slapped Rock in the face, and walked back to his seat. "Keep my wife's name out of your f-----g mouth," he yelled at Rock. Smith later apologized for his shocking act, although notably not to Rock. Jada's shaved head is reportedly a result of alopecia, an illness she is battling.


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Smith faced quite the backlash for resorting to violence against Rock over a joke. The Hollywood star was also slammed for portraying himself as the victim while accepting Best Actor for his performance in King Richard. However, his fans appeared to defend his behavior by comparing the incident to the 1973 Oscars when Irish American actor John Wayne had to be held back by security during Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather's speech for Marlon Brando's Best Actor win.


"People talking about 'the Oscar's ugliest moment.' Some perspective... John Wayne was held back by six security guys because he was trying to get on stage to hit this woman," one fan tweeted.

"John Wayne tried to assault Sacheen Littlefeather at the 1973 Oscars. But let’s keep talking about how the “slapping incident” was the award show’s most violent episode ever," another wrote.

"People are so weird. John Wayne had to be held back from attacking a Native woman activist at the Oscars for accepting an away for Marlon Brando and using the moment to be political. I’m not mad at Will Smith for smacking an equal-grown man for dissing his wife," someone else offered.




Littlefeather was just 26 when she wore a traditional Apache gown and took the stage after Brando won Best Actor for his role in 'The Godfather.' She declined to take the statue from presenters Roger Moore and Liv Ullmann and said Brando had given her a "very long speech" to read to the press. "He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award," Littlefeather said. “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry – excuse me – and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.” The Native American activist was met with a mix of jeers and cheers. “I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando," Littlefeather added.


Hollywood veteran Clint Eastwood mocked the demonstration later in the show. “I don’t know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford westerns over the years," he quipped. It has since emerged that Wayne had to be held back by security guards after being instigated by Littlefeather's speech. "During my presentation, he [John Wayne] was coming towards me to forcibly take me off the stage, and he had to be restrained by six security men to prevent him from doing so," Littlefeather told The Guardian last year. In the documentary 'Sacheen,' she recalled, "I was escorted off of that stage by some armed guards. And luckily so, because John Wayne was waiting in the wings ready to go on to pull me off the stage, and he had to  be held back by six security men because he was so outraged about what I had said."


Following the drama, Entertainment Weekly quoted Wayne as saying, “If [Brando] had something to say, he should have appeared that night and stated his views instead of taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit.”