By Scott Brown
August 23, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Remember the other Alamo? Probably not. But credit John Wayne’s 1960 bomb for at least one thing: the controversial tradition of independent campaigning for Academy Awards. Recognizing Oscar’s dollar value, the star and famed publicist Russell Birdwell crafted a $91,000 campaign — only partially funded by United Artists — for Wayne’s ultrapatriotic directorial debut (he also produced and starred as Davy Crockett). Earnest trade ads proclaimed, ”Perhaps the Oscar should say something more this year than it has ever said before.” When critics cried ”Jingo!” Wayne responded that he was ”sickened by this belittling.” Meanwhile, supporting-actor nominee Chill Wills ran his own ads (”We of The Alamo cast are praying — harder than the real Texans prayed for their lives in the Alamo — for Chill Wills to win the Oscar”). Wayne disavowed Wills’ ad; Wills did too, blaming his publicist. The movie received seven nods, including Best Picture, but won only Best Sound. ”Hollywood looked at that campaign as a watershed event,” says film historian Pete Hammond, ”and they backed off after that.” Alas, not forever.

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