True Grit (1969)

“Fill your hands you son of a bitch!” swears John Wayne iconically. He was against salty language in his movies, generally, but felt it was appropriate for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, one of the rare times where there’s a movie and a remake, and the movies are substantially different but both great. The original True Grit is often said to be marred by certain acting performances (*kaff*GlenCampbell*kaff*) but I didn’t find it to be as bad in that regard as I recalled. Certain performances are highly stylized to be sure but they were probably more affected in the remake.

Talk first, THEN put the rein in your mouth.

“Fmmm mmrr hanf moo fun vvva vich”

True Grit is the tale of young Mattie Ross who sets out to avenge her beloved papa after he’s murdered by the drunkard whose life he’s trying to save. She’s a tough bird, bargaining Strother Martin under the table and wielding her powerful attorney street cred around like a bull whip. (In a perfect touch, we learn that her lawyer, “Lawyer Daggett” is none other than Winnie The Pooh himself, John Fiedler.) Given her choice of Marshalls to go after the reprobate who killed her father, she picks the most murderous one, Rooster. Meanwhile, the callow La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) joins their mini-posse, and the three wander around the increasingly less wild West trying to hunt down the murderous Tom Chaney (great, ubiquitous character actor Jeff Corey, who was probably on every TV show in the ’60s and ’70s at least once).

Robert Duvall, not yet a breakout star, has a role as an outlaw who ends up on the wrong side of the Cogburn and La Boeuf’s firearms only to be saved by a loyal gang member he immediately sacrifices.  (But that poor soul has nothing on Dennis Hopper, who has a small role as someone who has chosen his associates poorly.) Kim Darby, who plays Mattie, was twenty-two at the time, but is perfectly believable here. (Darby was also the eponymous pubescent girl less than three years earlier from the Star Trek episode “Miri”.)

It works out.

She’s 22. He’s immortal.

I don’t have a lot to say about the film, really: Even though it’s over two hours, the time flies by. Darby’s Mattie is certainly softer and more sentimental than Hallee Steinfeld’s although we can certainly place that at the feet of the Coen brothers and the times. This would be one of director Henry Hathaway’s last films, and is probably generally considered his best, although How The West Was One has a certain cachet.

Great score by Elmer Bernstein, though I’m not sure Airplane! could ever be topped. By anyone.


And Glen Campbell’s hair was FABULOUS!

Leave a Reply