Monday, September 29, 2003


A Video Review of "True Grit" (1969)

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

John Wayne got an Oscar for this one but it was obviously for body of work and not for this particular performance. True Grit is not the Duke's best but it's not his worst either. Wayne plays a cartoon essentially as U.S. Marshal and bounty hunter ‘Rooster’ Cogburn. He's the grizzled old gunfighter who knows his stuff and bothered no end by these young 'uns who think they know better.

The story has city girl Mattie Ross hiring Cogburn and a Texas Ranger to hunt down the men who killed her father in dangerous Indian country. This was based on the Charlie Portis novel and directed by Henry Hathaway a pro of various genres who had been working since the silents.

Glen Campbell as Texas Ranger Le Boeuf is saccharine sweet ‘til the end where we get to see his true colors in a frightening sequence in a rattlesnake infested cave. Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Robert Duvall as some of the bad guys are good (or is that bad?) as well. Blink and you’ll miss Jay (Tonto) Silverheels as the hanged man.

That damned Kim Darby, oh boy. She’s near perfect as Mattie Ross. But I can't think of how many movies she's ruined for me but her whining here is a triumph of character. If the whining is her best quality no wonder so many people rooted for the gremlins to kill her in the made for TV Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

The guns in each hand and reins in his teeth scene is phenomenal and one of Hollywood's most amazing images. To me it defines the John Wayne tough-guy-never-give-up policy. Also amazing is the fact that Wayne against the wishes of the director did his own stunts. Other trivia abounds in True Grit. Supposedly Wayne chased ‘that damned hippie’ Hopper around the lot with a loaded gun.

The film features one of Elmer Bernstein’s finest scores. That and the sweeping western landscapes deserve equal billing. The majestic scenery aided by Lucien Ballard’s cinematography is breathtaking.

This truly a classic not to be missed. Give a pass to both its sequel ‘Rooster’ Cogburn and its 1978 TV remake but definitely don’t miss the original. True Grit is probably one of the best westerns ever made.

This is a revised version of a review that appeared earlier elsewhere.

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