Her father's murder sends teenage tomboy Mattie Ross on a mission of "justice" to avenge his death. She recruits tough old marshal "Rooster" Cogburn because he has "grit" and a reputation for getting the job done. They are joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf, who is looking for the same man for another murder in Texas. Their odyssey takes them from Fort Smith, Arkansas to deep into Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) to find their man.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org> [edited]
The strangest trio ever to track a killer. A fearless, one-eyed U.S. marshal who never knew a dry day in his life... a Texas ranger thirsty for bounty money... and a girl still wet behind the ears who didn't care what they were or who they were as long as they had true grit. See more »
The mountains where the movie was filmed were too high to be the Oklahoma and Arkansas areas where the narrative is set. The mountains in those areas top out in the 2-3 thousand foot range. The LOWEST mountains in the film often visibly exceed that height range. See more »
Little Frank... You take care of your mama.
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When submitted for a rating from the MPAA in 1969, the film was given an "M". The film was edited and rerated "G". The American VHS version contains the "G" rated cut while the DVD is the uncut "M" version (which would be printed as "PG" since the symbol was changed in the 1970s). See more »
"True Grit" deals with one of the classic Western themes, indeed one of the classic themes in all literature- revenge. A teenage girl, Mattie Ross, is looking for someone who will help her track down Tom Chaney, the man who murdered her father. The man Mattie chooses is Rooster Cogburn, a US Marshal. Cogburn is elderly, fat, one-eyed and a heavy drinker, but Mattie chooses him because she has heard that he has "true grit". The two of them set out into the Indian Territory in search of Chaney, accompanied by La Boeuf (shouldn't that be Le Boeuf?), a Texas ranger who wants to arrest him in connection with another murder.
This is perhaps best remembered today as the film for which John Wayne won his only Oscar. Halliwell's Film Guide rather ungraciously refers to it as a "sentimental Oscar, for daring to look old and fat", but there is more to Wayne's performance than that. The Academy, in fact, had tended to overlook Wayne, just as they overlooked the Western genre which provided him with most of his roles; well over a hundred films had only brought him two previous nominations. Cogburn, however, was one of his best roles. On the surface a hard-bitten, irascible old man, he has hidden depths to his character- not only the courage and determination implied by the phrase "true grit", but also a sense of humour and a capacity for tenderness. Cogburn is a lonely man, divorced from his wife and alienated from his only son, and his only friends are a Chinese storekeeper (a rare acknowledgement from Hollywood that not every inhabitant of the West was either white or an Indian) and his cat. A close relationship, however, grows up between him and the orphaned Mattie, for whom he becomes a substitute father. In turn, she becomes the daughter he never had- or perhaps even a substitute son.
Mattie is a complex character. There is much about her that is androgynous- her tomboy looks, her short hair, even her name, which can be short for Matthew as well as Matilda or Martha. She is brave and determined (there is a suggestion that the phrase "true grit" applies to her as well), but can also be a pain in the neck, especially to Cogburn. She is at times wise in the ways of the world and at others strangely innocent. She is part avenging angel, part bookish intellectual (shown by her rather formal language) and part vulnerable child. It is a role that called for an outstanding performance and got one from Kim Darby who was able to bring out all the various facets of Mattie's character. (This is the only film of hers that I have seen, but it seems strange on the strength of this that her subsequent cinema career has been so patchy). Unfortunately, Glenn Campbell, a singer with little previous acting experience, made a weak La Boeuf. It is probably as well that John Wayne did not get his way when he wanted Karen Carpenter, a singer with absolutely no previous acting experience, to play the role of Mattie instead of Darby. Great actors do not always make great casting directors.
"True Grit" does not perhaps have the depth of meaning of some of the truly great Westerns, such as "High Noon", "Unforgiven" or Wayne's last film, "The Shootist", but it is a very good one. It is a fast-moving and exciting adventure, notable for some beautiful photography of mountainous landscapes (although it is ostensibly set in relatively flat Oklahoma, it was actually filmed in Colorado and California), for one of the great iconic moments of the Western (the scene where Cogburn gallops alone into battle, guns blazing, against four opponents) and for two excellent performances in the two main roles. 7/10
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