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A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn teenager track down her father's murderer in Indian territory.


Henry Hathaway


Charles Portis (novel), Marguerite Roberts (screenplay)
3,068 ( 1,179)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Rooster Cogburn
Glen Campbell ... La Boeuf
Kim Darby ... Mattie Ross
Jeremy Slate ... Emmett Quincy
Robert Duvall ... Ned Pepper
Dennis Hopper ... 'Moon'
Alfred Ryder ... Goudy
Strother Martin ... Col. G. Stonehill
Jeff Corey ... Tom Chaney
Ron Soble ... Capt. Boots Finch
John Fiedler ... Lawyer Daggett
James Westerfield ... Judge Parker
John Doucette ... 'Sheriff'
Donald Woods ... 'Barlow'
Edith Atwater ... Mrs. Floyd


The murder of her father sends a teenage tomboy, Mattie Ross, (Kim Darby), on a mission of "justice", which involves avenging her father's death. She recruits a tough old marshal, "Rooster" Cogburn (John Wayne), because he has "grit", and a reputation of getting the job done. The two are joined by a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf, (Glen Campbell), who is looking for the same man (Jeff Corey) for a separate murder in Texas. Their odyssey takes them from Fort Smith, Arkansas, deep into the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) to find their man. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net> [edited]

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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 »


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

21 June 1969 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Temple de acero See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Wallis-Hazen See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Mia Farrow, among other well-known actresses, was approached to play Mattie, but she turned it down. Robert Mitchum, with whom she had just done a film, had told her that Henry Hathaway was cantankerous and impossible to work with. She lobbied to get Hathaway replaced by Roman Polanski, who had recently worked with her successfully in Rosemary's Baby (1968), but to no avail. She later said it was one of the biggest professional mistakes of her career. See more »


When Rooster hits La Boeuf with his rifle right after Mattie is captured, the rifle bends. It is obviously a rubber gun. See more »


[first lines]
Frank Ross: Little Frank... You take care of your mama.
Little Frank: I will.
See more »

Alternate Versions

When submitted for a rating from the MPAA in 1969, the film was given an "M". The film was edited and re-rated "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 »


(Folk Song)
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User Reviews

Wondrous and thoroughly competent western breathing life into a tale of revenge, whilst unafraid of going full bore into the souls and minds of the characters it depicts.
12 July 2011 | by johnnyboyzSee all my reviews

The film begins on that of the homely, often perceived as 'safe', locale of a farm ranch in 1880's Arkansas; the Ross family are bidding farewell to their husband and father of the place in Frank, eventually seeing him roll on out of there with a lodger after the establishment it would be safer to take a train, rather than ride horseback, to where they're going. The lodger, of whom, takes minimal belongings for such a hike and whose reply to such an accusation is dry and understated, as if something were brewing in his mind and he were never going to return to here. Away from the more congregated goodbyes sits a young girl inside of an establishment, she shares an exchange with her father which is granted a more personalised and lower-key sense, during which she is established to be quite the one for having her own voice; rather sharp on the accounting side of things and takes a stance on an issue to do with the purchasing of ponies before stating such a standpoint in a concise manner.

The young girl is a certain Mattie, played extraordinarily by Kim Darby; a character whose role it is to waltz into the male dominated patriarchy of the western genre and upset the balance as this young; seemingly frail, but ultimately female, presence putting her foot down. The crux of authenticity in Darby's quite stunning performance runs in tandem with that of her character's predicament; within the film, she is somebody whom must confront and often stand up to certain individuals of a hardened and established ilk, before often coming to have to dominate proceedings in their presence. This is something in lieu of Darby's own predicament, that of having to match up to that of a figure of John Wayne's stature in this, a Western, and have to match him within the frame as well as the universe of the film.

In short, Henry Hathaway's bare boned 1969 western is a near faultless masterpiece; an exciting, unpredictable and more than substantial film balancing several acts at once as it breathlessly tells a tale that is difficult to find anything less than thoroughly absorbing. The film is directed with distinct aplomb; make no mistake, his film is unafraid to place children on the front-line and in the firing line of a west we very much sense is "wild". It is a west that sees animals get caught up, and often killed, in the ensuing chaos; a west that sees an array of lowlifes all intermingling with one another and the elements, those of whose actions and motivations we can never take for granted and of which are told amidst a background of brutality lending a great air of ambiguity to proceedings as we wonder if anybody is entirely safe.

The catalyst for proceedings is in the tragedy that is Frank's death; shot and killed by his accomplice lodger whilst trying to help him in the aftermath of a poker game. In reaction to this, Mattie journeys to the town in which he was killed so as to hire a Marshall to find the man and garner some justice; her witnessing of several other criminals guilty for similar crimes publicly hung allowing her exposure to what awaits such justice. That Marshall eventually turns out to be a certain Rooster Cogburn, John Wayne's Civil War veteran, who's living a life of rounding up disparate arrays of crooks and bandits from local territories and holding them in cells overnight so as to take courtroom lectures the following morning over, what we perceive to be from Cogburn's perspective, negligent intricacies over whom shot what first and in what order this-and-that happened. The manner in which Cogburn kicks an inmate towards the jail house in that lazed manner, as if he's done it so many times before that it's become too many times before, is prominent; a sense of the guy going through motions in rounding these guys up with little pleasure derived from the fact he has helped bring peace to those to whom it matters.

Mattie and Cogburn eventually link up, his enthusiasm only truly omnipresent when she is able to show him hard cash; her smaller, sharper posture, more colourful display of attire and verbal eloquence in relatively stark contrast to that of his larger build, slurred tone, more erratic body movements and clothing dulled by months of dirt. Along for good measure is that of a Texan ranger named La Boeuf (Campbell), somebody who challenges Mattie's transgressions and whose stake for the same man she's after is a lot more on account he's guilty of killing a politician. Where the film is effectively Mattie's as a tale of revenge, the film does really well to encompass Cogburn's arc of going out to find a wanted man, like he always does, but this time identifying what he's doing and for whom he's doing it. Principally, the coming to learn; accept and acknowledge life, or justice, as something worth going out and fighting for or battling toward, in the action of searching for this man rather than merely treating it as a part of the daily grind, is prominent. The film keeps the interplay between the three of them tasty throughout, and we enjoy Mattie's ability to bring a sense of the controlled or of the informed to her surroundings as well as to those with whom she interacts, in what is a persistently captivating series of clashes Hathaway keeps moving and brooding with and affecting eye on numerous things.

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