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]
Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies. See more »
In the shootout between Rooster and Pepper's gang, the film inverts for a few seconds. Rooster's eye patch moves to the right eye, the bandanna switches sides, and his rifle and pistol change hands. 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 »
Lyrics by John Newton and music by William Walker
Sung at the hanging See more »
The Honor of a Lifetime
Now personally there are John Wayne performances in terms of acting that I like better than True Grit. Among others Fort Apache, The Searchers, Red River, The Horse Soldiers, to name a few. And certain films like The Commancheros and McLintock and Big Jake I find to be more entertaining.
What True Grit does is succeed on both levels, being both great entertainment and giving John Wayne the acting role of a lifetime in the person of Rooster Cogburn.
Mattie Ross from Darnell and Yell County Arkansas personified by Kim Darby has come to Fort Smith seeking the killer of her father Jeff Corey. Turns out he's also killed a State Senator in Texas so Texas Ranger Glen Campbell informs her. Both of them team up with United States Marshal Rooster Cogburn who resides in Fort Smith with Chin Lee and my favorite movie cat, General Sterling Price.
Corey is now in the outlaw band headed by Robert Duvall at large in the Indian Nation Territory that became Oklahoma. True Grit's plot is the trio's pursuit of Duvall, Corey and the rest of the gang.
But oddly enough True Grit isn't really about plot. It's about the creation of a character. Like Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone With the Wind with Clark Gable in mind for Rhett Butler, Charles Portis wrote the novel True Grit with only John Wayne in mind as Rooster Cogburn. It must have been one singular delight for Charles Portis to see the Duke flesh out Rooster Cogburn exactly as he conceived him.
Tough old Rooster, likes an occasional drink, isn't above a little larceny, but has one stern moral code about real bad guys. Bring him in dead or alive and make sure you shoot first coming up against them. And he's got quite the colorful past as he relates tales of his younger days to Campbell and Darby on the trail.
In other reviews I've said that John Wayne had one of the great faces for movie closeups. You can see a perfect example of that in that scene with John Fiedler who plays Darby's lawyer J. Noble Daggett. A man who rates high in the legal profession in that area having forced a railroad into bankruptcy.
The camera is facing Fiedler as he's talking to Wayne about his visit with Darby who's life Wayne saved. Wayne's got about a third of his face to the camera. But even with that third, your eyes are focused on the Duke and his reactions and then as the camera slowly pans around to Wayne in full face his reaction shots are hysterical. You don't work with scene stealing character actors like Chill Wills, Walter Brennan, and Gabby Hayes for 30 years without learning something.
John Wayne was up against some stiff competition in 1969 for the Best Actor Oscar. It was his second nomination, the first being for Sands of Iwo Jima. He was facing Richard Burton as Henry VIII in Anne of a Thousand Days and a couple of newcomers named Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight for Midnight Cowboy. He was certainly the sentimental favorite.
If in no other place in our lives, sentiment does have its place in cinema. It was an honor well deserved, not just for one performance but for a lifetime of achievement in cinema being the player who put more people into movie seats than any other person ever. So many of the Duke's contemporaries like Edward G. Robinson, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power were never even nominated for an Oscar much less win one.
Because the Motion Picture Academy has deemed this John Wayne's grandest cinematic achievement, it's almost a command to support this fine western and the man who defined the western hero and is still defining it.
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