True Grit (1969) – Henry Hathaway

Ten Bad Dates With De Niro brings me a classic western on their list of titles that bring movie tears to the eye. John Wayne delivers an Oscar winning turn as Rooster Cogburn in Henry Hathaway’s cinematic adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel.

I won’t lie, I came to the Coen Brothers version of the story first, and consequently enjoy it more. There’s a, you’ll excuse the potential pun, grit to their version. It’s dirty, the costumes are worn and there’s a reality to it that is lacking in this version of the film, although it does layer out the details of the world the characters exist in quite well; swing sets for the kids at a hanging, people hawking food, little things like that.

John Wayne’s version of True Grit is a bold, technicolor beauty of a film, which gives the story an almost mythic feel as opposed to the darkness captured in the remake.

Smart, driven, outspoken Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) is seeking revenge on Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) for the murder of her father. She can’t be reasoned with, or out smarted – she’s too clever for that, and she wants the most dangerous and reliable man for the job that her money can afford.

That leads her to Rooster Cogburn, an ageing, bit of a drunkard, marshal, who is bold, violent, knows his work, and is very set in his ways. That causes problems for the working relationship they hope to have. One that is further complicated by a Texas ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell – yes, that Glen Campbell) who is also after Chaney for financial reasons of his own.


The trio are thrown together, and work around their mutual (dis)like of one another, but it will have a price before the tale comes to an end.

There are differences between the two films, but some of the dialogue is the same which speaks to Portis’ ability to craft a line, and there are some great moments in the film. That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of The Duke, and think Bridges’ take on the character is stronger.

I absolutely delighted in seeing Kim Darby in this film. Yes, she’s had a long and varied career, but for me, she will always be Miri from the Star Trek episode of the same name.

I will admit that towards the end, this film had my heart strings tugged a little stronger than I thought as I was almost moved to dry my eyes towards the film as the climax plays out and Rooster does all he can to save the life of Mattie.

The rest of the cast feels like a who’s who, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall, and fellow Trek alumus and the original voice of Piglet, John Fiedler.

It’s a truly great movie, one could argue better than the remake, but lacks the edge and reality that the Coen brothers gave the story, and perhaps that what makes it great, it eschews the trappings of reality and approaches the mythic with its cast, its larger than life leading actors, and its story.

Check it out for yourself, or find something in Ten Bad Dates With De Niro to watch tonight!


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