Oldies but goldies: True Grit (1969)

Director: Henry Hathaway, Main Cast: John WayneKim DarbyGlen CampbellJeff CoreyRobert Duvall;


Mattie Ross (Darby) is determined to find her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Corey), and see that justice is served. Being a resourceful, determined girl, she hires Rooster Cogburn (Wayne), a U.S marshal, who has true grit and a reputation for getting the job done. This unlikely pair is joined by Texas ranger La Boeuf (Campbell), who is chasing the same man for murdering a Texan senator. They start out from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and venture deep into the Indian Territory, where most outlaws seek refuge. A chance encounter with two of Ned Pepper’s (Duvall) men, a notorious bandit, put them on the right track. On a side note, it is interesting to see Denis Hopper in a small supporting role the same year in which Easy Rider was released, another proof of his versatility. The odd trio lie in wait to ambush Ned’s gang, hoping to catch Chaney as well, but luck is not on their side. Rooster’s knowledge of Ned and of the lay of the land will eventually lead them to their quarry but justice will come at a high price. There is a good on-screen chemistry between Darby and Wayne that sells quite well the story, notwithstanding the incredibly wooden performance of Campbell. The portrayal of Rooster is often celebrated as one of the best among Wayne’s roles and rightly so. He manages to complete disappear in his character and bring an artful mix of grumpiness, gumption and good-heartedness. Already in his sixties and rather portly, Wayne channels strength and make this drunken, beaten man believable as a hardened marshal, even if he looks a bit stiff climbing up or down his horse. I must confess that watching American western films from the 50s and 60s always leaves me baffled by the excess of cleanness and neatness of the people and their clothes, I have seen too many spaghetti western and post-western movies not to find it a little weird. I couldn’t help but notice Mattie’s perfectly manicured hands, her nylon stockings or the fact that no one is ever sweaty, scruffy or, god forbid, cover with dust! Anyway it is still a very enjoyable film. Entertaining —7/10

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This post is part of the Diamonds & Gold blogathon hosted by Caftan Woman and Wide Screen World, so please have a look at reviews of other great films with memorable performances of actors and actresses into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond:





Filed under Oldies but goldies, Seen at home

13 responses to “Oldies but goldies: True Grit (1969)

  1. Rich

    LOL, that’s a good point about the relative cleanliness of the characters. I suppose this isn’t the only Western you could say that about either!

  2. Over the years I’ve come to cut Campbell a bit of slack as LeBoeuf. I think the movie would have been better served had they cast an actor in the role instead of a singer. However, considering his lack of experience, he didn’t do too badly. In any case, the film is all Wayne’s and Darby’s and they are perfect.

    When I get too jaded about the Oscars I try to remember John Wayne’s heartfelt gratitude at his win. It may just be something in the trivia corner for fans to argue about to us, but to the actors it is something special.

    • I agree with you about cutting Campbell some slack for not being an actor but the overall quality of the movie would have definitely been improved with a professional in the role. Thanks for reading.

  3. Must confess I haven’t watched this yet, despite owning it on DVD, but I aim to catch up with it very soon. Another good late performance of Wayne’s was in ‘Rio Lobo’, even if it was a bit like a remake of El Dorado and Rio Bravo!

    • yeah, but I think in those movies you can still see too much of John Wayne and not enough of the character he’s playing. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Le

    Good point about how people were clean in these westerns! What about the breathtaking blue sky?
    I like this film very much, especially for its visual. It’s frequently on TV here, and I find it amusing to see John Wayne with only one eye shooting people. And that talk about Rooster’s family is a surprisingly moving touch amid the action.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂

    • Hi Le,
      yes, the scenery is pretty spectacular, one of the high points of the film, I should have mention it.
      Thanks for your comment, I’ll check out your post for sure.

  5. Want to hear something funny. The reason I have long-claimed to not like Westerns is because the men are usually scruffy, dirty, and unkempt. Plus, there is dust and tumbleweeds galore.

    At any rate, though I’ve only recently developed an appreciation for Westerns, “True Grit” is one I’ve liked since a child. We went to the drive-in to see it back when it came out. Of course, Glen Campbell was the draw for me, and I very quickly developed a mild crush on him.

    I think John Wayne was great in this role…very deserving of the Academy Award he earned.

  6. True Grit is the Western of my childhood, I haven’t seen it for years. In fact, I’d totally forgotten about Denis Hopper’s role! This is one of my favourite John Wayne roles, but I couldn’t agree more with your point about its cleanliness – nothing ever feels particularly realistic and (despite what I mentioned) I find it difficult to relate to any of the characters – I cam never believe in them enough.

  7. Pingback: How Katharine Hepburn Defied Sexist Ageism in Hollywood | Margaret Perry Movies

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