Directed by Henry Hathaway
Based on the novel True Grit by Charles Portis
Screenplay by Marguerite Roberts
Starring: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey
After her father is gunned down by Tom Chaney (Corey), Mattie Ross (Darby) heads to Fort Smith seeking information. Once there, Ross hires Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) to hunt down Chaney. Now this unlikely team is headed into Indian Territory on the heels of Tom Chaney and a gang of outlaws led by Ned Pepper (Duvall).
This film is the first of two built around the novel True Grit, written by Charles Portis (Norwood). This film was adapted by Marguerite Roberts (Ziegfeld Girl) and directed by Henry Hathaway (How the West Was Won). The film stars John Wayne (The Searchers) in the role that earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. Kim Darby (Better Off Dead…), Glen Campbell (The Cool Ones), and Robert Duvall (The Godfather) also star in the film. Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) and Jeff Corey (Little Big Man) round out the cast.
This story is a great tale of courage and redemption. Charles Portis’ novel served as the basis for the screenplay written by Marguerite Roberts. Despite some major changes from the novel, the themes remain intact. The dialogue has an almost poetic quality to it. The action capitalized on the larger-than-life personality of John Wayne. The writing done for La Boeuf and Mattie Ross has some weaker moments, but nothing terrible. Overall, this story seems to bring out the unique characteristics of every person portrayed. While it can get a bit cheesy at times, it’s still a great story.
It’s interesting that this is the movie that won John Wayne the Best Actor Oscar. I really love his performance in this movie, but it’s not nearly his best work. Still, he’s wonderful in this movie. He brings out the salty and contradictory nature of his incredibly flawed character with great skill. Robert Duvall is also pretty good in this movie. It’s always strange for me to see him on the side of the antagonist in a film. Still, he does great work with the role. Jeff Corey and Dennis Hopper also do good work with their parts in this one.
The weaker acting in this movie comes from Glen Campbell and Kim Darby. While Darby does have some great moments, she’s inconsistent. Glen Campbell, on the other hand, is just bad. I think I’d love this movie were it not for his performance. He’s a bad actor and his character ends up being annoying and almost unnecessary. Despite the weaker performances of these two, the movie is still entertaining.
The visual work done for this movie has some great moments. The cinematography took full advantage of the Colorado scenery during the shoot. The action sequences are nicely done as well. Costuming and set design did their part in making this film look authentic to the time of the story. Overall, a good film from a visual standpoint.
Unlike the 2010 version of this story, this film departs from the novel in a number of ways. Despite the changes, this is an entertaining story with a great premise. It’s also clear to see influence this movie had on the later version. The major gaffe in this movie is the setting. While the story is supposed to be carrying out in Arkansas, the movie was filmed in Colorado. This is an obvious issue since the Rocky Mountains are hard to ignore. Otherwise, the changes from the novel are of little consequence in this classic Western. One additional thing to note is the Oscar nomination the film received for Best Original Song. (Perhaps the only thing Glen Campbell contributed that doesn’t entirely stink.)
This is a good movie, some would even argue that it’s a great one. I think it’s got a lot of good things happening, but it misses the mark a bit as well. If you’re a fan of Wayne, this is a must-see movie. I would also suggest this for fans of the other stars in this one. While I’m a bigger fan of the 2010 film, this still has a lot to offer. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.