Page To Screen, Western

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 4: True Grit(1969)

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend so far. Today I want us to saddle up for adventure, action, tears, and laughter with this 1969 Western.

The film is based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. True Grit is directed by Henry Hathaway, featuring music by Elmer Bernstein.

The film stars John Wayne as the tough, cantankerous, one eyed Marshal, Rooster Cogburn. The Marshal is hired by Mattie Ross(Kim Darby)to track down Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey)her fathers murderer.

The pair are joined by Texas Ranger, La Boeuf(Glenn Campbell) who is also after Chaney for killing a Senator. This trio are all different from each other and disagree more than they agree. As they spend time together they form a bond, with Mattie in particular finding a place in Cogburn’s heart.

At first you think the title refers to Cogburn, but as the film goes on we realise that it is Mattie who is full of grit and determination.

Robert Duvall, Jeff Corey, Strother Martin and a young Dennis Hopper, all provide solid support and make quite an impression in their respective roles. Duvall and Corey in particular steal every scene they are in. They both do a superb job of capturing the evil nature and cruelty of their characters. 

Wayne won his only Oscar for his performance here. At the awards ceremony he joked that he should have put on an eye patch sooner. It’s easy to just say he won this as compensation for never having won an award before, but I really think his performance here actually deserved it.


Wayne makes Rooster a force to be reckoned with, tough and unrelenting. You know you don’t want to cross this man. He gives him heart, and we catch fleeting glimpses of compassion and tenderness beneath that tough exterior.

My favourite scenes are the following. Mattie in her hotel room holding her fathers watch and crying, Rooster telling Mattie about his life as they sit on top of the hill in the dark, all the comic scenes between Mattie and the horse dealer(Strother Martin, stealing every scene he is in) Mattie’s river crossing, the snake pit rescue, and the reins between the teeth shootout.

The music stays in your head, as do several scenes such as the final shootout, Mattie finding Chaney by the river, the shootout inside the hut and the snake pit scene. There is some stunning scenery to behold too.

I like the remake quite a bit, but this one will always be my favourite version. I also think this version makes the characters realistic, people look dirty, tired, edgy, and the film also shows how dark and violent this time period was. 

This film is very dark at times, but has some very tender scenes too, such as the funeral parlour scene, Mattie and Rooster’s heart to heart conversation, how Rooster gently tends to an injured Mattie, and her distress at what happens to her beloved horse.

A long held criticism of this film is that Darby is perhaps too old to be playing a teenager. I can see why some people think that, but I think that she gives Mattie so much strength, courage, and heart that you believe her in the role. I also think she conveys the reality that young people back then had no choice but to grow up quick, they became adults long before their time.

I also don’t think that Campbell is as bad in his role as some people have made out over the years. I think he’s quite funny in places too.

Any other fans of this? If you’ve never seen it, I hope you check it out sometime.


9 thoughts on “Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 4: True Grit(1969)”

  1. I found the end of this film to be very touching. When we see an actor 40 years younger than her leading man offer the hand of friendship; an act of love. It’s not romantic. It’s just classy. Humane. In truth, very poetic. I wholeheartedly recommend True Grit to all doubters of John Wayne and the Western genre in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the recent film is more true to the novel, however, the John Wayne version is my favourite. I love him in this role, and I agree that his Oscar for this film was well deserved.

    As for Kim Darby, I had trouble connecting with her as Mattie, at first, but she really grew on my by the end of the film. Like you said, she gives the character a lot of courage and heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this movie with all my heart. I saw it upon its first release (I was 12) and followed it up by reading the novel. I still have that copy and have read the book and watched the movie innumerable times since.

    Screenwriter Marguerite Roberts used so much of the wonderful dialogue from Portis’ novel that it created a special and unique set of characters.

    I agree with you about Glen Campbell’s work. While there were any number of actors who would have been more professional or suited to the role (my personal choice, Doug McClure), when you consider that Glen was new to acting, he really did a decent job.


    1. Glad to hear you love this one so much too. I couldn’t agree more regarding Glenn Campbell, I really don’t see why there has been so much criticism directed towards him, I thought he was pretty good. He may not have been the best actor, but he was ok in the role. I love the book and think both versions are good adaptations. The Coen’s version is closer to the book,Mattie’s age is closer to her age in the book. Wayne’s is the one that is most special to me though.




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