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True Grit (1969 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

True Grit
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Hathaway
Screenplay byMarguerite Roberts
Based onTrue Grit
by Charles Portis
Produced byHal B. Wallis
CinematographyLucien Ballard
Edited byWarren Low
Music byElmer Bernstein
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • June 12, 1969 (1969-06-12) (Premiere (Little Rock, AR))
  • June 13, 1969 (1969-06-13) (Los Angeles)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$31.1 million[2]

True Grit is a 1969 American Western film directed by Henry Hathaway, starring John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, Glen Campbell as La Boeuf and Kim Darby as Mattie Ross. It is the first film adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Marguerite Roberts. Wayne won an Oscar for his performance in the film and reprised his character for the 1975 sequel Rooster Cogburn.

Historians believe Cogburn was based on Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas, who brought in some of the toughest outlaws. The cast also features Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin. The title song, sung by Campbell, was also Oscar-nominated.

The movie's success, launched a series of films including a 1975 sequel, a 1978 made-for-TV sequel, and a 2010 remake  film adaptation.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • True Grit (1969) - La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) and Mattie (Kim Darby)
  • True Grit (1969) - La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) Meets Mattie (Kim Darby)
  • True Grit (9/9) Movie CLIP - Bold Talk for a One-Eyed Fat Man (1969) HD
  • True Grit (1969) Cast THEN AND NOW 2023, All cast died tragically!
  • True Grit (2/9) Movie CLIP - Drop That Switch (1969) HD



In 1880, Frank Ross, of Yell County, Arkansas, is murdered and robbed by his hired hand, Tom Chaney. Ross's young daughter, Mattie, travels to Fort Smith and hires aging U.S. Marshal Reuben "Rooster" J. Cogburn to apprehend Chaney. Mattie earns enough to pay his fee by horse trading. Meanwhile, Chaney has taken up with outlaw "Lucky" Ned Pepper in Indian Territory.[a]

Young Texas Ranger La Boeuf is also pursuing Chaney and joins forces with Cogburn, despite Mattie's protest. The two try, unsuccessfully, to ditch Mattie.

Days later, the three discover horse thieves Emmett Quincy and Moon, who are waiting for Pepper at a remote dugout cabin. Cogburn captures and interrogates the two men. Moon is shot in the leg during the capture, and Cogburn uses the injury as leverage for information about Pepper. Quincy slams a knife down on Moon's hand to shut him up, severing four of his fingers, then kills him. Cogburn shoots Quincy dead. Before dying, Moon reveals Pepper and his gang are due at the cabin that night for fresh mounts.

Rooster and La Boeuf lay a trap. Upon arriving, Pepper is suspicious and draws La Boeuf's fire, which blows cover of the planned ambush with a premature shot, inadvertently killing Pepper's horse. A firefight ensues, during which Cogburn and La Boeuf kill two gang members, but Pepper and the rest of his men escape unharmed. Cogburn, La Boeuf, and Mattie go to McAlester's store with the dead bodies. Cogburn tries, unsuccessfully, to persuade Mattie to stay at McAlester's.

The two lawmen and Mattie resume their pursuit. Fetching water one morning, Mattie finds herself face-to-face with Chaney. She shoots Chaney with her father's gun, injuring him, and then calling out to her partners. Chaney takes Mattie hostage when her gun misfires. Pepper and his gang arrive, Pepper takes charge of Mattie and threatens to kill her if Cogburn and La Boeuf do not ride away. Pepper leaves Mattie with Chaney, instructing him not to harm her.

Cogburn and La Boeuf double back. La Boeuf finds and takes charge of Mattie, and they watch from a high bluff as Cogburn confronts Pepper and his gang of three. Cogburn gives Pepper a choice between being killed now, or surrendering and being hanged in Fort Smith. Pepper starts mocking Cogburn.

Enraged, Cogburn charges the outlaws, guns blazing, and manages to hit Ned in the chest. Cogburn eventually kills the Parmalee brothers, with "Dirty Bob" fleeing. Severely wounded, Ned has enough strength to shoot Rooster's horse, trapping Rooster's leg under him as Bo goes down. Pepper prepares to kill Rooster, but La Boeuf makes a long shot with his rifle, killing Ned.

As La Boeuf and Mattie return to Pepper's camp, Chaney comes out from behind a tree and strikes La Boeuf with a rock, knocking him unconscious. Mattie shoots Chaney again, but the gun's recoil knocks her back into a snake pit. Her arm is broken in the fall and she is caught in a hole, drawing the attention of a rattlesnake. Cogburn appears and shoots Chaney, who falls into the pit, dead. Cogburn lowers himself down into the pit to retrieve Mattie, who is bitten by the snake before he shoots and kills it. La Boeuf helps them out of the pit before dying.

Cogburn is forced to leave La Boeuf behind as he and Mattie race to get help on Mattie's pony, which drops from exhaustion, forcing Cogburn to commandeer a wagon to get Mattie to a doctor in the territory. Later, Mattie's attorney, J. Noble Dagget, meets Cogburn in Fort Smith. On Mattie's behalf, Daggett pays Cogburn the remainder of his fee in Chaney's capture, plus a $200 bonus for saving her life. Cogburn offers to wager the money on a bet that Mattie will recover just fine, a bet Daggett declines.

Mattie, her arm in a sling, is back at home recovering from her injuries. She promises Cogburn he will be buried next to her in the Ross family plot after his death. Cogburn accepts her offer and leaves, jumping over a fence on his new horse to disprove her good-natured jab that he was too old and fat to clear a four-rail fence.



Hathaway says he decided to make the film like "a fairytale... a fantasy that I couched in as realistic terms as possible."[3]

Filming took place mainly in Ouray County, Colorado, in the vicinity of Ridgway (now the home of the True Grit Cafe), around the town of Montrose (in Montrose County), and the town of Ouray.[4][5][6] (The script maintains the novel's references to place names in Arkansas and Oklahoma, in dramatic contrast to the Colorado topography.) The courtroom scenes were filmed at Ouray County Courthouse in Ouray.[7][8]

Ouray County Courthouse, constructed in 1888

The scenes that take place at the "dugout" and along the creek where Quincy and Moon are killed, as well as the scene where Rooster carries Mattie on her horse Little Blackie after the snakebite, were filmed at Hot Creek on the east side of the Sierra Nevada near the town of Mammoth Lakes, California. Mount Morrison and Laurel Mountain form the backdrop above the creek. This location was also used in North to Alaska.[5] Filming was done from September to December 1968.[9]

Mia Farrow was originally cast as Mattie and was keen on the role. However, prior to filming, she made a film in England with Robert Mitchum, who advised her not to work with director Henry Hathaway because he was "cantankerous". Farrow asked producer Hal B. Wallis to replace Hathaway with Roman Polanski, who had directed Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, but Wallis refused. Farrow quit the film, which was then offered to Michele Carey, Sondra Locke and Tuesday Weld, but all three were under contract for another film. John Wayne met Karen Carpenter at a talent show he was hosting and recommended her for the part, though the producers decided against it because she had no acting experience. Wayne had also lobbied for his daughter Aissa to win the part. Olivia Hussey was also offered the role by Wallis, but the offer was rescinded after she said she "couldn't see herself with Wayne" and said that he "can't act."[10][11] After also considering Sally Field, the role went to Kim Darby.[12]

Elvis Presley was the original choice for LaBoeuf, but the producers turned him down when his agent demanded top billing over both Wayne and Darby. Glen Campbell was then cast instead. In multiple interviews, Campbell claimed that Wayne, along with his daughter,[13] approached him backstage at his show, and asked him if he would like to be in a movie.

Wayne began lobbying for the part of Rooster Cogburn after reading the novel by Charles Portis.

Wayne called Marguerite Roberts' script "the best script he had ever read", and was instrumental in getting her script approved and credited to her name after Roberts had been blacklisted for alleged leftist affiliations years before. This came in spite of Wayne's own conservative ideals.[5] He particularly liked the scene with Darby where Rooster tells Mattie about his life in Illinois (where he has a restaurant, his wife Nola leaves him because of his degenerate friends, and has a clumsy son named Horace), calling it "about the best scene I ever did".[14] Garry Wills notes in his book, John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity, that Wayne's performance as Rooster Cogburn bears close resemblance to the way Wallace Beery portrayed similar characters in the 1930s and 1940s, an inspired if surprising choice on Wayne's part. Wills comments that it is difficult for one actor to imitate another for the entire length of a movie and that the Beery mannerisms temporarily recede during the aforementioned scene in which Cogburn discusses his wife and child.[15]

Veteran John Wayne stunt-double Tom Gosnell does the stunt in the meadow, where "Bo" goes down, on his longtime horse Twinkle Toes.[16] In the last scene, Mattie gives Rooster her father's gun. She comments that he has gotten a tall horse, as she expected he would. He notes that his new horse can jump a four-rail fence. Then she admonishes him, "You're too old and fat to be jumping horses." Rooster responds with a smile, saying, "Well, come see a fat old man sometime," and jumps his new horse over a four-rail fence. Although many of Wayne's stunts over the years were done by Hayward and Chuck Roberson, it is Wayne on Twinkle Toes going over the fence.[16] This stunt had been left to the last shot as Wayne wanted to do it himself and following his lung surgery in 1965, neither Hathaway nor Wayne was sure he could make the jump. Darby's stunts were done by Polly Burson.[17]

The horse shown during the final scene of True Grit (before he jumps the fence on Twinkle Toes) was Dollor, a two-year-old (in 1969) chestnut Quarter Horse gelding. Dollor ('Ol Dollor) was Wayne's favorite horse for 10 years. Wayne fell in love with the horse, which carried him through several more Westerns, including his final movie, The Shootist. Wayne had Dollor written into the script of The Shootist because of his love for the horse; it was a condition for him working on the project. Wayne would not let anyone else ride the horse, the lone exception being Robert Wagner, who rode the horse in a segment of the Hart to Hart television show, after Wayne's death.[18]

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn

After reading True Grit by Charles Portis, John Wayne was enthusiastic about playing the part of Rooster Cogburn, but as production got closer, Wayne got jumpy — he did not have a handle on how to play Rooster Cogburn. He was, of course, nervous because the part was out of his comfort zone and had not been specifically tailored to his screen character by one of his in-house screenwriters. Henry Hathaway, who directed the film, calmed Wayne's doubts, most notably concerning the eye patch which was made of gauze, allowing Wayne to see.[19] John Wayne thought the picture had been edited too tightly by Hathaway. Nevertheless, in May 1969, a few weeks before the picture was released, Wayne wrote to Marguerite Roberts thanking her for her "magnificent" screenplay, especially for the beautiful ending in the cemetery that she had devised in Portis's style.[20] Wayne and Kim Darby worked very well together, but Henry Hathaway disliked her, stating: "My problem with her was simple, she's not particularly attractive, so her book of tricks consisted mostly [of] being a little cute. All through the film, I had to stop her from acting funny, doing bits of business and so forth."[21]

By the time the picture got back to the studio interiors, Kim Darby told Hal Wallis she would never work for Hathaway again. John Wayne was another matter. "He was wonderful to work with, he really was", said Darby. "When you work with someone who's a big star as he is ... there's an unspoken thing that they sort of set the environment for the working conditions on the set and the feeling on the set. And he creates an environment that is very safe to work in. He's very supportive of the people around him and the people he works with, very supportive. He's really a reflection, an honest reflection, of what he really is. I mean that's what you see on the screen. He's simple and direct, and I love that in his work."[22] Surrounded by an angry director, a nervous actress, and the inexperienced Glen Campbell, Wayne took the reins between his teeth the same way Rooster Cogburn does in the climax of the film. "He was there on the set before anyone else and knew every line perfectly", said Kim Darby.[21] Both Wayne and Hathaway had difficulties with Robert Duvall, with the director having constant shouting matches with his supporting actor, and Duvall and Wayne nearly coming to blows.

Hathaway says Campbell "was so damn lazy" and had troubles with Darby ("I had to stop her from acting funny".)[3]

The film was initially given an M rating[b] when it was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America's rating board. The filmmakers subsequently edited "four-letter words" out of some scenes to accommodate a G rating.[24]


Box office

The film premiered in Little Rock, Arkansas on June 12, 1969, and opened at the Chinese theatre in Los Angeles on June 13, 1969[1] where it grossed $38,000 in its first week.[25] After 11 weeks, it reached number one at the US box office and returned to the top three weeks later.[26][27]

The film earned an estimated $11.5 million in rentals at the United States and Canada box office during its first year of release.[28]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 88% of 56 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website's consensus reads: "True Grit rides along on the strength of a lived-in late-period John Wayne performance, adding its own entertaining spin to the oft-adapted source material."[29] John Simon wrote, "Worthy of succinct notice is True Grit', an amusing, unassuming western, antiheroic with a vengeance."[30]

Awards and nominations

John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Upon accepting his Oscar, Wayne said, "Wow! If I'd known that, I'd have put that patch on 35 years earlier."[31]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[32] Best Actor John Wayne Won
Best Song – Original for the Picture "True Grit"
Music by Elmer Bernstein;
Lyrics by Don Black
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Warren Low (tied with William H. Reynolds's edited film Hello, Dolly!).[33][34] Won
British Academy Film Awards[35] Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Kim Darby Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[36] Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama John Wayne Won
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "True Grit"
Music by Elmer Bernstein;
Lyrics by Don Black
Most Promising Newcomer – Male Glen Campbell Nominated
Laurel Awards Top General Entertainment Won
Top Action Performance John Wayne Won
Top Male New Face Glen Campbell Nominated
Top Female New Face Kim Darby Nominated
National Board of Review Awards[37] Top Ten Films 9th Place
Western Heritage Awards[38] Theatrical Motion Picture Won
Writers Guild of America Awards[39] Best Drama – Adapted from Another Medium Marguerite Roberts Nominated

Sequels and other film versions

A film sequel, Rooster Cogburn, was made in 1975, with Wayne reprising his role and Katharine Hepburn as an elderly spinster, Eula Goodnight, who teams with him. The plot has been described as a rehash of the original True Grit with elements of the Bogart–Hepburn film The African Queen.[40] A further made-for-television sequel titled True Grit: A Further Adventure appeared in 1978, starring Warren Oates as Rooster Cogburn and Lisa Pelikan as Mattie Ross.

In 2010, Joel and Ethan Coen directed another adaptation of the novel. Their adaptation focuses more on Mattie's point of view, as in the novel, and is somewhat more faithful to its Oklahoma setting—though it was filmed in New Mexico.[41] Hailee Steinfeld portrays Mattie Ross, Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, and the cast includes Matt Damon as La Boeuf and Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney.

See also


  1. ^ Modern-day Oklahoma.
  2. ^ Due to confusion over whether or not "M"-rated films were suitable for children, the M rating was renamed to GP in 1970 and then to PG in 1972.[23]


  1. ^ a b True Grit at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ "True Grit (1969)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Eyman, Scott (September–October 1974). "'I made movies' an interview with Henry Hathaway". Take One. p. 12.
  4. ^ Higgins, Jim; Higgins, Shirley Rose (March 22, 1970). "Movie Fan's Guide to Travel". Chicago Tribune. p. H14.
  5. ^ a b c Shepherd, Slatzer & Grayson 2002, p. 274.
  6. ^ JeepsterGal (October 3, 2007). John Wayne in True Grit, Then and Now, Extended Video. YouTube. Archived from the original on November 18, 2021. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  7. ^ Parry, Will H. (November 22, 1990). "Born-Again Boom Town". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Copley News Service. p. 5D.
  8. ^ Gelbert 2002, p. 44.
  9. ^ McGhee 1990, p. 361.
  10. ^ Hussey, Olivia (2018). The Girl on the Balcony. London: Kensington Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-1-496-71707-8.
  11. ^ Groucho. "Groucho Reviews: Interview: Olivia Hussey—Romeo and Juliet". Groucho Reviews. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  12. ^ Davis 2002, p. 286.
  13. ^ "Country music singer Glen Campbell talks about John Wayne". YouTube.
  14. ^ Ebert 2011, p. 164.
  15. ^ Wills 1997, p. 286.
  16. ^ a b "Stuntman Recalls Wayne Friendship". Kingman Daily Miner. Associated Press. June 15, 1979. p. A5.
  17. ^ De Witt, Barbara (March 11, 1995). "How the West was won: fearless women on horseback". Los Angeles Daily News.
  18. ^ Whiteside, John (January 19, 1985). "The Duke's Horse Keeps Special Bond". Chicago Sun Times.
  19. ^ Eyman 2014, p. 442-3.
  20. ^ Eyman 2014, p. 448.
  21. ^ a b Eyman 2014, p. 445.
  22. ^ Eyman 2014, p. 447.
  23. ^ Krämer, Peter (2005). The New Hollywood: From Bonnie and Clyde to Star Wars. Short Cuts Series. Columbia University Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-231-85005-6. OCLC 952779968.
  24. ^ "True Grit". American Film Institute. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  25. ^ "L.A. Rebounds; 'Grit' Robust $38,000". Variety. June 18, 1969. p. 10.
  26. ^ "50 Top-Grossing Films". Variety. September 3, 1969. p. 13.
  27. ^ "50 Top-Grossing Films". Variety. September 24, 1969. p. 11.
  28. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969". Variety. January 7, 1970. p. 15. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  29. ^ "True Grit". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 5, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  30. ^ Simon, John (1971). Movies into Film Film Criticism 1967-1970. The Dial Press. p. 177.
  31. ^ Oscars (July 1, 2009). "John Wayne Wins Best Actor: 1970 Oscars". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 18, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  32. ^ "The 42nd Academy Awards (1970) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  33. ^ Smith, Fredrick Y., ed. (1971). ACE Second Decade Anniversary Book. American Cinema Editors, Inc. pp. 65–67.
  34. ^ "Film Editors Given Eddies". The Los Angeles Times. March 17, 1970. p. 75. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  35. ^ "BAFTA Awards (1970)". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  36. ^ "True Grit – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  37. ^ "1969 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  38. ^ "True Grit". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  39. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  40. ^ Eyman 2014, p. 512.
  41. ^ Fleming, Michael (March 22, 2009). "Coen brothers to adapt 'True Grit'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved July 18, 2018.

External links

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