June 11, 1969
2 hours and 8 minutes (128 minutes)
Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn
Colonel G. Stonehill
Captain Boots Finch
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It's about the Duke's image really you know.
When her father is shot and killed, Mattie Ross is outraged and thirsting for revenge. Seeking out Rooster Cogburn based on his gritty reputation, and aided by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, they head off to find the killer.
It's not bold or foolish to say that John Wayne has not only been in better films, he's also given better performances than his Oscar winning turn here in True Grit. However, few of his fans, or anyone who had watched his career closely, were complaining that the big man collected the pinnacle of acting awards. True Grit is a highly entertaining picture that when all is said and done, is as much about Wayne's image as it is a revenge character driven piece. Suffering with ill health in the twilight of his career, Wayne delivers a warm and humble performance as Cogburn. Eye patch over one eye, Rooster Cogburn is a rapscallion who is impossible to dislike, and that comes down to Wayne and his mannered performance.
True Grit is boosted by the sparky performance of Kim Darby as Mattie Ross, with the chemistry between herself and Wayne warm and honest, and this gives the film its emotional core, with both characters needing each other without even knowing it. It almost wasn't to be for Darby though, Mia Farrow was the preferred choice for Mattie, but Farrow unwisely took advice from a mischievous Robert Mitchum and turned down the part, something she is quoted as saying she regretted for the rest of her career. Faring not so well, though, is Glen Cambell as LaBoeuf, guilty of trying too hard, he just becomes hard to take seriously, and this even in the jovial moments. Robert Duvall lands bad guy duties but doesn't quite get to grips with it, and the rest of the cast are merely making up the numbers.
Thankfully director Henry Hathaway shoots it just about right, he, along with his excellent cinematographer Lucien Ballard, are framing Wayne and all his iconic being in one loving movie. So in what could have been a standard hunt the villain picture, actually turns out to be quite a character driven treat. 8/10
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