One film, two versions: True Grit

In 1969, I went to see John Wayne in a new western film. He was 62 at the time, but looked older and craggier than ever. The film was called ‘True Grit’, and starred Wayne as a grumpy drunken sheriff, Rooster Cogburn. He has a great reputation in the territory, and always brings in the hardest and toughest criminals. When Frank Ross is murdered by his hired hand, Frank’s daughter Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) travels to find Rooster, wishing to hire him to find and arrest her father’s killer, Tom Chaney. She has chosen Rooster, as she believes him to be a man who has ‘true grit’.

Chaney is hiding out with the gang of outlaw Ned Pepper, (Robert Duvall) and Mattie insists on accompanying Rooster on the search. The pair are joined by the affable LaBouef, (Glen Campbell) a Texas Ranger who is also hunting Chaney. They head out to look for the gang, but as they close in on them, Mattie is captured by Ned Pepper, and Rooster and LaBouef must save her.

This was a lot of fun. Wayne doesn’t take himself seriously as Rooster, and we are all in on the jokes. Kim Darby is perfectly cast as the feisty Mattie, prim and proper, and full of fight. Glen Campbell is surprisingly good too, considering he was best known as a country and western singer. Then there is the flawless supporting cast, including the already mentioned Duvall, as well as Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper, and Jeff Corey. The ending is not pat and comfortable, and the action is believable. This was an immensely satisfying film, in every respect. And John Wayne won an Oscar for his performance too.

Anyone who reads and writes about films will tell you that you are not allowed to say anything bad about the Coen brothers. They are lauded from ocean to ocean as the modern-day wonders of American cinema. I like a lot of their films, and agree that some are excellent indeed. But I am about to say something bad about them, so look away.

In 2010, they made their version of ‘True Grit’. Not a remake, it was claimed at the time, but a different adaptation of the original book. It starred Jeff Bridges as Rooster, Matt Damon as LaBouef, and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Josh Brolin was Tom Chaney, and Barry Pepper played Ned Pepper. (No relation) It is a darker film, with a few slight changes to the original, and a slightly extended end sequence. The cast play their parts well, but much of the humour is lost in the process, and Hailee is no Kim Darby when it comes to playing Mattie Ross, as well as looking too child-like. So, it was a remake, and a pointless one at that.
In my opinion, The Coens should have stuck to what they do best.
Being original.

39 thoughts on “One film, two versions: True Grit

    1. I try never to let real-life personalities cloud my judgement of an actor’s performance in a film, and that’s not always easy, I know. I mainly like Wayne in his later films, as I mentioned in the comments below. His performance in ‘True Grit’ had real heart.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I am not sure about this one, Pete. I remember watching the original a couple of times at least, but a long time ago, and enjoying it (John Wayne I can also take or leave but there are a few movies where he is the perfect choice, and yes, I’d go with your list, while I like Jeff Bridges full stop), and I liked the new version as well, but I haven’t watched them close enough to compare, although I agree with your comment about Damon. I have read the book and the girl in the second one is much closer in age to the character, for sure, although I do remember there seemed to be a bond between the two characters in the first movie that rang true. Well, I guess I should watch the original again! Thanks, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a straight adaptation of the book, (which I have not read) then I admit the Coen’s version is more accurate. But it lost any warmth and affection shown in the original, which is the main reason I didn’t like it.
      Thanks, Olga.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  2. Great post 🙂 Nevertheless, I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with you here. The only area where the original matches the remake lies in the lead performance area of John Wayne in the 69 version and Jeff Bridges in the 2010 remake. Other than that, the remake surpasses it in every area because it was directed and written by geniuses (in this case, Joel and Ethan Coen). I am not trying to bash the original or it’s director (Henry Hathaway in that case). The Coens are able to make something special out of it even though the end results is simply just a highly entertaining old school western. Just my opinion though. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I said in the post, John, most people don’t like to hear any criticism of the Coens.
      If you prefer their remake, that’s fine. But of course, I am sticking with the original version.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen the remake, but not the original. I thought the Jeff Bridges film was fine. I would probably like the John Wayne film even more, though. Sadly, I only have a handful of John Wayne films:
    The Searchers (1956)
    Rio Bravo (1959)
    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
    The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
    El Dorado (1966)
    The Shootist.(1976)
    As much as I like John Wayne, and believe him to be irreplaceable, I’m a bigger fan of James Stewart westerns.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad that I am not the only one who did not enjoy the remake (confession…I even fell asleep part way in the theatre when watching this…and that is never a good sign). Definitely a good case of the original being the best 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are like an epidemic, Michael. Easy to do, cheaper to make than new ideas, and they have an appeal to a young generation that is not aware of the original films. One of the reasons that I do so many of these remake posts is to inform people about the earlier versions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  5. Pete, here’s my take on this remake, since as you know I hate them all – stick with the original in every case! – but, that said, the Coens at least attempted to tell the story of the book, which means it had a different ending, which John Wayne’s version left out – and for good reason! You are right, the film is more dour, and all of the feistiness of Cogburn is left out…Damon plays a pompous fool, without the endearing sweetness of Glen Campbell (how rare is it to say THAT!) Enjoy John Wayne, I say!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. I recall reading a Coen’s interview where they went on about being ‘true to the book’. By doing so, the film fell flat. (I wonder how many people even knew it was a book? 🙂 )
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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