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True Grit is a 1969 Western film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The film is adapted from the 1968 novel, True Grit, by Charles Portis.


After Frank Ross (John Pickard) is killed by his hired-hand, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), Ross' daughter Mattie (Kim Darby), a headstrong 14-year-old girl, hires the aging, irascible and drunken U.S. Marshal Rooster J. Cogburn (John Wayne) to track down Chaney. To do so, the pair must head into Indian territory. They are joined by a young Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), who also hopes to capture Chaney and collect a reward.

Mattie Ross arrives in Fort Smith, Arkansasmarker looking for a Marshal or Deputy Marshal who will help her search for Chaney.

Upon arriving in Fort Smith she learns about a Deputy Marshal called Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn. Upon hearing about Cogburn's legendary grit, Ross decides that he may be the man to help her. Unable to meet with Cogburn straight away she goes to the Monarch boardinghouse, where she meets Texas Ranger Le Boeuf.

Le Boeuf has recently come from Mattie's home in Dardanelle, Arkansasmarker, in Yell Countymarker, and advises Mattie that he too is searching for Chaney who killed a Texas Senator on his porch some time past. Mattie refuses Le Boeuf's assistance.

The following day she meets Cogburn, his Chinese room-mate, Chen Lee (H.W. Gim), and the ginger cat, General Sterling Price. Agreeing to a price of $100, Ross and Cogburn set out to capture and return Chaney, who has taken up with a known criminal "Lucky" Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) and his gang. Ross goes to see a local horse dealer (Strother Martin), from whom her father had bought four ponies, which he had not collected before his death.

After finally getting the horse dealer to return the money paid for the horses (at $25 per head), along with her father's saddle amongst other things, Mattie leaves with $300 in cash. She returns to Rooster and gives him $25 as a down-payment, promising another $25 when they leave Fort Smith and the remaining $50 upon completion of the job. She then leaves to buy a horse, from the same horse-dealer for $12 (including shoeing as she "will not ride a barefoot pony").

Returning the following day to Cogburn, she is less than thrilled to see Le Boeuf also there, discussing the search for Chaney. She attempts to convince Cogburn to ignore Le Boeuf's offers of a share of $1,500 but ends up asking for her down-payment to be returned. Cogburn admits to having spent it. Mattie leaves.

Cogburn and Le Boeuf arrive at a river ferry crossing, to find Mattie Ross and her horse waiting to cross the river. They refuse to let her travel, claiming to a nearby Marshal that she is a runaway and that there is a $50 reward for her capture. She escapes the Marshall and makes her horse swim over the river, wherein she beats the two men to the other side. The two men ride away quickly, but she follows. After they lay a trap for her and catch her, they realize she is determined to go along and she joins the posse.

After a couple of days, the posse come across a cabin in a valley, which Cogburn had claimed would be empty, so they could stay the night. However, the place is not empty and is the hideout of two horse thieves who, they find out, are waiting for Ned Pepper. After an argument between the horse thieves one stabs the other, and then Rooster shoots the first dead. They have, however, found out that Ned and his band are due at the hideout that night, so they lay a trap.

After dark, Rooster tells Mattie about his former life and his former wife and son (who "never liked [him] anyway"). Whether the past is the reason for his constant drinking is only hinted at, but is never confirmed.

The following morning, Ned Pepper and his band arrive at the hideout, but realise that something is wrong when their signals go unanswered. A shootout ensues with Rooster and Le Boeuf killing two of Ned's posse and one horse. But Pepper survives (despite having his horse shot from under him) and he and the remaining members of his group escape.

Rooster, Le Boeuf and Mattie make their way to a small outpost known as McAlester's store. There Rooster arranges for the four dead to be buried and, after prompting from Mattie, keeps an earlier promise to the stabbed horse thief to send money to his brother, a circuit-riding Methodist preacher in Austin, Texasmarker.

The three continue their pursuit of Chaney & Pepper. After a few days on the trail, Mattie wakes up one morning and makes her way down a steep hill to a river to wash. She slips down the hill and finds herself face-to-face with Tom Chaney. She gets up and raises her pistol. Chaney goads her and she shoots him, much to his surprise, injuring him in the stomach. She calls out to Le Boeuf and Cogburn, but Ned Pepper and his gang get there first and capture Mattie. Using her as a bargaining tool, they make Cogburn and Le Boeuf leave. Then Ned's gang abandon Mattie and Chaney and prepare to ride off to "business elsewhere".

Cogburn has doubled back, however, and meets the four members of Pepper's gang in a large clearing. They ride towards one another. Cogburn takes the reins in his teeth, a rifle in one hand and handgun in the other, and manages to dispose of three members of Pepper's group, and injure Ned himself. However, in the process Cogburn's horse Bo is shot and lands on Rooster's leg, pinning him underneath with his gun out of reach.

Meanwhile, Le Boeuf has made his way to Chaney and Mattie and moves Chaney to an area he thinks is secure. Then he and Mattie move to an outcropping and watch Rooster's four-on-one fight with Ned and his gang.

Pepper has survived the shootout and advances on Rooster, who still can't reach his gun. Just as he prepares to shoot Rooster, Le Boeuf shoots Pepper from a great distance, killing him.

Le Boeuf and Mattie return to Chaney, only to find him missing. Chaney appears from behind a large boulder and smashes a rock over Le Boeuf's head, apparently killing him. Mattie attempts to shoot Chaney, but the kickback makes her stumble and she falls into a pit, breaking her arm.

Cogburn arrives and manages to shoot Chaney dead. Mattie screams for help as there is a rattlesnake in the pit. While waiting for rescue, Mattie starts swiping at the snake with a branch from the pit, angering the snake, which ultimately bites her on the hand. Moments later, Cogburn shoots the snake dead.

The two are unable to get out, but Le Boeuf comes to the rescue as he announces that he "ain't dead yet", climbs a horse, with a rope attached, and pulls the two from the pit. This action takes the last bit of life from Le Boeuf who collapses and dies moments later. Cogburn is forced to leave Le Boeuf, telling Mattie that if he doesn't get her to a doctor quickly then she'll be "deader than he is". He and Mattie climb on Mattie's horse, despite her protestations that the horse can't carry them both, and they ride away at speed.

After a while, the exertion becomes too much for the horse, which dies. Cogburn lifts an unconscious Mattie and carries her. He comes across - and "borrows" - a wagon and drives to McAlester's, where an Indian doctor treats her snakebite and splints her broken arm.

Days later, Cogburn and Chen Lee are playing cards when Mattie's attorney, J. Noble Daggett (John Fiedler) arrives and pays Cogburn the remaining $75 of the fee for the capture of Chaney, plus an additional $200 for saving Mattie's life. He informs them, though, that Mattie is gravely ill. After absorbing the news, Rooster asks Daggett if he is a betting man, to which Daggett responds "on occasion". Rooster offers to bet the $275 and his cat, General Sterling Price, that Mattie will make it back to Yell County; but with a laugh, the prudent Daggett declines to bet against Mattie.

Weeks later, Mattie and Cogburn are at Mattie's home, and Mattie shows him her family plot. She tells Rooster that she wants him to be buried beside her in the family plot, which surprises him, but he accepts, so long as she doesn't mind if he doesn't "...try to move in too soon!". He then rides away, jumping a four-rail fence as the film ends....



Filming took place mainly in Ouray County, Coloradomarker, in the vicinity of Ridgwaymarker (now the home of the True Grit Cafe), and the town of Ouraymarker. (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 Court house in Ouray. The scenes that take place at the "dugout" and along the creek where Pierce and Moon are killed as well as the scene where Rooster carries Mattie on Lil'Blackie after the snakebite were filmed at Hot Creek on the east side of the Sierra Nevada near the town of Mammoth Lakes, California. Mt Morrison and Laurel Mountain form the backdrop above the creek.

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 use Roman Polanski to replace Hathaway, Wallis ignored the request and Farrow quit the role which was given to Kim Darby.

Wayne called Marguerite Roberts' script “the best [he’d] ever read.” He particularly liked the scene with Darby where Rooster tells Mattie about his wife in Illinoismarker, calling it the best scene he ever did.

Ouray County Courthouse, constructed in 1888.
In the last scene, Mattie gives Rooster her father's gun. She comments that he got 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 “Well, come see a fat old man sometime” and jumps his new horse over a fence. Despite popular belief, Wayne did not jump over the fence himself. In fact, according to biographer Garry Wills in his book on Wayne, Wayne was not healthy enough to do such stunts. Wayne had an entire lung removed four years prior to making the film and actually had trouble walking more than 30 feet without breathing heavily.

Wayne fell in love with the horse, which would carry him through several more Westerns, including his final movie, The Shootist. A chestnut Quarter horse gelding, Dollor ('Ole Dollor), had been Wayne's favorite horse for ten years, through several Westerns. The horse shown during the final scene of True Grit was Dollor, a two-year-old in 1969. 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. Robert Wagner was a rare exception, who rode the horse in a segment of the Hart to Hart television show, after Wayne's death.


Awards and nominations

John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe. Upon accepting his Oscar, Wayne said, "If I'd known this, I'd have put that eyepatch on 40 years ago." The song “True Grit”, by composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black, and sung by Glen Campbell who co-starred in the movie, received nominations for both the Academy Award for Best Song and the Golden Globe.

John Wayne's performance

Garry Wills notes in his book John Wayne's America that Wayne's performance as Rooster Cogburn bears close similarities to the way Wallace Beery portrayed characters in the 1930s and 1940s, an inspired if surprising choice on Wayne's part. Wills comments that it's difficult for one actor to imitate another for the entire length of a movie and that the Beery mannerisms temporarily recede during the scene in which Cogburn discusses his wife and child.

Differences from the novel

Unlike the book, the movie doesn’t introduce Mattie as an old woman telling a story of her childhood, but instead begins and ends in 1880, when Mattie is 14 years old. Also, in the book, Mattie remains the central character throughout; in the movie, Mattie starts out as the main character, but Rooster Cogburn gets an equal share of the limelight once his character is introduced. The film also downplays the novel's Biblical tone and adds a hint of romance between Mattie and La Boeuf. La Boeuf also does not die in the novel, but survives his head injury. Another significant difference from author Charles Portis' original tale is that Mattie does have her arm amputated as a result of the rattlesnake attack, in contrast to the final scene in the film where Kim Darby is seen with only a sling on her arm—indicating that she is recovering from the snake bites and intact physically. The novel's conclusion makes the reader aware that the story has been recounted by Mattie as an elderly, one-armed woman who never married.

In the book, Tom Chaney was a young man; Mattie guessed his age to be around twenty-five. Jeff Corey, who played Chaney in the movie, was clearly much older than that. In the movie, LaBoeuf claims to have a girl in Texas who would "look with favor" on his capture of Tom Chaney. In the book, LaBoeuf made no mention of a girlfriend. His motive for capturing Chaney was purely financial.

In the book, Rooster Cogburn had a mustache and did not wear an eye patch, though he had only one eye. In his fight with Ned Pepper, he wielded two Navy six-shooters. In the movie, Wayne carried a six-shooter in his left hand and his trademark large-loop rifle in the other. The character of Rooster was supposed to be around forty in the novel; in the film, he was played by 61-year-old Wayne.

Also, the film's Coloradomarker location and mountain scenery is in sharp contrast to the script's references to place names in Arkansasmarker and Oklahomamarker.

Sequels and remake

A film sequel, Rooster Cogburn, was made in 1975, with John Wayne reprising his role from the first film, and Katharine Hepburn as an elderly spinster, Eula Goodnight, who teams up with him. A made-for-television sequel, entitled True Grit: A Further Adventure was made 1978, starring Warren Oates and Lisa Pelikan, and featured the further adventures of Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross.

In March 2009 it was announced that the Coen brothers are planning a remake of the film. The Coens plan to be truer to the Charles Portis book, focusing more on Mattie's point-of-view. Jeff Bridges is reportedly in discussions with Paramount to star in the remake.


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