We watched the 1969 version of True Grit last night, starring John Wayne and Glenn Campbell. After watching the Jeff Bridges version earlier in the year, and then going back to watch the original, I have to ask: why did Jeff Bridges & Company even bother? The John Wayne version, even though it lacked our modern-day intensity, was still the better film. In fact it was one of Wayne’s best films, which is why he won the Oscar for Best Actor.
Given the other options that year, he was the absolute best actor in the best film as well. The only movie most will recognize is Midnight Cowboy in which Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight were both nominated for best actors.
This film still stands today as one that you should own, or at least watch. The lines are classic, well written, and memorable, unlike the tripe that is put forth in so many of our movies today. So much of the movies today are just spin offs of older films and lack any originality. Not so for the 1969 True Grit. Both Wayne and Kim Darby do excellent jobs in playing their characters, with Wayne rising to the occasion just for this movie. He shows why he was that actor that and movie star he was.
He plays the one-eyed fatman to a tee. He is grumpy when he needs to be, drunk when he needs to be, and a man of true grit when push comes to shove. Who can forget the scene when he takes the reins of the horse in his teeth, a rifle in one hand and a revolver in the other and heads off toward Ned Pepper’s Gang (Robert Duvall), guns a-blazing. Wayne was able to pull it off because the actor actually had true grit.
I also appreciate the performances of Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. While they played the parts of the bad-men, they were not one-dimensional bad men like so many these days. I hate movies where those who portray the wicked, never have doubts about their wickedness, or regrets. Both Duvall and Hopper’s characters show regret even though they are the men who are evil. That adds to the depth of the film.
I don’t wish to detract from Jeff Bridges. Had the film not been made in 1969, he would have been the perfect Rooster Cogburn. But since the movie was so well done in 1969, there was really nothing for Bridges and company to add to the story.
After we watched the movie, we watched the special features which included a portion about John Wayne. One of the commentators mentioned that we need more men with true grit like John Wayne. I couldn’t agree more.