True Grit (1969)
written by Marguerite Roberts
based on the novel True Grit by Charles Portis
directed by Henry Hathaway
I’m not sure what the fascination is with John Wayne. I guess he represents some sort of old-school masculine ideal, but in the few films I’ve seen him in, the magic is lost on me – I just don’t see a lot of range or charm in his acting. If I had to choose a leading man from Hollywood’s Golden Age, I’d go Bogie over The Duke any day… but then again, Humphrey Bogart didn’t really make Westerns. Perhaps whoever’s reading this can recommend some Wayne films that will make me change my mind.
Wayne won an Academy Award for his performance in True Grit as an aging cowboy/U.S. Marshal helping a young girl capture her dad’s murderer. I guess he’s okay in it. But who should’ve really been nominated is Kim Darby as the spunky teenager who’s stronger than any of the various merchants, lawmen, and outlaws she meets along the way. Among all the violent men in this wild west, Darby effortlessly convinces us that she’s the one with integrity, purpose, and “true grit” – not an easy task when sharing a film with tough guys like Wayne, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper.
True Grit is good enough, but I would stick with the Coen brothers’ 2010 remake, which boasts an equally amazing performance from Hailee Steinfeld as the teenager. Sorry, Duke. Maybe next time?
Carlos I. Cuevas