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Charles Portis, Arkansas Novelist Who Wrote 'True Grit' and More, Dies at 86

A movie poster from True Grit is shown in a display case in the John Wayne Museum, Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Winterset, Iowa. Though Wayne moved to California at a young age, it’s a minor footnote for Winterset, a city of about 5,000 people. On Saturday, May 23, 2015, Winterset will help launch the official opening of the newly built museum celebrating Wayne’s life and career. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Charles Portis, the fiction writer whose Western novel True Grit brought his fellow Arkansas native Glen Campbell to the big screen, died Feb. 17, 2020 at the age of 86.

His 1968 novel True Grit became one of the era's definitive films. The 1969 movie adaptation won John Wayne his only Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn--Even though 21-year-old Kim Darby's portrayal of 14-year-old Mattie Ross stole way more scenes. The Duke would go on to become a recurring guest on his co-star's variety show the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

True Grit got remade in 2010 with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and singer Hailee Steinfeld as its stars. It became a massive box office success and netted 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

While its ties to country and Americana music are not as revered as those of prior Coen Brothers film O' Brother, Where Art Thou?, theatrical trailers for the True Grit remake featured Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down," and Iris DeMent's version of 19th century hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" plays during the closing credits.

Portis' first novel Norwood (1966) also ties into Campbell's history with Hollywood. The tale of a US Marine Corps veteran with his sights set on joining the Louisiana Hayride cast got its own film adaptation in 1970. It co-starred Campbell, Darby and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Namath.

Read More: 8 Glen Campbell Deep Cuts You Should Listen to Today

Portis also contributed The Dog of the South (1979), Masters of Atlantis (1985) and Gringos (1991) to American literature.

Before his days as an author, Charles McColl Portis, an El Dorado, Ark. native and an ex-Marine, studied journalism at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. After graduating, he worked as a newspaper reporter for several publications, including the Arkansas Gazette and the New York Herald Tribune, before writing fiction full time.

For examples of his work as a journalist, a fiction writer and even a playwright, seek out the 2012 collection Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany.

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Charles Portis, Arkansas Novelist Who Wrote 'True Grit' and More, Dies at 86