True Grit is one of the greatest American films of its time. The tale of murder, robbery and revenge paints an iconic picture of wild West. The story of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, with his eye patch and gruff disposition, earned American icon John Wayne his lone Oscar (Best Actor in a Leading Role) and a Golden Globe while setting Glen Campbell up for a movie star debut for the ages.
Wayne was previously nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 1950 for the World War II film Sands of Iwo Jima. He was also the director, producer and star of The Alamo, a 1960 nominee for Best Picture.
Charles Portis published his novel, True Grit in 1968. The book is narrated by an elderly Mattie Ross, who recounts when she hired a man to seek retribution on the man who murdered her father, Tom Chaney. She reflects on her father's death on a trip to Fort Smith, Arkansas, when she was 14 years old, and her adventures that follow to find his killer.
The Original Film
The year after the novel was first published, the story was adapted into a screenplay by Marguerite Roberts. The motion picture directed by Henry Hathaway starred The Duke as Rooster Cogburn. The ultimate cowboy character, Cogburn is the man hired by Mattie Ross to hunt down her father's killer. Wayne lobbied for the lead role after reading the novel.
Filming mostly took place in Colorado near Ridgeway, Montrose, and Ouray. The town of Ridgeway even opened up the True Grit Cafe in honor of its role in cinematic history.
It's a great film, yet it's still wild to think that Wayne left an Academy Awards ceremony empty-handed in the years after The Quiet Man, Red River, The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Shootist and other timeless roles.
The first film was so successful that the studio made a sequel in 1975, Rooster Cogburn. Wayne came back to play the titular role, and his co-star was none other than Katharine Hepburn.
The film follows an entirely different story, with the one-eyed lawman Cogburn having his badge stripped away after excessive drunkenness. To redeem himself, he agrees to hunt down a couple of outlaws. Hepburn plays Miss Eula Goodnight, who teams up with Cogburn to track down the outlaws.
While the original was shot in Colorado, the sequel was shot in Oregon. While critics were torn on the flick, Rooster Cogburn was the 25th highest-grossing film of 1975.
The TV Sequel
In 1978, the story was brought back again, but this time to the small screen. True Grit: A Further Adventure was a made for television film starring Warren Oates as Rooster Cogburn. Lisa Pelikan steps in to play Mattie Ross.
The story picks up a couple of years after Mattie and Cogburn's big adventure to find Tom Chaney. Cogburn is supposed to escort Mattie to her grandparent's house in California after her mother dies, but they end up on another hunt for a couple of outlaws. It just wasn't the same as the big screen renditions of the classic characters, maybe because Marguerite Roberts did such an incredible job bringing the story to life for the first time.
Joel and Ethan Coen decided to take another swing at the Western story. Jeff Bridges did an incredible job following John Wayne in the role of Rooster Cogburn. Matt Damon played the role of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, and Josh Brolin played the criminal Tom Chaney. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld stepped in to play Mattie Ross in an incredible performance that served as a launchpad for her career in Hollywood.
The Coen brothers wanted to keep their story as loyal to the original novel as possible. The film was shot in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as in parts of Austin, Texas. It was released in 2010 and became the Coen brothers' highest-grossing film.
The remake received 10 Academy Award nominations and received incredibly high praise from viewers as well as critics. It's also one of the highest-grossing Western films of all time.
This story previously ran on April 7, 2020.