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'True Grit': The Western That Earned John Wayne His Only Oscar

Screengrab via YouTube

True Grit is one of the best western stories of all time. It's a tale of murder, robbery, revenge and features some of the most iconic characters of the wild west. The story of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, with his eye patch and gruff disposition, hunting down outlaws in the Indian Territory is unforgettable. 

The Novel

 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. Even decades later, the novel is widely considered a classic.

The Original Film

The year after the novel was first published, the story was adapted into a screenplay by Marguerite Roberts. The film directed by Henry Hathaway starred John Wayne in one of the most iconic roles of his career, Rooster Cogburn. The ultimate cowboy character. Cogburn is the man hired by Mattie Ross to hunt down her father's killer. John Wayne actually lobbied for the role after reading the novel. He ended up winning the only Oscar of his career for his captivating performance.

Veteran actor John Wayne appears to be wiping away a tear from his eye after he was named best actor for his performance in "True Grit," at Academy Awards at Los Angeles Music Center Tuesday, April 7, 1970. At right is actress and singer Barbra Streisand. (AP Photo)

Kim Darby plays the role of Mattie, and country legend Glen Campbell plays Texas Ranger La Boeuf, who teams up with Mattie and Cogburn to hunt down Tom Chaney (played by Jeff Corey). 

Campbell even recorded a song for the film's soundtrack.

Filming for the film mostly took place in Colorado near Ridgeway, Montrose, and Ouray. The town of Ridgeway even opened up the True Grit Cafe in honor of the classic film. 

The Sequel

The first film was so successful that the studio ended up making 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.

The Remake

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.

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'True Grit': The Western That Earned John Wayne His Only Oscar