True Grit, old and new movies

True Grit, old and new movies
Isabel del Rio

True Grit, old and new movies


Old movie: 1969. Directed by Henry Hathaway and based on a novel by Charles Portis.

True Grit: John Wayne

True Grit: John Wayne

The father of Mattie (Kim Darby), a brave and clever teenager, is killed by a drunkard employee, Chaney. Mattie contracts U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to capture his father’s killer, who has escaped to Indian territory.

Rooster Cogburn is a peculiar person, full of vicious (he drinks and bets) but of virtuous too (he is the bravest man of those lands).

During their trip, they know another marshal, a handsome young man: La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) who wants to capture the same man because he had committed a previous murder (an important senator) in Texas.

Discussions are constant since Mattie wants to hang the killer by her father’s murder and La Boeuf by senator’s murder.

It’s a dangerous journey, full of risks. It complicated when they understand Chaney has joined a group of bandits. The boss is Lucky (Robert Duval).

True Grit: John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges

True Grit: John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges

Bad moments and when Mattie is captured by Lucky, Rooster Cogburn, our John Wayne, will show his heroic past is true. It’s that famous scene where John Wayne, alone and holding the bridles of his horse with the teeth, yes, alone and with a rifle in each hand, he will face all of the bandits. Not a complete success, because Mattie has fallen into a well and she has been bitten by a venomous snake while the young marshal has died in a parallel fight.

Our John Wayne (uh, uh) takes Mattie in his arms and gets to carry her (in the quickest gallop of the history) until a doctor.

The end is glorious too. Some months later, the old marshal goes to see Mattie to her farmer. She has recovered and with her practical personality (always organizing the life of the others) explains the marshall that he is old and alone, maybe he will die soon and she has prepared his future grave in her farmer, aside from her own future grave (on the other side is buried his father).

Our John Wayne smiles… but while this day arrives he will enjoy life. He takes his horse and rides it, jumping a fence while taking his hat says hello (no goodbye) to the world.

The film is fantastic!

It’s an adventure film and a drama, because a drama must mix comedy and tragedy.

Then, the movie is full of jokes and ironic sentences. John Wayne (as always) is the true border-man: human (he is not perfect at all) but a hero when situations require it.

Fat and one-eyed, as a true fighter of life, living with an old Chinese cook and a cat, quarreling with this teenager, stubborn and able of doing business with Satan, he constantly causes smiles and in the end, everybody love him.

True Grit by Ethan and Joel Coen

True Grit by Ethan and Joel Coen

New movie: 2010. Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen and played by Jeff Bridges (U.S. marshal Rooster Cogburn), Matt Damon La Boeuf), and Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie).

It is better in technical aspects: no zoom (that is important), better panoramic and photography but…, well, the years should serve for something. However, what happens with the story? In my opinion: disaster!

Current directors and producers live in a different moral and everything must be politically correct. Then if Rooster Cogburn drinks and bets, it’s necessary to pay attention at his decadency, never at his heroism and although Haille Steinfeld plays fantastic, the film has difficulties to cause relaxing feelings and easy smiles.

In the end, a moral of a fable.

At the end of the old movie we see, as conclusion, the stubborn Mattie, recovered and making sarcastic jokes with his big friend, who laughs and jumps to the eternity on the back of his brave horse. In the new version of Ethan and Joel Coen, people have paid their sins. The old marshal and Mattie never meet again. Mattie loses her arm and grows as a single lady, alone and with pangs of conscience for having looked for such revenge.

Rooster Cogburn lives his last years working in a circus, a decadency similar to Sitting Bull’s end.

Because everybody has to pay their old wild lives.

Mattie, being an adult lady, knows where Cogburn is working. Dressed in black and without an arm, as a pathetic figure, she goes to meet him, too late, he has died forgotten and exhausted, drunkard and turned into a clown, in an unfashionable figure who tried to live out of the established rules.

A movie is not a moral book.

A moral book is boring.

A movie shouldn’t teach but entertain.

Where are you brave John Wayne? He always played the role of an impossible behavior, but cinema is fiction and we go to see fiction: our reality is already very well known.

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Isabel del Rio

Managing Editor at Yareah® Magazine. Author of ‘Ariza’ (2008) and ‘The Girls of Oil’ (2010)

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