True Grit 1969 My father took my mother and me to two movies during his lifetime: "True Grit" and "Patton". What does that say about the man? He wasn't much of a movie goer obviously. But he also was a man's man. He had spent the "war years" (meaning WW2) living in L.A. (no I don't mean "Lower Alabama"!) working for Lockheed so he met and knew many actors in his day. I believe he thought they were less than magical. Anyway, he didn't want to waste time or spend the money or whatever so he just refused to go. My mother went with her friends or took me. But those two movies stand out in my memory because they were special events since my father escorted us. I wasn't old enough to be familiar with the book. And the title confused me since my experience with grit tended to be after it had been cooked on the stove.
John Wayne was always himself. He was such an icon it was difficult to focus on the character he was playing. Instead it seemed you were only conscious of the thought "I'm sitting here watching John Wayne pretend to be Rooster Cogburn in a movie called True Grit". And since his co-stars were an unknown girl named Kim Darby and a country music star named Glen Campbell the movie had the "it's probably going to suck" potential. I'm actually surprised my dad wanted to see it. However, it was memorable for more reasons than the company I was with. I remember feeling ill when the scene in the cabin took place. Cutting off a guys fingers wasn't the most appealing sight to a ten year old girl whose taste was more Disneyeske. And during my tenth year I was taking English riding lessons on a coal black horse so I instantly fell in love with "Little Blackie". His death at the end devastated me. Let the silly girl succumb to the rattlesnake bite, just leave the horse alone!
This past week I received a message from Eldest Son. He was gushing about the latest remake of the movie. He and some friends had just returned from the theater and he had seen the new "True Grit" starring Jeff Bridges. He thought I should go see it. Frankly I had known about the movie and been a little irritated that once again something sacred had been tampered with. But after hearing Eldest Son's enthusiastic message I thought I should give it a try. So my sidekick husband and I headed to the theater yesterday to see the movie.
It wasn't disappointing if you had never seen John Wayne. It wasn't disappointing if you had read the book. Certainly the Coen brothers who directed the new version attempted to stick to the actual manuscript by Charles Portis. I cried (again) when Little Blackie died. Matt Damon is an actor instead of a singer like Mr. Campbell - enough said. I could tell that Mr. Bridges wasn't wearing a girdle (as it was suspected of Mr. Wayne), looked authentic enough to smell (and probably did after all that time in the saddle), and teenager Hailee Steinfeld actually looked the part with braids instead of sporting a "Beatle's cut" like Miss Darby (who wasn't a miss at all but a married woman of 21). And heaven knows Josh Brolin was better eye candy as Tom Chaney than Jeff Corey. The scenery wasn't as beautiful but with the haunting soundtrack it felt less like a Wonderful World of Disney film.
But I missed John Wayne's drunken antics. I missed his voice and rolling swagger. The climactic scene where Cogburn faces the other riders lead by Ned Pepper seemed less dramatic. And finally, the last scenes, though true to the book, fell flat to me. I left feeling disappointed.
When I arrived home the first thing I did was call Eldest Son. When he answered I told him we had just seen the movie. I began to discuss the differences. He informed me he had never seen the original. I was shocked. How could I have neglected to show my sons such a classic man's movie? I began to relay the scene by scene differences. Eldest Son stopped me. Apparently there was a crisis that needed his immediate attention. His cat had been to the vet earlier for a procedure and had on an Elizabethan collar. One leg was caught in the neck hole. He had to go. He hung up.
I was left to stew in my disappointment. I'll show him though! I'll get a copy of the "real" True Grit and prove how much better it is!
I'll . . . be wasting my time. Sigh. This is his True Grit, not mine. The times they are indeed achanging.