This is one of those movies that I didn’t see until the remake was made. In fact, it was the remake that inspired me to watch the original. And, to be honest, I’d never wanted to see this movie until I happened to catch the remake.
Since I started with the remake, I’ll address that one first.
The story in both versions is the same—with a few tweaks here and there. A young woman, Mattie Ross, whose father was murdered by Tom Chaney, wants to track down the killer and see justice done. To assist her in that task, she hires Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, because she’s been told he has “true grit.” Cogburn dismisses her at first, but Mattie persists and he eventually takes the job. A young Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf shows up, also in pursuit of Chaney for the murder of a Texas state senator. Despite Mattie’s objections, Cogburn and LaBoeuf join forces. The two attempt to ditch Mattie, but she exhibits her own form of true grit by refusing to be ditched. The rest of the story is about their adventures and eventual confrontation with Chaney and company, which I won’t spoil for you if you haven’t seen either film.
Image from RogerEbert.com.
From the start of the remake, I was completely taken by Hailee Steinfeld’s performance as Mattie Ross. A magnificently strong and tough female character, Steinfeld’s Mattie holds her own nicely against the not inconsiderable talents of Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as LaBoeuf.
Image from Newsweek.
Bridges, in particular, delivers a memorable performance. He seems to have aged well into the role, and his casting opposite Steinfeld almost—if not quite completely—relegates Matt Damon to third-wheel status.
Image from DVDizzy.com
The confrontation and climax are stunning and stuck with me long after the picture ended.
I wondered if the original would impress me as much. Could John Wayne really match the talents of Jeff Bridges?
Duke vs. Dude? 🙂
Would Mattie be as toughly portrayed by Kim Darby? In 1969?
As luck would have it, I caught a showing of the original on TCM. From the moment I started watching, I couldn’t tear myself away.
Image from Talkie Gazette.
I’m happy to say that Darby was terrific in the role of Mattie Ross. And like Steinfeld, she held her own completely when paired with the estimable John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. In the original version, the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf is played (ably enough) by Glen Campbell.
Image from Britannica.com.
While the story told in each movie is essentially the same, there are minor differences between them. But both versions are high on adventure, character conflict, suspense, and action. Both of them ended in a way that made me want to read the book upon which the films were based.
It’s interesting to note that the remake was written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and that Wikipedia describes their take on the story as an “American Revisionist Western.” Apparently, Ethan Coen said it would be more faithful to the book. Someday, I’ll have to read it and judge for myself.
Each of these versions resonated with me in their own way. I highly recommend both to lovers of the Western film genre! 🙂
PS: You can buy both movies through Amazon: 2010 and 1969.
Barnes & Noble: 2010, 1969, and both.
And Apple: 2010 and 1969.