Well, there’s another movie that can be crossed off the ‘must see’ list: True Grit.
I really don’t know the ‘Western’ genre and I sat down to watch True Grit with an open mind.
Verdict: I loved it.
It had everything I thought it would have…plus more. I didn’t expect comedy but John Wayne provided it. John Wayne’s ‘Rooster’ is, to all intents and purposes, a drunk and he plays the character to great comic effect (there’s a great scene in which, ‘off his head’, he falls of his horse). He is also comically awkward in Mattie’s company…clearly a man who is fairly exclusively used to the company of other guys, he treads carefully with Mattie. He is also an ‘old school’ gent as is evidenced by his anger when La Boeuf is heavy handed with Mattie (giving her ‘behind’ a good hiding with a branch).
Mattie, played by Kim Darby, I didn’t warm to her initially but she won me over. She is feistiness personified and ‘ballsy’. This straight-laced, seemingly molly-coddled daddy’s girl puts ‘Rooster’ in his place time and time again. She makes me smile.
Other actor notables, Dennis Hopper, Robert Duval and Glen Campbell.
Dennis Hopper had a great 1969, Easy Rider (which he directed and in which he also acted) and True Grit. His mental imbalance as Moon is frighteningly obvious. The acting talent of Dennis Hopper is clear.
Robert Duval is truly menacing as Ned Pepper.
Glen Campbell, La Boeuf, his pairing with John Wayne works for me. Characters so different from each other but as partners, I think it works.
Of course, John Wayne is the star but the film succeeds as a team effort. I have always had this image in my mind of John Wayne as a one dimensional actor…John Wayne playing John Wayne, a tough guy, a misogynist who just bulldozes his way through a forest of lesser men until he has killed all the bad guys but I was wrong. Certainly in True Grit, he is a tough guy but he has a soft side, he is a gent (though he does think Mattie should make the coffee for the lads!), he is driven by a sense of justice though he has a bit of a chequered past and the ‘fee’ is also important! He has his weaknesses, alcohol clearly one of them and he is emotionally unbalanced…it all makes for a great character.
So there was the comedy. There was also, as expected, the great outdoors, the scenery…over two hours of escapism and, in the mix, Elmer Bernstein’s rousing, atmospheric score. I guess John Wayne is the star but the music is right up there. The title song, True Grit, was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe (John Wayne won the Best Actor Oscar).
True Grit has whetted my appetite for Westerns. Pure, easy to watch entertainment. The scenery, the music. The goodies versus the baddies. The tough guys championing traditional heart-warming values. The good ol’ days (yes, I used to love The Waltons and The Little House On The Prairie), the shoot-out at the end, the suspense (Mattie and the rattle snake), it’s all there.
Next Western? Either ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ or ‘The Shootist’ (though I suspect that my pals, Sam Pearlman and Henry Ross, aficionados of the genre, will have some recommendations for me!)