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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Three Roosters

Seldom has a western gathered so much interest as the new True Grit which hits cinema screens on the 22nd December. I must admit when I first heard of this re-make I was horrified - not only were they remaking a cinema classic but they were doing one which starred the biggest western star of them all, John Wayne.

Jeff Bridges had a mammoth task in playing a character so associated with John Wayne, but  he was not the first actor to take over the character - Warren Oates played the one eyed Marshall in the largely forgotten TV Movie, True Grit,a further adventure. And it is largely forgotten  - I couldn't find an image of Oates as Rooster in any image search on the net and the film's entry on the IMDB is little more than a cast list.

The advance reviews for the new True Grit have been universally positive with the film even being tipped for The Oscars. But does it stand a chance of winning when John Wayne received the best actor Oscar for the original movie? Many claim that Wayne's Oscar was a token, an apology for overlooking the actor in the past when if Wayne ever truly deserved an Oscar it was for his excellent performance in The Searchers.

 Now no matter how good the Coen's True Grit is and how exceptional Jeff Bridges is as Rooster, it will always be John Wayne who is most associated with the role and that's how it should be. True Grit may not have been Wayne's best performance and it certainly wasn't his best film, but he was carrying a history with him when he put on that eye-patch, a history within the genre that just has to be respected. The only actor in the world that is as associated with westerns as Wayne is the equally legendary Clint Eastwood. That's not to say that these two were the best western actors ever - there are many more who jostle for this title. Luminaries such as Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Alan Ladd and Randolph Scott are also in with a shout, but there is no doubt that it is Eastwood and Wayne who dominated and continue to dominate the western genre.

I'll be there for True Grit 2010 on opening day and I'll be reviewing the film on The Archive but when I look at Jeff Bridges on the screen, I'll still be seeing John Wayne in my minds eye, for John Wayne remains the one and only Rooster J Cogburn.

The anticipation for the movie is growing and I'm looking forward to the film more than Christmas itself. I can' wait to sit in that cinema and see the western on the big screen, but you know the ghost of John Wayne will be in the seat next to me.


David Cranmer said...

I enjoy the original as well and have confidence in the Coens with Jeff Bridges wearing the patch.

It is attention-grabbing to listen to folks that read the book first. They genuinely loathe the Wayne film.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

DAVID - I'm actually reading the Portis book now.

Anonymous said...

In an interview with the Coen brothers in today's (12/4) NY Times, they both admit that they barely remember the original film, having only seen it when they were young. Their film is based on the Portis novel.

Matt Damon, a terrific actor and a bigger "star" than Bridges -- is interesting, taking a supporting role and second billing just so he could work with the Coens. Doesn't run his career like many of his contemporaries.

I'm very much looking forward to this.

Cullen Gallagher said...

Where I'll be going for xmas there isn't a chance in the world that TRUE GRIT will be playing. So I'll have to wait until I get back to New York.

Grrr -- family, ruining xmas already. Just kidding - will be nice to catch up with them.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I've read the original book, but I only saw Wayne's sequel, "Rooser Cogburn." It isn't necessarily the same character or tone as the book, but I enjoyed the movie. He and Kate had good chemistry on screen, a pleasure to watch them act together.

old guy rambling said...

Love westerns, movies and books. Never thought the first True Grit was very good. But then I am in the minority thinking that there were quite a few western actors of Wayne’s time that made better western films. Hope that is not too anti-Wayne, I liked him, just never thought he was as good as Randolph Scott, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper or Alan Ladd.