About ten years ago, the latest movie adaptation of “True Grit” was released in theaters. Based on the 1968 novel written by Charles Portis, the film is one of the best Westerns released in the last decade.
John Wayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 film version of “True Grit.” But that movie was starting to seem a little dated. So, the Cohen brothers made their own film adaptation.
If you haven’t seen the film yet, the plot is pretty simple. Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl, is chasing down her father’s killer, Tom Cheney. She finds that Cheney has fled to Indian Country and has taken up with the Pepper gang. Staying in the frontier town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, she hires Rooster Cogburn to kill or capture Tom Cheney.
Meanwhile a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, is also looking for Tom Chaney. He eventually joins forces with Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn. As for the rest of the plot, you’ll have to see the film.
Even for those folks who have watched the film, it’s worth seeing again. Roger Deakins did the camerawork, and the 2010 version of “True Grit” looks good on a big-screen television.
Hailee Steinfeld is also terrific as Mattie Ross. Steinfeld’s career took off after this film. While continuing her acting, now she’s known for being a pop star. Your kids know her work better than you do. Even back then, Steinfeld was something special. She beat out 15,000 other girls for the role of Mattie.
Regarding Rooster Cogburn, some folks prefer John Wayne to Jeff Bridges, and that’s perfectly understandable, but Bridges does a good job as Cogburn, considering he has some big shoes to fill. He doesn’t imitate John Wayne but comes up with a character all his own. Bridges is obviously having fun, but he makes sure that we do too.
Photo: @DianeM3268 via Twenty20
Matt Damon plays LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger. The character of LeBoef was basically played for laughs and is largely comic relief. He does a passable job, but Matt Damon usually winds up playing himself. However, portraying a Texas Ranger as an idiot was unrealistic. Texas Rangers definitely played a large role in keeping the frontier safe.
Rangers often left the boundaries of Texas to pursue fugitives. However, they didn’t have jurisdiction once they left Texas. So, they were often deputized by federal marshals like Cogburn. So that part of the film rings true.
However, Rangers were known to keep a low profile, because they were often outnumbered. So, they probably wouldn’t have been as full of themselves as Damon’s character was. But that’s Hollywood for you.
While True Grit claims to take place in west Arkansas, many scenes were actually shot in Texas. For example, Granger, Texas’s main street stood in for Fort Smith’s main thoroughfare.
Also, the First National Bank building, in Bartlett, Texas, was used as a mortuary in the film. Mattie Ross identifies her father’s body there.
Photo: @antoniohueto via Twenty20
The Blanco County Courthouse was used for most of the courthouse scenes. Rooster’s introduction, up on the witness stand, was shot there. Although they constructed that courtroom especially for the film. If you like, you can see the locations for yourself. Tours of the building are available.
When Maddie goes to “Memphis” to see Rooster for the last time, she actually is in Austin. The state capitol building stands in for the rail station, while the Austin Club can be seen in the background of the “Memphis” street.
So “True Grit,” while supposedly taking place in Arkansas, was shot more in Texas. That makes sense. After all, where else in the United States are you going to find more grit?