Monday, January 23, 2006

When No Imitation Grit Will Do

A Movie Review

True Grit is the film for which John Wayne finally won his academy award, an honor warranted as much by his collective body of work as for his preformance in this picture. In fact it is hard to appreciate just how good Waynes performance is in the film because we are so used to seeing him in roles of this type. Now John Wayne did 'play himself' in his films as is often commented, but the characters through which the actor manifested himself were not all alike. In the cowboy movies alone Wayne runs the gamete from the homicidal Ethan Edward in The Searchers, to the tired gunslinger grown sick of violence in his last film The Shootist. 'Rooster' Cogburn, the character he plays in this film, would fall somewhere in between the two previously mentioned in demeanor, though the character does show many different aspects of his personality throughout the film and is one of the most fully developed and enduring of Waynes alter egos (even inspiring a character titled sequel film with Kate Hepburn six years later).

In this movie Waynes Cogburn is a crotchety but sympathetic U.S. Marshall who is recruited by Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) to help her track down her fathers killer. The killer Tom Chaney (Jeff Cory) was a ranch hand for the Ross clan who unintentionally offed his employer while drunk. Lest we feel sorry for the man that Mattie is determend to see hanged, we discover that he had previously killed a Texas state senator in a dispute over a dog. It was this previous crime that brings a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (country singer Glen Campbell) to Arkansas to track the murder down, with the hopes of receving the large bounty the senators family has offered. La Boeuf joins Mattie and Rooster in the hunt for Chaney who is rumored to have hooked-up with the Marshells old nemesis the outlaw Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) in Indian country.

This movie is above average Wayne but not on par with his great films for director John Ford. Kim Darby is an unconventional female lead if ever there was one,"your mighty young and unattractive to boot" as La Boeuf says. Glen Campbell is likeable in his role and all the supporting players do a fine job, even Dennis Hoppers overacting as the dying'Moon' works in this oddly low-key revenge story. Worth seeing just to say you've seen it, True Grit could make a pleasant evenings viewing.

  • Also seen by me recently: The Marx Brothers In A Nutshell is a 1982 TV documentary on the famous comedy team narrated by Gene Kelly. Various associates of the famous brothers give talking head interviews and clips from some of their more memorable routines are played, in what could be called a kind of 'Marxist Primer'. The documentary also features rarely seen archival footage from studio publicity films and various television appearances. Starting with brief bio's of the four Marxs who made films, this slightly over 90 minute doc then traces the groups career from childhood work in vaudeville to their semi-retirement. A fair work but a better documentary on the team is just waiting to be made.


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