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Why John Wayne Disliked His Hit 1969 Film True Grit And The Troubles That Lay Within It S Production

John Wayne had to play the pot-bellied, one-eyed Westerner before the Academy would consider him to be an actor worthy of an Oscar. In his career spanning over 50 years, Wayne delivered massive hits and was a megastar. However, True Grit allowed him to pour his 40 years of acting experience into a character that was as memorable as Wayne made it.

True Grit, adapted from a 1968 novel of the same, starred John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The film is narrated by Mattie Ross, played by Kim Darby, who hires Rooster to avenge the murder of her father Tom Chaney. Alongside starring in the film as La Boeuf, the famous country singer Glen Campbell also created and sang the theme song of the film and won a Golden Globe and Academy nomination for Best Original Song.

True Grit is an iconic piece of cinema that has inspired sequels, remakes, and small-screen adaptations. Though this film is one of the most loved and watched films of all time, there are many interesting facts about True Grit that fans are unaware of.

True Grit Won John His First and Only Oscar

John Wayne was a Western megastar and maintained his position as one of the top box office draws for over three decades. Wayne made his big debut with Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail and delivered several massive hits, including Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers, The Man Shot Liberty Valance, The Quiet Man, The Longest Day and The Shootist. It is, thus, surprising that Wayne’s first and only Academy Award came 39 years after his first film. He was nominated under the Best Actor category for his film Sands of Iwo Jima in 1949. However, that year, William Crawford took home the award for his role in All the King’s Men.

In 1969, Wayne competed against Pete O’Toole who was nominated for Goodbye Mr Chips and Richard Burton, who was nominated for his portrayal of Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days. Wayne took him the award that night, his only Oscar from his almost 50-year-long career.

Wayne Actually Hated True Grit

The story goes that after Wayne read the novel on which True Grit was based, he decided to lobby for the role of U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn and that is how he got the part. More importantly, the film won Wayne his first Oscar. So, it is only logical to assume that Wayne would have loved the film. However, in reality, Wayne hated True Grit.

If IMDb is to be believed, Wayne was unsatisfied with the way the film was made and thus, in all the interviews that he did as part of the promotional tour, he maintained that he liked his other roles and films better than True Grit. In fact,in one of the interviews, he stated that he considered his role in Stagecoach to be his best performance of all time. Who knows what must have conspired between Hathway and Wayne to elicit such a response from the actor, but Wayne must have certainly regretted saying these words after winning the Oscar that year.

Wayne Wanted His Daughter to Play Mattie Ross

Wayne did not only lobby for the role of Marshall Rooster, but he also pushed for the role of Mattie Ross to be given to his daughter Aissa Wayne. Aissa was 14 at the time but had never acted professionally. Thus, Hathway decided to audition other actresses for the role. Among others, he auditioned Karen Carpenter, Sondra Locke, Sally Field, Tuesday Weld and Mia Farrow and decided to cast Farrow in the movie. As luck would have it, Farrow backed out from the film at the last minute and the role went to Kim Darby.

Darby was a popular TV actress at the time who had appeared in shows like Gunsmoke, The Eleventh Hour and Star Trek. After the success of True Grit, she did deliver some successful films but she eventually became addicted to amphetamine, which ruined her career. However, Derby eventually managed to get a hold on her life and she now makes occasional appearances on television and films.

Elvis Presley Was Chosen to Play LaBeouf

Elvis was a prolific artist who conquered many mediums. Elvis did a total of 31 films during his career and True Grit could have made that number, 32. Elvis was chosen to play the role of Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. Everything was clear and Elvis had almost agreed to begin to shooting when his manager Tom Parker demanded that Presley be paid a hefty price for the role. However, since Wayne was already a huge star at the time and came with an equally heavy price tag, the producers couldn’t hire both Elvis and Wayne. Since Wayne was already playing the lead character, the producers decided to replace Elvis with Country star Glen Campbell. After the film released, reviewers criticized Campbell for his limited acting skills. However, Campbell bought something to the film that added to its iconic status — the film’s title song for which he won an Academy Award nomination. He also won the Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer for True Grit.

Wayne Was Against Wearing the Eye Patch

Marshal Rooster will always be remembered for his gruff disposition and his one-eye black patch. However, Wayne was against wearing the patch for the simple reason that in the novel on which the film is based, Rooster did not wear a patch even though he was blind in one eye. What ensued were debates and discussions. However, in the end, Wayne decided to listen to his director and agreed to wear the patch, which eventually became synonymous with the character of Rooster. It is, thus, that Wayne wore the patch in the sequel as well.

Though he may not have been happy about wearing the eye patch, he did bring it to good use. In November 1975, Wayne donated the patch along with a letter to the Southen California Symphony Society to be auctioned to raised funds. In 2012, the patch and the letter went up for auction at a starting bidding price of $35,000.

There Was a Marked Difference Between the Real-Life and On-Screen Age of Various CharactersWithin the film industry, many actors play characters that are older or younger than their real-life self. However, in most cases, the age difference is such that it can be easily made up for with makeup and character portrayal.

This wasn’t the case with True Grit. As you already know by now, the film was based on the novel of the same name written by Charles Portis. Based on the book, Rooster was no more than 40 and Darby was a 14-year-old girl at the time the story takes place. However, in real life, there was a marked difference between the age of actors and their onscreen avatars. For instance, Wayne was 61 when he played the 40-something Marshall Rooster and Darby was 21 and appeared as the 14-year-old Mattie Ross in the film.

A Stuntman Performed Most of Wayne’s Stunts

True Grit will certainly also be remembered for its iconic scenes. In one such scene, at the very beginning of the film, Wayne is seen confronting a bunch of bad guys in an isolated meadow. The scene brings you to the edge of the seat — as you bite your nails in anticipation, Wayne puts the horse reins in his mouth and takes out two guns in his two hands and chases the goons throw the meadow. The scene is as invigorating as it is stylish and sets the tone for the whole movie.

Of course, Wayne was the face of Rooster. However, not many people know that Wayne did not do most of the stunts. Chasing outlaws on horseback isn’t something easy-to-do for a 61-year-old star. Most of the scenes were performed by Jim Burk, a stunt double. Jim trained horses for Westerns and cavalry films and has also worked on other films like Chinatown and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

True Grit is an iconic film that played a crucial role in the revival of the Western genre. It was also the perfect goodbye from Wayne to a genre that had given him so much. He played the pot-bellied, one-eye Marshal Rooster with great ease, pouring his forty years of acting experience into the role. In the rare moments in which the gunslinger lets his guard down and showcases his emotional side, it becomes so easy to identify him as a simple man who has loved and lost and who, thus, is bent on living his last days alone. It is this depth to the character that made Marshal Rooster Cogburn so lovable.

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