Sunday, January 09, 2011

True Grit vs True Grit

As I watched the 1969 version of True Grit last night I realized I'd never seen it. Fascinating how scenes from a movie become such a part of the culture that I could think I'd seen it.

But it had been made in 1969 and I was a new RN just out on her own trying to hold everything together with very little money; movies were a luxury I couldn't afford.

And so I watched the John Wayne epic after seeing Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn.
The differences?
Oh, there are many of course - because of the time each movie was made, because of the producers, because of the directors, but not so much because of the actors.

I know Jeff Bridges wasn't playing John Wayne, he was playing Rooster. So much has been written lately that Wayne played Rooster as Wayne. I think Rooster Cogburn was John Wayne...or the person John Wayne had always wanted to be and therefore, was. So when Bridges played Cogburn, he was actually playing John Wayne's alter-ego. And I have no romantic notions about The Duke. I grew up in a household where he was almost revered; in fact my father once had a portrait of him that he displayed proudly. I never would have liked Wayne's political ideals and still don't, but damn it, some part of me admires Rooster and therefore, in a round-about-way, Wayne.

Maddie of course is another thing altogether. Maddie in the first movie is softer, rounder - the way women were supposed to be in the late 1960s, even though the women's movement had taken hold. The ideal woman cared for her family and was feisty but not too feisty. Maddie today is a product of her real-time. She's bright but she's hard and driven because a woman alone (and she is a woman, no matter how old she is in the movie) had to be. She couldn't let anyone see her break. In the first movie there's a scene where Maddie cries over her dead father's "traps" - there's no similar scene in the second.

Another big difference, other than the endings (I liked today's ending better because I like epilogues) is the setting. Westerns at the end of the 1960s were going out of style. Maybe the producers and the directors felt that this one needed the back-drop of the west - the expanse of meadows and mountains, trees and valleys. The scenery in the 1969 version was beautiful. In 2010 it's bleak, a reflection of the story and the times.

The 1969 True Grit still stands the test of time. There is something stirring about watching Rooster/Wayne take the reins in his mouth, guns in each hand (twirling one) and charging the outlaws. He was like the knight in shining armor, only old, fat and one-eyed.

The 2010 True Grit will also stand the test of time. Jeff Bridges is no less a knight to his Maddie than John Wayne was to his.

I will get both on DVD.


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