Sunday, February 27, 2011

"True Grit" nominated for Ten Oscars; Arkansas back in the Spotlight After 42 Years

   Terry Cogburn Tully, a living relative of the real "Rooster" Cogburn


Not many people could fill John Wayne's boots in the theatrical role of Marshall Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, but Jeff Bridges has done just that. The 1969 version of "True Grit" was the only movie that Wayne made that earned him an Oscar. Now, 42 years later, Bridges has been nominated for his own Oscar for portraying the same character.

The story of "True Grit" is a work of fiction, although "Rooster" Cogburn was an actual person living in Arkansas. "But he wasn't a Marshall," said Terry Cogburn Tully, a living relative of the real Rooster Cogburn. "He was a deputy." Tully's paternal grandfather was a first cousin to Rooster. "They were both (Rooster and her grandfather) run out of town for killing a man," said Tully. The reason? "They shot him for snoring too loud. At least," she said, shrugging, "that's the family story."
   
There aren't many major differences between the 1969 "True Grit" plot and the 2010 version, aside from the actors and actresses, and the very end of the movies.  There is a very surprising scene where a character named Quincy grabs a knife and hacks some fingers off of a young man named Moon in a desperate attempt to shut him up. It was so unexpected that many people in the theater gasped and screamed, illuminating the fact they must not have seen the 1969 version since the same event happens in the original film. [You can actually see fingers flying across the room in the 1969 film, and the young Mattie Ross (actress Kim Darby) screams quite loudly. No one who had seen the original movie would forget that!] 

 Matte Ross, a quick-witted and sharp-tongued 14-year-old seeking revenge for her father's murder, is portrayed by Hailee Steinfield in 2010. She mentions her home town of Yell County and other places in Arkansas during the movie, although no part of the filming was actually done in Arkansas. (A very small amount of the 1969 movie was filmed in Yell County, AR.)

   Charles Portis, the author of the book published in 1969 that served as the basis for both movies, is still alive and resides in Little Rock.  Last month, copies of Portis' book were being sold at a rate of 22,000 a week. That's about the same amount that had been sold in the entire two years prior to the 2010 movie release. "It's very pleasing, of course," said Portis of the new surge of interest in his book.