'True Grit': John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges -- which one has more true grit?

wayne-bridgesImage Credit: Everett Collection; Lorey SebastianIt doesn’t take rocket science to see why True Grit enjoyed the biggest opening weekend of any Coen brothers movie to date. The film may not have won the Coens their most rapturous reviews (though the critics were largely enthusiastic), and it’s hardly their best or most defining work. Yet it’s a remake of a famous and, indeed, iconic Hollywood movie — one that, while not quite a “classic,” remains a robust and beloved end-of-the-studio-system-era Western. OMG, I used the R-word! — I called True Grit a “remake.” The vulgarity, the lowbrow cluelessness on my part! From the outset, you see, the directorial and studio spin on this movie has been to insist that it’s a completely different animal from the deeply sentimental 1969 when-fresh-faced-teenybopper-met-grizzled-old-marshal fable of popular vengeance. The Coens, making their publicity rounds, have talked and talked about how they went back to Charles Portis’ original novel, which was published in 1968. But if, like me, you’ve never read the novel (and I would guesstimate that 97 percent of the people who saw True Grit over the weekend have not), then after all the remake? what remake?! spin, you might be startled to see how close the movie really does come to the 1969 version. At times, it borders on being a scene-for-scene, line-for-line gloss on it.

There are differences, of course. The Coen brothers’ version is more tasteful and intimate and art-directed, a kind of color-coordinated curio. Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie Ross is notably younger than Kim Darby’s (which, at times, makes the new Mattie seem even more of an old movie concoction), and major sections of the picture are set at night (a technique that worked a lot better in No Country for Old Men). That said, the essential hook of the new True Grit is, and always was, the sheer curiosity factor of wanting to see Jeff Bridges, in his born-again middle-aged movie-star prime, take on the role of Rooster Cogburn, the part that won John Wayne his only Academy Award.

There’s a reason that a great many people still don’t hold Wayne’s cornball-crusty performance in very high esteem. By the late ’60s, movies were in the middle of a revolution, and they had a new audience, known (it now sounds so quaint) as the Film Generation. At the time, a lot of folks under a certain age felt that it was almost their duty to hate John Wayne. He’d become the living embodiment of the Old Values. He was a saber-rattling conservative who, only the year before, in 1968, had pushed his pro-Vietnam hawkishness to the nth degree in the jarringly jingoistic The Green Berets. He had every right to, of course. But what made The Green Berets, as a corrective to Hollywood liberalism, so infamous and despised is that it was such a didactically wooden combat movie. All that came through, really, was the propaganda. And this reinforced the notion that Wayne, though he remained the most larger-than-life of all Hollywood movie stars, was never, in the fullest sense, an actor. He had come to be seen as the macho cartoon version of himself: the arms-out swagger, the slow-motion molasses drawl, the toughness that never wavered.

True Grit, the movie that finally won Wayne his Oscar, was transparently one of those movies designed to win an old warhorse legend his Oscar. Here he was — or so the rap went — running through his rawhide-cowboy shtick, only this time with the added gimmick of an eye patch and an attitude. As if to make him seem even more outdated, True Grit was released within a week of The Wild Bunch, the apocalyptic New Hollywood Western in which director Sam Peckinpah, spattering blood and bullets and doom, exploded the mythology of six-gun heroism that John Wayne incarnated. If you love movie-star acting, however, do yourself a favor: Get a hold of the original True Grit and watch it. Because what you’ll see is that John Wayne’s performance is a marvel. He makes Rooster Cogburn a cantankerous old cuss, a kind of cowpoke precursor to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry — the kind of law enforcer who never met a bad guy he didn’t like to shoot.

Wayne’s Rooster lives by a code, all right, but the movie suggests that he’s trapped by it as well. In one of the key scenes that’s more or less duplicated in the Coen brothers version (though to far less emotional effect), he talks about his past, including his wrecked marriage, and we see that he’s the sort of “noble” loner who’s really a broken-down, half-dead codger. Killing bad guys isn’t just his mission — it’s the major thing that’s keeping him alive. At the same time, he’s an irresistible rascal whose one-eyed squint becomes a wink of valor. Forty years later, Wayne’s performance has aged beautifully, because it’s easier to see now how much acting there really is in it. There is one moment, though, that almost by definition can’t match the power it had back in 1969: When Wayne’s Rooster, just before the famous, climactic, reins-in-his-mouth shoot-out, growls out the line “Fill your hands, you son-of-a-bitch!”…there’s simply no way to recapture how funny-edgy, and even shocking, it once was to hear John Wayne, apostle of American values, spit out an epithet like that. The glory of it, of course, is that the real son-of-a-bitch was Rooster.

And how does Jeff Bridges do? The consensus seems to be: pretty well. And I would agree. He’s winningly gruff, he looks fine and nasty in that grizzly beard, he’s got the body language of “Saddle-Sore Old Drunken Law Enforcer” down pat, and he wears that eye patch as if he’d never once taken it off in 15 years. To me, though, Bridges’ performance lacks the raw magic of Wayne’s, because it rarely, if ever, surprises you. After a while, that croak of his gets a little bit samey. This has something to do with the fact that Bridges, as great an actor as he is, has something of an inner Teddy Bear quality. He’s cuddly and humane, even when playing a crank like Rooster; we warm up to the character almost too quickly. More than that, though, I wish that the Coen brothers, in creating their 2010 version of Rooster Cogburn, had departed from the book and made him a touch wilder — given him, say, not just a missing eye but a missing limb, something (anything) to suggest that he’s not just Mattie’s crusty savior but one hellacious, damaged dude. If they’d done that, their True Grit would have been not only grittier but something that the first movie is and this movie may not be: memorable.

So where do you stand on the two Rooster Cogburns? Which one has more true grit? Which actor, in the end, gives a better performance — the Duke or the Dude? Or am I wrong to even suggest that there should be a contest between them?

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  • Duncan Houst

    I side with Jeff Bridges. His performance is lot less cheesy and fits the character a lot better.

    • Devin Faraci

      Pfft. Owen Glieberpoop is a well-known Coen Bros hater. He gave O Brother a grade of F. What a dillweed!

      • Camille

        I know. O’Brother an F? Owen Glieberman I can never count on for his reviews. He always sounds like an old fart. To say True Grit was a hit at the box office because it was a remake and people love the original? Yeah right, most people today don’t even remember or haven’t seen the original!

      • cabal

        O Brother was O’rrible! Couldn’t get ten minutes in. We’ll never agree with critics, opinions will always be that, but don’t harp on the guy for writing a contrasting essay, it’s his job and it seemed non-biased enough.

    • LM

      Why did the Coen Brothers choose to ‘re-imagine’ the novel, “True Grit”? Is there such a lack of quality western novels that they had to redo that film adaption?

      I think the Coen Brothers chose “True Grit” BECAUSE it was already well known and highly respected. So they stepped on the shoulders of a giant in John Wayne, only to kick him in the face in trying to make a better movie. Very disrespectful in my opinion.

      • Brian

        disrespectful to try and do better than what came before you? It’s a sign of respect to say Wayne set the bar, but life is about the now, not the past.

        I’m 27. I never knew True Grit was a remake until I read this article.

      • Betty

        They are paying homage to the original. It is a great way to acknowledge a film that the Coen Bros hold in high esteem. True, passionate, film makers.

      • Jason

        Wow LM – you certainly have positioned yourself as one with a foolish opinion. Imitation is the greatest flattery – so the saying goes… nothing less was done here.

      • m.

        Spin it how you like it. Some call it homage, others call it lack of creativity and stealing. I’m sure I’ll enjoy this movie, but LM is right: why not create something original for homage?! Tarantino does it all the time (even his “remake” of “Inglorious Bastards” was actually completely new movie).

      • Will

        I am grateful they have reacquainted a new generation to Rooster, Mattie, and the wonderfully written dialogue.

      • Joe

        False Grit is a better name for the new copy.

      • eddie

        This movie sucked!!!!! The john wayne movie will never be beat!..This movie was a disgrace to the movie industry. You could not understand anything the actors said..was there something in there mouthes???

      • Basil

        Judging by their comments on an NPR interview, the Coens do not hold the original “True Grit” in high esteem. When their interviewer said it was a “bad film,” they did not disagree.

    • shane

      Im old school even at 38,all how your raised…..my fam and most people i know love the Duke and his wonderfull portrail of the Rooster…My step father grew up and even met the late great Wayne on a fam trip to yellowstone in the early 60′s so True Grit being at least his most honored and acclaimed performance along with a supporting cast that for its time rivals any….that all being said my wife and i waited til dvd and wish we would have seen the latest Grit on the screen cus it freakn did what alot people didnt expect or want…..it was awesome start 2 finish and tryn to fill those shoes plus a western which isnt a easy sell these days…First off Bridges is the man ,never take anything from the duke but ask yourself this….which Rooster would u take on? Bridges is a bad mofo as rooster and sorry but if i need some back wether fists or guns im takn Bridges…John Wayne could ride a horse much better and use his six and his rifle but sorry other than that he did nothing in his wonderfull performance that Bridges didnt and ithink if u give it a hard look….no contest…and that lil girl wow! so much better than the 21yr old Darby girl wasnt even close…same with Damon over Campbell…Pepper killed Duvall…and maybe most lopsided…Josh Brolin over whoever that schmo was as original Tom Chaney…Brolin was awesome…i guess Dennis Hopper was better than the dude ive never seen that playd his role as shot and finger chopped…lol…so is there really even a discussion other than we all loved the Duke…My Father did say the new version and Bridges actually blew him away….called it a split….let go its not 69 and any remake givn the rite cast should be better….Walter Payton is a hero and was a true life bad mofo..and he playd himself …..are actors heros or do they play try 2 portrait them….DIG

  • sidsy

    I read the book ten years ago, at fifteen, because it was one of my mother’s favorites. If you are talking about capturing the spirit of the story, coen brothers and bridges win hands down. And steinfeld is letter perfect and for at least, flesh and blood real and believable.

  • Jay

    The dude abides

    • harry

      ha ha true that!

    • LOL

      The Dude has a beverage here, man.

    • Judy

      Absolutely right – the Duke rules!

  • T Bessette

    Not even close ,John Wayne,s True Grit will never be forgotten.
    Now why can,t i remember the names of the cast of the remake !!

    • Michael

      because you have been under a rock in the past year…what an idiotic comment!!!

      • anonymous aka dudette

        The same reason you cannot remember the rest of the cast from the original movie.

      • steve

        that o brother thing wasjustplain stupid.true grit?there in tha year2000 tryingto actlike 1880s,aint gonna happen.all the actors were teribile

      • seb

        I think the point of his comment was that the remake is no where near as good as the original. It is forgettable. Some actors did very well, but no one can do what John Wayne did. HE IS THE DUKE!!!

    • Dave

      Dude if you can not remember Jeff Bridges or Matt Damon you are just not worthy of reviewing any movie

    • Joe

      Maybe you can’t remember the cast members’ names because you’re so old you don’t know how to type? There’s a difference between a comma and an apostrophe, big buy. And you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • Brian

        lol

      • Rich

        Yes Brian, LOL!

      • Brad

        Yes, Of Course Brian, LOL!!!

    • jlynes

      The Dude will be lauded for a few months. The Duke will live forever!!! “True Grit 1969 was the first film I ever saw – I was 4. It still inspires me!

      • JP

        O.k. Pilgrim… at 4 you remembered all of it since you last saw it in ’69. I was 14 and vaguely remember parts of it. You must have quite the I.Q. for remembering history. It’d be interesting to see your history grades.

      • SteveB

        I saw both movies. I first saw the Dude’s True Grit and was interested in what the original looked like. I just watched it and I thought the whole movie was cheesey. To the forced lines of characters in scene after scene to the terrible transition between scenes. I’m a Duke fan but man was his character in the 1969 True Grit terrible. Oscar???? You gotta be kidding me.

      • jlynes

        I have a Masters Degree in History from the University of Iowa and I have owned the tape and dvd of True Grit for 20 years! My graduate gpa was 3.9 on a 4.0 scale.

    • Steve

      Trust me, no one under the age of 40 had any idea the original True Grit even existed until this remake came out. I watched it after seeing the new on and it is horrible. John Wayne delivers his lines as if he is reading them right off the cue card behind the camera. A 2nd grade recite of something you memorized the night before.

      • jlynes

        Moron!

      • Nathan

        You’re actually wrong. I’m 17 and grew up on the old western films. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are the most prolific American film heroes. To restrict yourself to modern day films and feel you have the knowledge to give any criticism on any film at all is both unwise and a horrendous act of self-deprivation.

      • Sean

        Steve, I hope you don’t have a lot of people putting very much trust in you because the ’69 version of True Grit has been one of my favorites since early childhood. I’m 29 years old now and I’m still watching it and recommending it to friends and family who haven’t seen it. For you to go ahead and make presumptions such as you have is simply disrespectful and ignorant. Never presume about others based on yourself.

      • rob

        Well I’m 34 and I remember seeing the original on vhs 20 years ago when I was 14. John Wayne was perfect as Rooster Cogburn. I did enjoy the new version, but I sense a shallowness on your part either toward john Wayne or older movies in general

      • adam

        steve you’re retarded and should think about what you type before you type it. im 28 and have known that the real true grit, the john wayne version, has been around for as long as i can remember. to compare dialog from a movie made then to a movie made now is laughable, its a different era. the remake is ok, but its not even close to the original.

      • Brian

        You obviously have very limited understanding of history. We have been building on the accomplishments of others since the beginning of time. There has been a steady progression of evolution in literature, stage and screen acting just like every other endeavor. The benefit today’s actors and directors have is to be able to view and review older films. That kind of historical education is the only thing that allows them to make the films they do. To disrespect the older version and John Wayne in particular is unbelievably ignorant. His contribution to film is undeniable and his body of work is unparalleled. For his time, Wayne was larger than life and touched the hearts of an entire generation. The technology was the best they had at the time but the budgets for those movies didn’t compare to the kind of money being spent today. To truly compare you have to have been around a little longer than you have been alive. Understanding the difference in the times and the relative innocence of our culture then is part of what you’ll never be able to comprehend. The original version of “True Grit” is a classic. It remains to be seen where the new version will rank in cinema history. The actors playing the roles today are some of the best around today and I’m quite sure Matt Damon will do a better job of acting than Glen Campbell did. But Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn? That might be a little tougher to swallow. I plan to see it soon and I’m certain I’ll enjoy it for what it is; a remake of a classic.

      • jiwan

        you know,i just warch a couple of sequences and it soounded just like you said ;like he is reciting.actually,he feels monotonous ;that’s what i thought

      • fernando

        Well, that’s why movie studios are “remaking” all old movies. For people like you.

      • Mike S.

        To comments that no one under 40 new about the original True Grit, I don’t think that’s true at all. I think anybody that truly values cinema takes the time to be familiar with what came before their time. I think it’s important to go back and look at what came before, because it’s what led us to how movies are made today. I also think the root of this argument is that, people that are only familiar with movies from today, if you show them most movies even as recently as the 80′s their going to say they’re “cheesy” because movies and acting in past eras was a very different thing. In the 60s most actors and actresses in that era would be considered “overactors” by todays standards, but there are many reasons behind that, not the least of which being that a lot of movie actors were first trained for theatre where the acting and emoting needs to be “bigger”. I think it’s unfair for someone whose never sat through at least, say 5 movies from the sixties to have any opinion on something that came out in that era, because what was considered good cinema was COMPLETELY different. By todays standards, The Wizard Of Oz, one of the most beloved movies of all time is cheesey as s*#!, that’s just how it goes, but that doesn’t make it any less valueable for the monumental achievement it was when it was created. The same is true of other classics: Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, gasp…even the original Star Wars movies to a degree, but you know what, they’re all still freaking great movies. For the record, I’m 30. I wasn’t around when the original was made, in fact I saw the remake first, but I did KNOW that it was remake and was interested enough to go back and watch the original, and for it’s time, I think it holds up pretty darn well. Likewise, I thought the remake was exceptionally well done. For those who ask, why didn’t they do something completely different rather than doing a remake…. the sad truth is, movie studios aren’t handing out money for new IP anymore. It’s the simple sad truth. A few movies that bomb can kill a studio. The remake is a product of our era. If you really want to see more original movies, cancel the download on all your f%#!ing bit torrents and pay your money to support the few good, original movies that do come out. Sorry, I got a little preachy there. Anyway, yeah, I think both versions of the movie stand on their own merits.

      • Laura

        That is not at all true, I knew about the original True Grit years before the remake. I remember sitting in the movie theater, watching the previews for movies and seeing the trailer for the remake, I kept thinking about how I must of seen it before, but thinking that there couldn’t be a remake. Anyway, the original was much, much better.
        And I’m much younger than 40.

    • Hunter

      John Waynes True Grit was in my opinion the worst John Wayne movie period. The acting was unbearable

      • Joe

        Your comment is unbearable. You must live in the city.

      • charlie

        Well pilgrim, one things for sure, at least you could understand John Wayne opposed to Jeff Brdige’s mumbling!

      • Roger

        Gotta agree with Charlie. I like Jeff Bridges, but his gruff voice was hard to understand in several scenes. The 2 movies are very different in style, so comparison is difficult. I have to vote for the Duke over the Dude.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    John Wayne was the true gritty cowboy, watch The Searchers if you need proof (why didn’t he get an Oscar for that?) While I’ve heard good things about Bridges in the remake, if you look beyond just the films John Wayne wins hands down. WAyne LIVED the role of a gritty cowboy….Bridges just acts like one.

    • dylan atkins-memphis tn

      this comment shows you know NOTHING about acting you ignorant tool

      • Shellibelli

        John wayne may have been an ok actor in his time because really it was that or radio back then.

        todays actors are much more real in their acting (with the exception of say Jimmy Stewart most actors back then, were horrible)

      • GHB

        What a frickin’ stupid comment. Most actors back then were horrible? You’re an ass

      • anne

        And you do?

      • @Shellibelli

        Everything you said was wrong. Everything. Radio? lmao

      • laughing my @$$ off

        C’mon now, just ’cause we used horse-and-buggies, the telegraph and the whole world was still black-and-white (since color hadn’t been invented yet), no need to hate on actors from 1969. I mean, it sure was an awfully long time ago.

        I’m guessing that was a little before your time, shellibelli?

      • Jason C.

        There is something to be said about Shellibelli’s comment though, the style of acting was a lot different then than it is now. This is the same argument to how the old stage vets that are seen in Harry Potter are different than how the modern film actors are. There wasn’t this bond to realism and continuity then as there is now (ask Hitchcock who’s main goal was never realism), and acting was much more grandiose than it was now. That’s why people of the younger generation look at some of William Shatner’s work now and think he’s over acting, he’s using his stage skills for film acting.

        At the same time, I would argue that that’s what makes the old movies better than the new. Nowadays we hold to realism and the commercial impact that we forget what makes films special: escapism.

      • True Blue

        I have news for a lot of you people. There were A LOT of great actors in the old days. Clark Gable was always underrated and was his generation’s George Clooney. Cary Grant would easily hold his own in 2010. Wayne’s “The Searchers” is riveting. One more thing: two of the great performances in the original “True Grit” belonged to Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper, modern actors blending nicely with Wayne’s wonderful performance. I liked BOTH “True Grits.”

      • Betty

        @GHB … And you call yourself a movie lover. Take up a new hobbie !

    • Lily

      @Nerwen ~ Why didn’t Wayne win an Oscar for The Searchers??? GREAT question. It’s my favorite Western and I don’t like Westerns (except Unforgiven, Dances With Wolves, Lonesome Dove and Open Range.) But The Searchers is extraordinary. Think both John Wayne and director John Ford deserved gold statues for that classic!

      • chuck

        You are right about The Searchers; however i would also throw out the movie The Horse Soldiers and The Quiet Man that also showed a side of John Wayne that didn,t come through in some of his other movies. They could ahve and probably should have netted Academy awards for Wayne. I haven,t seen Bridges version but I will and I don’t think I will compare the 2 versions as there is only one Duke ans he carried that role well.

      • DJ

        In addition to The Searchers, John Wayne gave fine performances in Red River, The Shootist and my favorite, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. Haven’t seen the Bridges Cogburn yet but I’m sure he’s good too.

      • Lily

        @chuck ~ The Quiet Man is my FAVORITE movie of John Wayne’s and John Ford’s. I’ve read that its John Ford’s favorite movie of his. I can understand it. I LOVE it. It’s magical. Gorgeous to look at, charming, so passionate and well acted. John Wayne is marvelous and of course, Maureen O’Hara and the whole cast. (Well, I’m 1/2 Irish!) But I’ll be seeing Jeff Bridges’ True Grit.I love the Coen bros. and Bridges and Damon so for sure I’ll get to it.

      • Niix Starkyller

        I’ll take The Searchers over True Grit, as Wayne’s most indelible performance — for me. Those last few, dialogue-light scenes are just so damn good. It remains my favorite film denouement to date.

        I just realized I don’t own that movie. I aim to remedy that situation today.

      • Mud

        If it weren’t for that cornpone wedding scene, and that gawdaful goofy hick doing the singing, it may have won him an oscar…but this is typical of most of his movies…gotta have some cornyness to it. Yea, I know, sign of the times, but that’s just my opine.

      • chzzzz

        For someone who “doesn’t like westerns” you mention some good ones. Shane, Ride the High Country, and Hombre are some westerns that you may like.

      • Wayne

        Just because John Wayne won an oscar for his role in True Grit it does not mean it was the best performance. The Oscars have given people awards several times just because of the actors age, popularity or whatever other reason they come up with. Sometimes just for a political statement. I agree, the acting for the original is cheesy and forced. I would bet that Wayne got the Oscar because of his age.

      • craig barron

        I agree Wayne should have won for the searchers. The original true grit simply wasn’t that great. The remake is better. And Jeff Bridges is better but the real star is Hallie Steinfeld

    • David

      Considering what it took to make a movie much less a good movie under the old movie system, I John Wayne did win considering he was a better fit. Not to take away from Jeff Bridges but he did not seem deliberate as Wayne did. To say they could not act back then, you need to ask Eastwood and other modern day western movie makers who used tecnhics developed by People like Wayne and especially John Ford who wrote the book on making something so great with so little to work with. Take this movie and the budget and freedom afforded actors and directors and put that in the hands of the first True Grit creaters who worked with little to make a classic and say Wayne can’t act. There’s a reason they don’t remake Wayne/Ford movies and that is because they are the best that was ever made and set the tone and wrote the book on how to make them that influences director’s today.

    • Jerrie Kreusch

      Take into consideration that John Wayne made more movies than anyother Hollywood star, and he portrayed the only American Icon that was ever on a coin, What about Bridges? When I heard about this remake, I was livid. Bridges.. why him? why Damon? Why remake something that didnt need to be remade? Many of John Waynes films have and will be considered memorable. This one… I can tell you some people when they play a roll, it can either make or break your career. Bridges already had a shakey career. What does that tell you?
      Yeah John Wayne had only one Oscar and it was “True Grit”, but John Wayne lived and breathed Rooster Cogburn. Almost every movie that Wayne played, he either wore the hat of the main actor, the producer, or director. Dispite many views, John Wayne will always be the fat old man that I will remember in this role. Bridges might do alright, but no one can ever top a legend.

      • Betty

        What !!! Bridges has a shakey career. Are you kidding me. He won the Academy Award last year for “Crazy Heart.”

      • Betty

        I fell in love with Jeff Bridges when I saw him in Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, and have followed his illustrious career ever since.

    • KITKAT

      It’s just silly to say John Wayne “lived the life” of a cowboy. He lived in Newport Beach, CA on the Upper Bay in a luxurious home. No ranches in Newport!

      I caught the original with The Duke on TV last week and saw The Dude’s version in the theater last weekend.

      I prefer the Dude, and young Hailee was amazing!

      • jiwan

        yap!i agree

    • jiwan

      well,he is an actor!…

  • BP

    I’d swear Bridges based his True Grit performance on the post car wreck Jan Michael Vincent.

  • waya

    I don’t care how good Bridges is, the Duke is Rooster Cogburn and I’m not paying $$ to see a “remake”. I’ve seen the trailers and they are word-for-word the same as the original “True Grit” and I’ve read the book and the original movie wasn’t that far off from the book either. This is a film that never needed the remake. Coen brothers must be running out of material to film.

    • tbone

      …and get off his lawn, you damn kids!

    • Bobbie

      The only difference between the book and the original film was that the film eliminated the framing story, Mattie was made three years older for the movie, and Mattie survived with just a broken arm instead of losing the arm as she did in the book. Wayne made two films as the character, and no one can stand up to that momentum, no matter how well they do in the part. Even Warren Oates’ version wasn’t accepted by the viewing public. No insult to this cast, but “Grit” didn’t need a remake, and it will compare negatively to the original, which has had four decades to build its cult following. Wayne made only four films in which he wasn’t playing a cartoon version of himself, and this is one of them.

      • Abby

        I was thrilled to hear the Coen bros. were making this movie. I’ve read the book twice, listened to the audiobook once & seen the John Wayne version multiple times. I love the crusty, unconventional, yet avuncular hero Wayne gave us. But–I vastly prefer Steinfeld and Damon in the new movie. Overall, I prefer the newer movie’s atmosphere. I did love Wayne’s Rooster, though.

      • cking613

        Thank you for pointing out the accuracy of the first film with the book. I’ve seen several reviews stating that the Coen’s version is “closer to the book” and it just isn’t so. Also, the multiple disclaimers about it being a remake . . . it looked to me as if the Coen’s specifically changed things from the book so it didn’t look like a remake. I did like the new film. Bridges was fine, but less emotionally provoking than Wayne. I did like having Mattie the right age (altho I admired Kim Darby in that role way back when!), and I liked the darker tone to the film. But it was far less like the book than the original. I need to see it again to be truly fair: I’ve seen the original and read the book countless times.

    • Grubal Muruch

      The “DUKE” is the ONLY “Rooster” “Sure as Hell Pilgrim!”

      • Luke

        I do not understand everyone’s die hard love of John Wayne. I guess it’s just because I’m 25. John Wayne did for western movies what Jackie Chan did for martial art movies, he pumped a bunch of them out and made a lot of money, but bastardized the genre. I personally preferred the Bridges version.

      • Niix Starkyller

        Oh, Luke. Just … no, dude. No. Seriously, no. Sure maybe you don’t get John Wayne. Ya don’t ‘feel’ him. That’s cool. Some people don’t ‘get’ Steve McQueen (and I let them live). It’s a matter of taste but, well, likening John Wayne’s career to Jackie Chan’s is just, y’know, just … no.

      • Dave

        I think Luke is pretty apt. Sorry, but acting overall has gotten better today than it was in even the 80s. Wayne hardly ever went outside his genre and I doubt the next generation will even be able to stomach his performance. In part, technology just wasn’t to a point where a “timeless performance” could be captured. Sorry.

      • Joe

        I agree 100% .

      • Rebekah

        Fill your hands you sonofabitch! Best scene! <3

    • JOHN PAUL GAUTHIER

      JOHN WAYNE NO OTHER CAN COME CLOSE

      • Jerrie Kreusch

        luke.. all I can say is its not your age. I am 26, and I am a huge movie goer. John Wayne is a legend, you may critic him, like others before you, but what makes a legend, isnt determined on your age. Its what people do that defines them, and Wayne definately did more for the film industry than anyother actor. You cant conclude Jacki Chan- thats a different genre. Oh and Dave, sorry man. When a classic is a classic, a legend is a legend.. theres no changing history like “Back to the Future”. Technology might have sucked, but what makes a western isnt the technology, its the performance and the rugged outdoors of the real scenery that make a great film. Technology makes films now-a-days… but sometimes simple films without technology are worth an oscar, and the Bridges version cannot follow the 1969 verson. Its like watching the “Wizard of Oz” and then the show remake of “Tin Man”.

      • Joe

        Some one needs to check John’s grave . He may be kicking the dirt out.

  • LM

    Shame on the Coen Brothers for remaking a classic. What’s next, a remake of “The French Connection”? “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”? “Cool Hand Luke”? Ridiculous. People don’t rewrite a novel, so why the hell are movies being remade? The Duke would kick Bridges ***. Will we see “Die Hard” remade in 10 years? How about “Back to the Future”? Pathetic.

    • MIke

      The hollywood remake has been around for years. Stagecoach, John Wayne’s first talking film was remade in 1966. The Big Sleep was remade in the 70′s and so was king kong. The Coen Brothers are on a short list of the best directors working today and they wanted to give their interpertation of the novel and that does not make them pathetic. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was actually a play as well as a film and it is interesting to see in person as it is a different take. Film is a different medium than the novel so no people don’t rewrite Stephen King, but in the film medium they can remake Carrie or The Shining. Remakes, in the hands of great directors, can be very interesting if you go into the film with an open mind. In 10 years it could be interesting to see what Christopher Nolan could do with a Back to the Future remake.

      • Toni

        What an intelligent comment to previous. Thank you and as somewhat of a movie ‘lover’ I can appreciate a good remake if the cast/writing is worthwhile. Like the ole king said ‘there is nothing new under the son.’

      • tbone

        i second Toni’s comment.

      • John

        “Stagecoach, John Wayne’s first talking film” ? The man had ten years of “talking films” by Stagecoach in 1939.

      • Wes

        I second tbone’s comment :)

      • Alicia

        You are right, Mike. The definitive versions of certain movies are actually the second or third versions of movies that were already made previously, but not made so well. And sometimes the remakes are no good. Classic stories like “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and “Dracula,” have been remade again and again.

      • DN

        Those films were remade, and many were mistakes, too! But none of those were classics in the sense of being award winners, and, more importantly, none were signature films for a star as “True Grit” was for John Wayne.

        It’s blaspheme, but some people just don’t care. How would you react to ‘Sgt. Pepper’ being remade by another band? ‘The Wall’?

        Films is a different medium the books? Thank you for stating the obvious. The bottom line is some people appreciate great films and some people don’t. I do, and you don’t. You obviously don’t get it when you point out that ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ was a play first. Many movies were books first. Bad example.

      • LM

        ‘Film is a different medium than the novel so no people don’t rewrite Stephen King.’

        This comment just proves you don’t know what you’re saying. If a film can be remade, why can’t a book be rewritten? I’m reading a lot of remarks about flaws in the original ‘True Grit’, well, I’m sure there are flaw to be found in the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or ‘Catcher in the Rye’ so why not rewrite them, only better?

      • Terry

        I don’t want to see a remake of Back to the Future. Actually, I don’t see the need for most remakes. In this day and age, when you can go and pick up the original at the library of most films, and more people watch movies at home than in the theaters and with state of the art home theater systems, why remake a movie other than greed and creative bankruptcy. Now, I don’t think that’s why the Coens did it, and I am supportive of some remakes, usually obscure films that haven’t seeen the light of day on dvd, That’s why, when David Fincher announced a remake of Reincarnation of Peter Proud, I didn’t have a problem with it. Sometimes, when a film is remade, it prompts either a dvd release or a special edition. That’s why I’m looking forward to the Arthur remake. I couldn’t care less to see Russell Brand in Dudley Moore’s famous role, but hopefully, it’ll lead to a new widescreen release of the original. But, while I enjoyed the new True Grit for what it was, still I wish there was more originality in films today. While there have alwayse been remakes, there seems to be a rash of very well known films being remade. Add that to all the sequels and superhero movies and this is just not a very interesting time in American Cinema.

      • Mike

        Just to respond to some comments above. Stagecoach was John Wayne’s first “major” film not his first talking you are correct John. And DN bands remake songs and albums all the time. Remember the Bee Gees doing the Sgt. Peppers Film? And DN I love great film and great directors Diane below had a great comment that many great films are remakes. John Carpenter’s The Thing and Cape Fear are two great examples. I only mentioned Cuckoo’s Nest because it was mentioned in an earlier post. Many films are plays I know. My point is remakes should not be looked down upon for lack of originality when done with love and an artistic vicion.

      • Niix Starkyller

        I applaud Mike’s post. It’s a truism of Hollywood history. I do think it is respectable to value a particular version as ‘untouchable’ (It’s A Wonderful Life, The Court Jester, The Crow) but whenever I hear/read a comment like, “Another remake? Hollywood has run out of ideas!” I always want to reply, “By your logic, Hollywood ran out of ideas 10 years after it began.” We’ve been retelling stories since the campfire was invented. Just take a look at everything the Bible to The Prisoner of Zenda.

      • @DN

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with remaking a classic…provided you do it well. For many sci-fi fans, the original 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a revered classic, but that doesn’t stop Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version from being far better. True, sometimes it’s a disaster even in the hands of someone talented, like Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho”, and too often remakes end up in the hands of those who aren’t all that talented, but at the end of the day, I’d rather watch a classic remade by someone I respect as much as the Coen brothers than an original film from Brett Ratner or Joel Schumacher. And yes, that extends to classic albums, as well. “Dark Side of the Moon” was recently remade by The Flaming Lips, and it is simultaneously both very faithful and totally new…and it’s also utterly fantastic without insulting or diminishing the original at all.

      • LM

        Ever wonder why “True Grit” is being remade. Is there a lack of quality western novels from which to make a movie? Could “True Grit” have been chosen BECAUSE of the original?

        Step on the shoulders of a giant in John Wayne, only to kick him in the face as you try to make a better film? Otherwise, why choose that novel to do a new film? Seriously.

        IF the original “True Grit” wasn’t so successful and well known, the Coen Brothers might’ve chosen another story.

      • LM

        @ Mike (Tue 12/28/10 7:25 AM) The Bee Gees take on Sgt. Pepper was a total flop and complete joke. You can cite as many examples as you’d like, it simply comes down to respect. If you don’t care — and will pay to see it — studios will remake films over and over and over again. They just want to make money.

        And, Gus Van Sant remade “Phycho” shot for shot, taking the studio’s money to pay him to do an empromptu film class in doing so. Van Sant said he just wanted to learn from the best, and the studio gave him a budget to do that!

    • SC

      It’s not a remake, it’s a new adaptation of the novel.

      Many, many stories have been filmed on multiple occasions.

      • DJ

        And every one, except the first, is a remake.

      • Gene

        The real test is this… will they still be talking about the New Rooster 40 years from now? John Wayne was the apex of hollywood cowboys, none has ever been better, and none will ever take his place… but besides his westerns he made unforgettable war movies, and even a few romantics like the Quiet Man… he made a few stinkers, John Wayne as Genghis Khan was a bad idea… but that is the only bad movie that I have seen… Bridges is a good actor and may make a decent cowboy but cannot top John Wayne…

    • Abby

      Reprising characters is what actors *do.* they love an opportunity to play great characters. If you think a particular version is sacred, don’t watch newer versions. I’m not so inclined. I’m glad for a better version of True Grit.

    • diana

      You’d be surprised at just how many great films by great directors, are actually remakes. Examples include: The Wizard of Oz (1939), Ben-Hur (1959), David Cronenberg’s The Fly, The Magnificent Seven, His Girl Friday, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (classic 1939 and 1996 versions are both remakes), George Cukor’s My Fair Lady, David Lean’s Great Expectations, Gene Kelly’s Hello Dolly!, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (both versions by the same director), Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments (same as The Man Who Knew Too Much), John Carpenter’s The Thing, Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait, Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, Alfonso Cuaron’s A Little Princess, Blake Edwards’ Victor/Victoria, Mike Nichol’s The Birdcage, the Matt Damon version of The Bourne Identity, Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear and The Departed…

      Sure there are plenty of horrible remakes made by artistically bankrupt directors and writers, but I would not count the Coen Brothers among those looking simply to make a buck and win a gold statue. They are very intelligent people who clearly love making high-quality films and deliberately stay away from public attention, and if they saw something in the Charles Portis novel that they personally felt the John Wayne version didn’t have, then I’m okay with it. At least they’re doing it for the right reasons, and I can personally think of plenty of great novels where I wish I could have another, more faithful film version than the ones that I’m stuck with!

      • Mike

        Great Post. You stated my case much better than I did.

      • greg

        excellent post diana, the most lucidly stated and succinct comments i’ve read on this entire thread. nice to see someone on here with an actual knowledge of the subject of film and it’s history.

    • MCS

      Imagine if a play was only peformed for one generation, or if a fable/legend/nursery rhyme was only told to one generation. Film makers are the modern day story tellers who keep stories alive. As a member of the younger generation, I had never heard of True Grit until the new one, but upon doing so I went and saw the Jeff Bridges film and rented the John Wayne film. I’m not saying one is better than the other but I think retelling is important. Isn’t it better that the story is kept alive and continued for a new generation, or would you rather it was forgotten?

    • Tod

      It’s not a remake; it’s an adaptation of the book. A remake (i.e. ‘The Karate Kid’) is a film made with the intention of replacing or retelling a previous film. ‘True Grit’ was made with the intention of adapting a book; The book they adapted just happened to have been made before. The new ‘Dragon Tattoo’ movie is an adaptation of the book, not a remake of the Swedish film, is it not?

      • Terry

        “the book they adapted just happens to have been made before” , so they made it again. Hmmm, there’s a word for that, what is it? It’s on the tip of my tongue.

      • cking613

        It’s not really a re-telling of the book. The 2010 version deviates from the book a lot more than the original film. Some elements are better (in the remake) but many scenes were changed from the the book. For instance, why did they have Mattie’s first meeting with LaBeof happen when she was in bed? That scene happened at the boarding house table, both in the book and the original film. I don’t quite get what the Coens were after by changing that. To me it screams remake because they purposely deviated from the book to make the film look “different.”

      • Rob

        I agree that it is not a remake,it’s a new interpretation of an old novel.This movie has nothing to do with the older version.Much the same way as every Dracula movie is not considered a remake.Though I do find it interesting and relevant to compare both films vision of the book and the actor’s portrayal of the lead role.

    • Don

      Thank you. Remakes are much easier to pitch and get made than new original product. As for the Duke, members of my family made quite a few of his movies and he was an original. I am worried that some of the younger reviewers won’t accept anyone without a cell phone in their hand.

    • chakotay

      Are we running out of original ideas? I read once that in music, there are only 7 melodies, and everything after that are simply variations maybe also for movies?

    • C.L.

      If we were talking about a remake of a Clint Eastwood movie there would be a hell of a lot more people pissed and ready to boycott the film. I’m 24 and I’ve been a john Wayne fan since I was 3. The man is my hero but this wouldn’t even be a discussion if they had remade the good, the bad and the ugly.

  • Nathan

    The remake is quite easily the better film but John Wayne is still likely the better Rooster.

    • Abby

      Agreed.

  • Kim

    The new version is the better film because the focus is not on one character. In the old film everything is about John Wayne.

    In the new version Mattie is just as or even more important than Rooster Cogburn.

    • Terry

      It’s debatable which is the better movie. After reading the book and watching both films, maybe the new film captures more of the tone of the book, but so what? The Godfather the book is nothing like the movie. jaws the book is a potboiler, the movie, a suspense classic. I enjoyed the new version for what it was, with it’s No Country for Old Women ending, but the old one is far more entertaining and fun. I liked how my girlfriend put it, the new version may be a better movie, but the old version is a better western.

      • Kim

        Terry of course it is debatable which one is the better film. That is what an opinion is.

        I just enjoyed the newer film because of the focus on Mattie who is a wonderful female character. So my point is John Wayne VS Jeff Bridges who cares.

        Don’t get me wrong I liked the original film too but I found this new film to be plenty entertaining and fun. I also preferred its ending. It just resonated with me more.

    • Robert

      Not true. Kim Darby is tenacious in her role constantly in Wayne and Campbell’s face. Her defiance when she met Ned Pepper is another example. Kim Darby’s acting is as riveting as Hailee Steinfeld’s. Also people point out the age difference between the two actresses but a great performance is a great performance regardless of age. I don’t think Hailee Steinfeld was better than Kim Darby who turning in the performance of a lifetime in True Grit

  • BP

    The Searchers is not as good as everyone wants to believe. The cinematography is excellent as is Wayne, but man the script is just awful in many parts (especially every scene involving Jeffery Hunter and Vera Miles). Rio Bravo, now that’s where it’s at. Perfect mix of drama, comedy, and action.

    • @BP

      “The Searchers is not as good as everyone wants to believe”. So you’re right, and ‘everyone’ is wrong. Amusing arrogance.

      • BP

        When it comes to the script for the Searcher, yeah I think I’m right. That whole detour with Jeffery Hunter and Vera Miles is unfunny and really makes the film turn into a lame sitcom for a few minutes. Like I said, awesome cinematography and great Wayne performance, but give me Rio Bravo.

    • Niix Starkyller

      Your point may be better stated as, “The SCRIPT for The Searchers is not as great as one might think, even though the movie — as a whole — is one of the best Westerns ever made.” Performance and cinematography are just as important to a film as a script is. See: The Empire Strikes Back, The Magnificent Seven, and North By Northwest for further examples of Weak Script, Great Movie.

      • Raven Brewer

        The Magnificent Seven is a very good movie; The Seven Samurai is a great one.

    • David

      @BP, If you want a classic Wayne movie go rent the Cowboys!. Even Bruce Dern admitted it hurt his carreer killing Wayne’s character and I think is a great western that did not get the respect it deserved.

      • BP

        Yeah I still need to see The Cowboys. I don’t think the Searchers is bad, but it seems to be the one film people always want to bring up when it comes to westerns and Wayne. I’d say Red River, Rio Bravo, and the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are much better Wayne Westerns than The Searchers.

      • Robert

        The Shootist also.

    • Wiley

      Rio Bravo with *actors* Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson?

  • stevenjaba

    It’s apples and oranges. Both are very different performances. However, the other performances in the new True Grit are vastly better than the original.

  • PL

    I totally love Jeff Bridges, but I think John Wayne’s performance was better. I found the tone of voice Jeff Bridges adopted annoying, and very difficult to understand at times. I agree with Owen’s cuddly comment. John Wayne had more gravitas, and “grit,” in the role. Jeff Bridges played Rooster Cogburn. John Wayne WAS Rooster Cogburn.

  • DN

    Call this movie ‘True S**t’, and go rent the original. I lost respect for the Coen brothers and Jeff Bridges with this movie.

    On what statue must a film stand in order to not be remade? Are “The Verdict” and “Chinatown” next? How about remaking “The Godfather”?

    • MIke

      There is no film that is “sacred”. Chinatown got a sequel and let us not forget the terible Godfather 3. Scorsese remade Cape Fear. 12 angry men was also remade. No film is sacred. People need to give this film a chance.

      • tbone

        Holy eff, calm down. Take yourself a little less seriously and try to understand that remakes are not meant as an attack on the original – they’re not even a suggestion that they can do better than the original. The fact is, times change, technology changes, generational tastes change, and remakes are just interpretations of the same story in a different age, for a different generation.

      • DN

        Once again, dumb*ss, those films got sequels and not remade. You’re probably a producer, where the greenback is the almighty.

        More wrongs make it right to do a remake? Those remakes were wrong, too. Jeez, you are a joke, dude. ’12 Angry Men’ was a made for TV movie. Big difference. Plus, neither were signature films for a star.

        ‘Bullitt’ was going to be remade with Brad Pitt, but, fortunately he smartened up. I wish you could do the same.

      • MIke

        DN… Have you watched Bullitt recently, outside the amazing carchase scene the film is average. Take out Steve McQueen and it is not even remembered today. Thomas Crown Affair is a better film and it got a pretty terrible remake but with interesting performances. Paul Greengrass could do a remake of Bullitt that could be very interesting. Your point is valid that some remakes are nothing short of quick money grabs, but you need to also see that in the hands of a talented director any story can be told again. And how is a made for tv remake ok? So if True Grit aired on CBS it would be ok? And The Two Jakes being an unnecessary sequel to the greatest noir ever is ok in your book but the Coen Brothers should be tarred and feathered. DN we disagree but obviously we both love film and neither of us are dumb*sses.

    • Devin Faraci

      You sound like you’re a 100 years old! “Get off my lawn, I’m 100 years old!”

    • William

      Get it through your 100 year old skull this isn’t a remake of your precious “Duke” film. This is a Coen Brother’s version of the book. Both films stand on their own and both performances as well. Get outta here old man.

      • Sue1

        Did you read the article? “…you might be startled to see how close the movie really does come to the 1969 version. At times, it borders on being a scene-for-scene, line-for-line gloss on it.” So it’s a remake, let them admit it. I don’t hate the concept, but we have far too many, not because there are no new ideas, but because many young people don’t think a movie can be any good unless it’s part of their generation (refusing to acknowledge Wayne’s performance…), and the Coen Brothers would be stupid not to cash on in that, I guess.

      • jodipo

        Sue, logically if a movie is based on a book “line for line” is BOUND to happen at times… don’t you think? That does not make it a remake. Too many people know how to use a keyboard but not a dictionary.

    • Arnie

      You obviously made this comment without seeing the current version. If you did, you would have found a
      True Grit that is refreshing and enjoyable. Your simple wordplay does not reflect the nature of this well done retelling of the story. Not only are there excellent acting performances with a surprising mix of humour combined with the “grittiness”, this version is truer to the source material. I enjoy John Wayne too and the one scene that is definitely not matched is the final gunfight with six guns blazing. However, this movie is a great view as was the original.

      • Betty

        @jodipo… LOL ! But remember Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake. Yikes !!! In colour, word for word, scene for scene. Hitchcock must have rolled around in his grave after this hit theatres.

      • cking613

        Arnie did you read the book? The claim that the remake is closer to the source material is simply not true. A couple of elements, such as Mattie being closer to the right age, her losing her arm, and adding the adult Mattie in were, yes. But many scenes were blatantly changed from the book, where the original movie stayed closer.

    • Robert

      The original True Grit is a classic and the remake does not measure up. It’s not a bad as the previous post indicates but what has put me on the warpath is all of the “critic” mostly young I think giving the high praise to the remake while making snide comments about the original like John Wayne’s “Hammy” performance or the schlockiness of the original movie. Just because the Coen Bros made a more “real” move they did not make a better on. They hit the mark with No Country but not with this new remake. There is a lot to said for the style of the studio system film which ended in the late 60s/70s. But a current example of this style of film making is Secretariat. Good old fashioned movie making magic, yeah it’s not “real” like Raging Bull but Diane Lane turns in an Oscar caliber performance.

  • BP

    “I found the tone of voice Jeff Bridges adopted annoying, and very difficult to understand at times.”
    You mean like someone who spends their whole day getting drunk. If you’ve ever heard a true drunk talk, I thought Bridges got it right.

    • Shellibelli

      thats what i thought too Bp, this film is much more realistic and believable then the older one. sorry folks

    • LOL

      I like this version of True Grit, also. However, even if Bridges got it right, it was difficult to understand him at times.

    • G-Bone

      That’s because a true drunk is exactly what Bridges is. Why do you think he did so well in his last film?

      • brett

        because he is a great actor,whats your excuse?

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