Friday, October 1, 2010

'True Grit' Updated by the Coen Brothers

I'm not one of those film buffs who believes that remaking classic films is sacrilegious. It is not an either/or situation and the new one does not cancel out the old.

I believe that director John Huston had it right when he suggested that film makers should remake film failures rather successful films (as he did with The Maltese Falcon), but film makers today like to remake successful films.

So it does not bother me that Joel and Ethan Coen are offering a remake of True Grit, even though I am quite fond of the 1969 Henry Hathaway film staring John Wayne.

Wayne, you may recall, received his only Oscar for portraying Rooster Cogburn in this film.

I like the Coen brothers' odd and funny films, so I look forward to seeing their version of True Grit. I also like Jeff Bridges and I'd like to see what he does with the Rooster character.

I read Charles Portis' fine novel True Grit shortly after seeing the Hathaway/Wayne film in 1969. The Coen brothers claim their film is closer to the Portis' novel than the earlier version. We shall see.

Tom O'Neil of The Los Angeles Times wrote an interesting piece about the Coen brothers' remake. You can read his piece and view the trailers for both the original film and the remake via the below link:

O'Neil made the comment that John Wayne's Oscar was undeserved.

I disagree.

I thought John Wayne's comic, self-mocking character was wonderful. (I also think the Duke should have won an Oscar for a number of other films, including his greatest film , in my view, The Searchers.

I thought Wayne was truly great in True Grit when sitting on his horse facing four outlaws on their horses across a field, he yells "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch," and then charges the outlaws, a rifle in one hand, his revolver in the other, and the horse's reins in his teeth.

True grit, indeed.

I also like that director Henry Hathaway populated the film with great character actors like Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and Strother Martin. (Glen Campbell, a singer and not an actor, was the weak point in the film).

I recall Mad magazine's 1969 satire of True Grit, which they called True Fat.

In the comic satire, Mattie tells Rooster that she wants a fat man for the job because fat men are jolly.

"Well, sister," Rooster replies. "I may be fat, but I ain't jolly."

"The job pays $500."

"Ho, ho, ho!" Rooster shouts out.

Very funny, I thought.

One last thought on classic film remakes. Even the poor remakes urges one want to see the original film. The remake may also introduce the original film to young people who have not seen or heard of it. And the films often make one want to read the novel the films were based on.

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