I know that this edition of Listeria is coming along soon after the last edition of Listeria, but I went overboard on my last trip to the magazine stand. Besides, this one covers one of my favorite subjects - Western movies. I grew up watching them with my dad, and that experience played a role in my interest in the history of the West.
Despite the poor reviews that this film has garnered, I could not wait to see it. I wanted to see it in the cinema, but due to low viewing figures, by the time I could see it, it's run in the theatres had finished.
This film felt like a reworking of two "classic" westerns. High Noon and Rio Bravo. Borrowing from the High Noon script of the bad guys (or guy) who are coming in on the train (or via the road in a super duper corvette) and I/we need to stop him works well for the continuation of the story.
Revenge, or at least the quest for justice, is a theme frequently featured in westerns. Relentless duplicity, on the other hand, is more often to be found in crime movies. Ride Clear of Diablo (1953) is a pretty good example of a conventional western that blends both of the aforementioned elements into its brief running time. By using the revenge motif mainly as a device to drive the narrative, rather than indulging in any especially deep analysis, and thus keeping the focus firmly on the various double-crosses, the film manages to provide plenty of exciting, pacy entertainment.
Having just watched the 1969 version of the film starring John Wayne, I thought it was time to see the remake. I usually avoid remakes of favorite movies, and the original True Grit is a favorite. I have always thought it was the Duke’s best performance, portraying a character full of life and humor.
I made an exception for this particular remake. I figured if anyone could do a credible Rooster Cogburn, Jeff Bridges was the guy to do it. So the day after watching the original, we fired up the Roku, popped over to Netflix and selected True Grit.
|Directed by||Joel & Ethan Coen|
|Produced by||Joel Coen
|Screenplay by||Joel Coen
|Based on||True Grit
by Charles Portis
|Narrated by||Elizabeth Marvel|
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Editing by||Roderick Jaynes|
Mike Zoss Productions
Scott Rudin Productions
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||111 minutes|
It’s partly a question of point-of-view. The book is entirely in the voice of the 14-year-old girl. That sort of tips the feeling of it over a certain way. I think [the book is] much funnier than the movie was so I think, unfortunately, they lost a lot of humor in both the situations and in her voice. It also ends differently than the movie did. You see the main character – the little girl – 25 years later when she’s an adult. Another way in which it’s a little bit different from the movie – and maybe this is just because of the time the movie was made – is that it’s a lot tougher and more violent than the movie reflects. Which is part of what’s interesting about it. (Credit: Wikipedia)-
Garry Armstrong: The Movie Maven’s Take
Reading Marilyn’s review of the “True Grit” remake, the obvious occurred to me. I am a child of the old school of movies. My heroes and heroines are the stars from the 30′s, 40′s, 50′s and 60′s. My film morality sensibilities have been shaped and nurtured by movies from Hollywood’s “golden era” through the 60′s. Not surprisingly, John Wayne is probably my favorite movie star. “Star” not actor. I thoroughly enjoyed Wayne’s “True Grit”. His “Rooster Cogburn” was a sum of all the heroes Wayne had played for 40 years. Older, fatter and more prone to corn liquor, Rooster’s sense of morality was still pretty simple. There was good and bad and few in-betweens. Wayne nailed all that with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Wayne was Rooster and Rooster was Wayne. The original’s end with Rooster frozen in frame and time as he and his horse leap a fence is “print the legend” stuff. Veteran director Henry Hathaway (“The Sons of Katie Elder”, etc), is in familiar territory and gives the original “Grit” lots of traditional, old school western flavor.
All that said, Jeff Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn in the “True Grit” remake is also memorable and can stand alone. Jeff Bridges as an actor can stand alone. He invests his own irascible charm into “Rooster” while paying homage to the Duke. Matt Damon’s “LaBeouf” is much better and more complex than Glenn Campbell’s Texas Ranger in the original. Josh Brolin gives Tom Chaney much more depth and compassion than acting school guru Jeff Corey gave the original villain. I still prefer Robert Duvall’s “Lucky Ned Pepper” but Barry (“61″) Pepper is also pretty good in the remake.
The remake gives us an extended look at Mattie with an ending closer to the book than the original film. Hailee Steinfeld is her own Mattie — equal to Kim Darby’s offering in the original. So, while I can enjoy the “True Grit” remake, I am still very partial to the Duke’s original film. Arguments?? That’ll be the day!!
Having had ones consciousness raised, it’s impossible to unraise it. I suppose that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but it’s inconvenient.
I started reading history when I was very young, maybe 10 or 11 years old. It wasn’t long before I realized that what we were told in school had little to do with real history. I was astonished at how much history is completely omitted from school curricula. I understand that elementary school history is not real history, but even so, it began to nag at me, a mental itch I could not scratch. The more I read, the more it bothered me.
By proclivity and coincidence, I’ve lived an integrated life. My husband is West Indian, my best friend is Native American and I’ve been subject to some serious consciousness-raising. I had to call her this evening and complain. She has ruined westerns for me. I can’t watch them any more without thinking about massacres. I need to remind myself that my people were not even in this country yet. They were still back in Russia dodging the Czar’s thugs.
Which brought me back to my original problem. I can’t read about savage Indians slaughtering the brave settlers without saying “Hey, wait a minute … That’s not right!” I truly can’t help it.
Nor can I watch “Gone With the Wind” and not know behind the big white mansion were slave quarters. I can’t watch our cavalry riding out to kill Indians without remembering the broken treaties, the systematic, state-sponsored annihilation of entire tribes down to the last child. It takes a lot of the fun out of watching those romantic old movies and the worst part is that I also love those movies. I would like to turn off my conscience for the duration of the film, but I can’t.
Cherrie refuses to apologize. She merely says “My job here is done.” Smug. And we laugh.
So I apologize for sounding overly sincere. I don’t like sounding so moralistic, but I can’t turn away. I wish I could, at least for the duration of a movie. I understand the history of the world is one civilization conquering another and taking its land for their own. So it has always been.
I don’t have to like it.
Just watched Tombstone, arguably my favorite western, though there are others that are close runners-up. However, Tombstone has that great combination of justice, revenge, violence, horses, great lines, drama, humor, excellent cinematography and enough western mythology to make me go “Yeah!!”
My back is killing me, so watching other people ride horses and kill bad guys works for me.
One of my favorites quotes:
Curly Bill: [takes a bill with Wyatt's signature from a customer and throws it on the faro table] Wyatt Earp, huh? I heard of you.
Ike Clanton: Listen, Mr. Kansas Law Dog. Law don’t go around here. Savvy?
Wyatt Earp: I’m retired.
Curly Bill: Good. That’s real good.
Ike Clanton: Yeah, that’s good, Mr. Law Dog, ’cause law don’t go around here.
Wyatt Earp: I heard you the first time.
[flips a card]
Wyatt Earp: Winner to the King, five hundred dollars.
Curly Bill: Shut up, Ike.
Johnny Ringo: [Ringo steps up to Doc] And you must be Doc Holliday.
Doc Holliday: That’s the rumor.
Johnny Ringo: You retired too?
Doc Holliday: Not me. I’m in my prime.
Johnny Ringo: Yeah, you look it.
Doc Holliday: And you must be Ringo. Look, darling, Johnny Ringo. The deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say. What do you think, darling? Should I hate him?
Kate: You don’t even know him.
Doc Holliday: Yes, but there’s just something about him. Something around the eyes, I don’t know, reminds me of… me. No. I’m sure of it, I hate him.
Wyatt Earp: [to Ringo] He’s drunk.
Doc Holliday: In vino veritas.
["In wine is truth" meaning: "When I'm drinking, I speak my mind"]
Johnny Ringo: Age quod agis.
["Do what you do" meaning: "Do what you do best"]
Doc Holliday: Credat Judaeus apella, non ego.
["The Jew Apella may believe it, not I" meaning: "I don't believe drinking is what I do best."]
Johnny Ringo: [pats his gun] Eventus stultorum magister.
["Events are the teachers of fools" meaning: "Fools have to learn by experience"]
Doc Holliday: [gives a Cheshire cat smile] In pace requiescat.
["Rest in peace" meaning: "It's your funeral!"]
Tombstone Marshal Fred White: Come on boys. We don’t want any trouble in here. Not in any language.
Doc Holliday: Evidently Mr. Ringo’s an educated man. Now I really hate him.
- 5 Best ‘Tombstone’ Movie Quotes (mademan.com)
- What Happened at the OK Corral? (news.discovery.com)
- On This Day in 1881, The Shootout at the O.K. Corral (rememberinghistory.wordpress.com)
- Movember’s Moustache Movie Madness: WYATT EARP & TOMBSTONE Showdown! (Hollywood) (blankpagebeatdown.wordpress.com)
- 12 Things You Might Not Know About Wyatt Earp (neatorama.com)
- Legends of the Old West (susanmarg.com)
- Shootout at the OK Corral – History.com This Day in History – 10/26/1881 (worldhistoryreview.org)
- On This Day In 1887, Doc Holliday Dies of Tuberculosis (rememberinghistory.wordpress.com)
Earlier today, my husband the movie maven wrote me and a few of his old TV pals. He had a question, perhaps one that has long needed answering. Given the cost and scarcity of panes of glass in Ye Olde West, how come instead of breaking all the glass before shooting, why didn’t they open the windows? Following is the actual dialogue of leading movie experts.
Here’s the dialogue:
Garry (Chief Movie Maven and Former TV Journalist): Surprise!! I’m watching an old “High Chaparral” episode: ( A) Why do they always break the windows before the shootouts? Couldn’t they open the window first? Glass was expensive! ( B) How come the guys stationed on rooftops always get shot first in those shoot outs? - Big John Cannon
Marilyn (Blogger Supreme and Former Writer of Books Nobody Ever Read): I never thought about the windows. Not only are they expensive, but they’d be pretty hard to get. I mean, did they make that stuff on the ranch? Or did they have to haul it from back east?
Texas Tom (Retired Famous TV Anchor): This reporter is nowhere near the movie expert that you are. However, my sense is they always break the windows for (first of all) the visceral sound effect of the breaking and shattering glass, which also is a much stronger macho gesture than simply opening a window. Besides, opening the window just might require one or two more seconds than smashing the glass, which can be interpreted as an act of absolute crazed panic and desperation, and also shows the blood curdling anger and hostility of the glass breaker’s killer instinct. As for always shooting the guys on the roof first, my sense again runs to the most bang for the moment answer. Having a stunt man tumble a story or two from a roof, balcony, overhang or whatever has a much more visceral (there’s that word again) impact on the viewer’s brain and gut than simply shooting a guy standing in front of you, or on the same level with you. It’s a much more dramatic way of saying “this is the real deal here”. - T. Texas Tom: Champion Cap Gun Fighter of the Entire West
Garry: Damn, you are so much more cerebral than me. You sound more like a Pilgrim than a Texican. Mebbe it’s because we’re on a fixed income that I wince when they just break the windows rather than opening them to spray lead. That’s another thing. You would think they would be more economical with their bullets. Let the bad guys use up their ammo and shoot when you have a clear target. I guess the Duke would be pissed if he heard this austerity rant.
Marilyn: You’d think the chairs would collapse if you sat in them. Balsa must be sturdier than I thought.
Garry: Yeah, I used to laugh my ass off at the six shooters that never ran out of bullets. Also, Roy, Gene and our other heroes being chased by hordes of bad guys could shoot over their shoulder with precision and nail three bad guys with one bullet.
Texas Tom: Remember (of course you do) in the old Westerns with Hoot, Gene and Roy and Tex and those old guys would chase the bad guys and shoot for a whole reel without ever reloading? We used to laugh about that never-ending stream of bullets … they never ever fired their last one.
Marilyn: No one ever went into town to buy bullets, either. They must have had an armoury somewhere. Even the Lone Ranger never told Tonto to go into town and buy some ammo. They only ran out of bullets if the script writer decided it was the time to heighten the tension.
Westerns! I LOVE westerns!!
When Marilyn recently readjusted our cable package in a good faith budgetary effort, we lost the Westerns Channel. I was mortified. Less than 24 hours later, I found something called the “Inspiration Channel” which carries a lot of religious programs. It also carries “The Big Valley”, “The High Chaparral” and coming up this weekend, “The Virginian”.
Talk about divine intervention. Westerns, oh my!
Growing up, I did notice that all of the characters in westerns were white. None of them looked like me. It didn’t faze me. I still dreamed of riding along side Duke Wayne, Randy Scott, Joel McCrea, Jimmy Stewart and all the guys. Notice how chummy I was. That’s but one of the virtues of westerns.
These guys were my friends. Anyone can be a saddle pal. Then and now, I love westerns.
After a professional lifetime of seeing law and order, good guys and bad guys — up close and very real — my heroes are still cowboys of the silver screen.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet folks like Duke Wayne, James Coburn and Charlton Heston. The thrill of meeting those guys was and is — wonderful. My interview session with John Wayne still makes me sound and feel like an awed kid. Damn straight, Pilgrim.
Hanging out with lesser-known guys from the corrals like Richard Jaeckel and Buster Crabbe was wonderful in other ways. I met Crabbe in the sunset of his years, long after the “Flash Gordon” hysteria was past. He smiled easily and took pleasure in spinning tales about his “B” westerns with “Fuzzy” St. John and the A.C. Lyles; westerns of the 1960′s that reunited old heroes like Johnny Mack Brown and Bob Steele.
Richard Jaeckel — who had a long career in movies starting out as “the kid” in films like “The Gunfighter” sat for a long chat when he was promoting “Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid”. We adjourned from the TV session to a nearby saloon where I got him talking about working with guys like Jack Elam, Myron Healy, Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef and other faces you know from so many westerns.
I’ve gotten lost in jabbering about westerns again – more anecdote than movies.
Print the Legend!!