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John Wayne

‘True Grit’: The Coen Brothers’ Fine But Middling John Wayne Remake

Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit is their second remake of a classic film. The first, The Ladykillers (a noisy reimagining of the understated 1955 Ealing Studios comedy), was by almost any reasonable account the brothers’ worst film. True Grit is also, arguably, the Coens’ second Western, following 2007’s No Country for Old Men—by general consensus, their finest work. It is perhaps fitting, then, that True Grit lies squarely between these two poles of their career: a fine but middling production by the duo’s elevated standards.
The 1969 version of True Grit, directed by Henry Hathaway, won John Wayne his only Oscar in the role of Arkansas marshal Rooster Cogburn; the Coens’ remake would seem intended to do the same for Jeff Bridges, if not for the fact that it comes a year too late. Indeed, there are notable similarities between Cogburn and Crazy Heart‘s Bad Blake, the role that earned Bridges his Academy seal-of-approval last year: both are ornery, likable drunks, who were exceptionally good at their chosen professions until they decided to set up residence in a bottle. Yes, Cogburn is a killer and Blake a singer, but that is merely the difference between Western and Country & Western.

As in the earlier film, and the Charles Portis novel on which it is based, Cogburn is hired by a headstrong 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), to track down and punish Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the lowlife who murdered her father and fled into Indian territory. Mattie also demands, improbably but immovably, that she accompany Cogburn on the mission. They are intermittently accompanied in their vengeful endeavor by an epicene Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Matt Damon), who wishes to see Chaney hanged for an unrelated infraction.
They encounter the typical obstacles along the way: snappish snakes, unforgiving elements, and a passel of auxiliary desperadoes (including Barry Pepper, whose small but excellent performance—in a role played by Robert Duvall in the original—is bested only by that of the makeup technician responsible for his terrifyingly snaggled dentition). But in classic Western tradition, the tale is largely a journey from point A to point B, from crime to punishment. There are heavy echoes of Unforgiven, of Lonesome Dove, and of the countless Westerns they were themselves echoing.
After the triumph of No Country for Old Men, the Coens would seem a perfect match for such material: for the stark, unforgiving expanses of the Old West and the laconic antiheroes who prowled it. The problem is that while the former is in gorgeous evidence, the latter are nowhere to be found. Cogburn, Mattie, and La Boeuf are all inveterate talkers, and hardly a minute goes by without the airing of some boast, dispute, or complaint. The precocious Mattie is a particular problem, her hyperactive patter awkwardly recalling that of Nicolas Cage’s H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona and George Clooney’s Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou. (In the 1969 film, Mattie was played by 21-year-old Kim Darby; Steinfeld, by contrast, is actually 14, rendering her a more plausible child but, paradoxically, a less plausible protagonist.) I held out hope for the appearance of Josh Brolin, who elevated taciturnity to an art in No Country, but despite his above-the-title billing, his role in the film is largely perfunctory.
Ultimately, it’s hard to shake the sense that the Coens opted to remake the wrong Western. True Grit is a sentimental tale, at least by the standards of the genre, and the Coens are not—to put it mildly—sentimentalists. They restore a few of the more somber elements of the Portis novel, but this is still the story of a plucky girl and her grizzled companion and, as such, perhaps best suited to the ingenuous tone of the 1969 version.
That’s not to say the Coens’ film is without its strengths: a good, if slightly familiar performance by Bridges; a nice, customarily modest turn by Damon, who may be the most versatile star working today; and, of course, the brothers’ usual technical prowess.
But the real reason to see the film is the work of the Coens’ regular collaborators, cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Carter Burwell, who supply the visual and auditory landscapes that are True Grit‘s most notable achievement. (Burwell’s evocative score, which consists largely of delicate variations on the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”—and recalls his magnificent appropriation of “Limerick’s Lamentation” in Miller’s Crossing—is alone worth the price of admission.)
Deakins has shot every Coen brothers movie since 1991’s Barton Fink (along with such beautiful films as The Shawshank Redemption, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Revolutionary Road); Burwell’s fruitful collaborations with the Coens date back further still, all the way to their 1984 debut Blood Simple. Neither man, I am dismayed to report, has ever won an Academy Award. It seems unlikely that this oversight will be corrected by as modest a vehicle as True Grit. But one can dream.

John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Miserable’ Because of ‘Venomous Remarks’ on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Western genre went through a series of changes over the years. However, John Wayne will always remain one of the most iconic depictions of the Western film genre with performances in big titles, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he didn’t have such an easy time on the set. Wayne had a “miserable” time filming because of John Ford‘s “venomous remarks.”

John Wayne played Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard shouting at assembly

L-R: John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance follows Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) as he returns to a small town for a funeral. The press questions his arrival, but they’re about to hear the story of his connection to a local man named Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The story brings audiences back in town when Tom saved Stoddard from Liberty Valance’s (Lee Marvin) crew of outlaws. However, Stoddard and Tom are the only two willing to stand up to him and his crew.

Wayne’s performance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is iconic. He once again delivers his Western charm along with his repeated use of the line “pilgrim.” As a result, popular culture continues to refer back to the legendary actor’s performance.

John Wayne was ‘miserable’ because of John Ford’s ‘venomous remarks’ on the set

Wayne worked with Ford on many films, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, the filmmaker often targeted Wayne with “venomous remarks,” verbally attacking him. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth detailed some of the comments that Ford made toward the actor, which really made him angry.

“But the most damage Ford did was to the friendship me and Duke Wayne might have had,” co-star Woody Strode said “He kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player, and because I had been a professional player, Ford kept saying to Duke, ‘Look at Woody. He’s a real football player.’”

However, the comments didn’t stop there. Ford brought up Wayne not serving in the military while on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As a result, he praised Stewart’s service. This is a particular weak spot for the actor, who deeply regretted not serving in the military when he had the chance.

Strode continued: “It’s like he’d needle him about whatever reasons he had for not enlisting in the war by asking Jimmy, ‘How many times did you risk your life over Germany, Jimmy?’ And Jimmy would kind of go, ‘Oh, shucks’ or whatever, and Ford would say to Duke, ‘How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?’ … What a miserable film to make.”

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ goes down as one of the best Westerns of all time

Ford never came forward with a specific reason for verbally attacking Wayne on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Perhaps it was to get a better performance out of the actor. However, it clearly left an impact on the cast and crew.

Fortunately, that didn’t negatively impact the finished product. Wayne fans often assert that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the best Western films of all time. It continues to impact filmmaking to this day. The film only earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but it remains a classic that many viewers rewatch.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Ready For a Fight’ With His ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ Co-Star

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Wayne‘s most iconic roles. However, he didn’t have the most enjoyable time behind-the-scenes. Wayne’s frequent collaborator, John Ford, gave him a difficult time. As a result, he was “ready for a fight” with co-star Woody Strode, who once explained the severity of the situation.

John Wayne plays it tough as Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance finds Wayne playing a local man named Tom Doniphon in a small Western town. Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) comes into town for his funeral, which confuses the press. However, the distinguished man tells the story of how Tom helped protect him against a crew of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

Moviegoers embraced Wayne’s signature dialogue delivery. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance includes one of Wayne’s most iconic words: “pilgrim.” He repeatedly calls Stewart’s Stoddard this, which was an insult within the time period. Nevertheless, Tom maintains Western masculinity as shown in both his narrative and the way the actor plays the part. The character is typically accompanied by his handyman, Pompey (Strode)

John Wayne was ‘ready for a fight’ with co-star Woody Strode

Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth chronicles the iconic actor’s career, including his work on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford repeatedly harrassed Wayne on the set with rude remarks that intentionally pushed his buttons. However, the actor took it out on Strode.

“This really pissed Wayne off but he would never take it out on Ford,” Strode said. “He ended up taking it out on me. We had one of the few outdoor scenes where we hightail it out to his ranch in a wagon. He’s driving and I’m kneeling in the back of the wagon. Wayne was riding those horses so fast that he couldn’t get them to stop. I reached up to grab the reins to help, and he swung and knocked me away.”

Strode continued: “When the horses finally stopped, Wayne fell out of the wagon and jumped off ready for a fight. I was in great shape in those days and Wayne was just getting a little too old and a little too out of shape for a fight. But if he’d started on me, I would have flattened him. Ford knew it, and he called out, ‘Woody, don’t hit him. We need him.’”

However, Wayne ultimately calmed down to allow them to continue filming. Nevertheless, Strode felt that “miserable” tension on the set as a result of Ford’s behavior.

“Wayne calmed down, and I don’t think it was because he was afraid of me,” Strode recalled. “Ford gave us a few hours’ break to cool off. Later Wayne said to me, ‘We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals.’ But I blame Ford for all that trouble. He rode Wayne so hard, I thought he was going to go over the edge. What a miserable film to make.”

James Stewart has top billing on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ultimately gives Stewart top billing over Wayne in all of the promotional materials. However, the film itself and the theatre marquees place Wayne’s name above his co-star. Some audiences contemplate which role is truly the main character of the story, as they both experience hardship and change.

However, neither actor would get an Oscar nomination for their performances in one of the greatest Western movies ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only earned a nomination for Best Costume Design, although it lost to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Nevertheless, the movie remains a vital part of cinema history.

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John Wayne

What does John Wayne say about not liking Clint Eastwood’s personal views?

John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are perhaps the two best-known actors in the Western genre, but they came from two distinct periods in the genre’s history. Wayne rose to fame when Westerns represents black and white morality, and nobody questions the nobility of the white man’s reasons for heading west.

Manifest destiny was viewed as a positive thing, and there was no criticism of white encroachment on tribal land. Newer Westerns, of which Eastwood was the poster boy, were darker and morally ambiguous.

In the early ’70s, director Larry Cohen tried to combine the two eras of Westerns in a film called “The Hostiles.” He wanted John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to star in the movie together. Eastwood agreed, but Wayne immediately turned down the role. Eastwood made a second try at convincing him but was again rebuffed, this time in the form of a letter.

In the letter, Wayne told Eastwood exactly why he wasn’t interested in being in the film, and it was because he hated Eastwood’s most recent movie, “High Plains Drifter.” Wayne was unhappy that the movie hated the Old West and wanted nothing to do with a project that would likely take the same critical stance. Wayne felt that Westerns should continue to present a positive view of American expansion. That wasn’t something that Eastwood was particularly interested in doing.

He would only play roles that supported his tough guy image : John Wayne kept a tight hold on his image by making sure that the roles he played lined up with the public persona he wanted to portray. He only accepted roles that followed certain guidelines and demanded script revisions if his character did something he didn’t agree with.

Wayne preferred simple characters with simple understand, motivations. Moral ambiguity is something that he helped. His characters had to be “real men” with their own strict code of ethics. It was important to Wayne that none of his characters appeared weak or cowardly, and that they would always face challenges head on. “As a man, you can be scared, but you can’t be a coward,” Wayne said. This idea of ​​manhood fit neatly with Wayne’s conception of the Wild West, in which brave, righteous men fought their way across the frontier to secure land for their families.

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