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True Grit


John Wayne, near the end

In 1969, John Wayne won the Oscar. The Duke quipped, had he known all it took was an eye patch, he would have put it on 30 years earlier. Duke loved Hollywood because he loved America. He used to say he made family movies. The Academy noticed, too late. In his last appearance, Duke said he was as old as the Oscar & would ever be-

True Grit is the story of Reuben Cogburn, a marshal who kills more men than he arrests; his judge fires him for it. – It’s their own fault, running from the law, into Indian territory… But can city folk understand? In the city, Rooster seems laughable. He lodges with a Chinaman, takes to the bottle, & wakes up late after gambling all night. Rooster lacks annoying virtues & despicable vices… This comedic touch helps him live in the city: His immoderation tames him.

In the wilderness, Rooster is wild. What lives there? Anger. What takes man into the storm, abandoning shelter? Revenge. He knows men may survive in harsh circumstances; he knows they can also thrive harassing their fellowmen. He embodies justice, delivering punishment. His shroud of dread is the shield of the weak. Living in the wild without becoming a beast, he can punish the beastly. – Woe unto the world because of offenses; woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.

An obnoxious, moralistic, clever-speaking girl hires Rooster to kill her father’s murderer, forcing her society upon him. He dislikes her arrogance, but admires her courage. – Stranger things happen at the end of the world. A young girl seeks revenge. An old man defends her. There is no family, though. The Old West is as young as her passions, but as old & dying as this marshal.

How will Rooster face his end? – Outnumbered, not outmanned. With one good eye, reins in his teeth, both barrels blazing, he tries to kill the lawless & save the innocent girl. – She can only watch; suddenly, dearly loving him dearly, fearing for him. She had been angry at him, busy pitying her loss. Now she knows his loss: She learns to bear loss without injustice. Now see weeps, mourning him who was alone. Rooster wants to save her, after a rattler bites her. The poison eventually costs her her right hand, which may be Biblical. At least, she learns her soul is gratitude, giving thanks to God.

True grit names a strange quality, peculiarly American, Western at that. It takes from courage endurance, from moderation self-restraint. What part of wisdom has it, if any? It seems closer to a harsh kind of piety. & what of justice? True grit is merciless & bloodyminded.

Fans of the Duke must see this.