John Wayne on the sets of The Son of Katie Elder
Movies - TV
John Wayne Considered True Grit To Be His 'First Decent Role In 20 Years'
The 1960s were rough on John Wayne, with the veteran actor losing his lung to cancer and rebellious Baby Boomers rejecting the conservative star's several Westerns and war films.
However, an opportunity arrived as Rooster Cogburn, the drunk and surly U.S. Marshal in “True Grit,” hired by a young girl to hunt down the outlaws who killed her father.
It wasn't revisionist like a
Sam Peckinpah movie or exaggerated like Sergio Leone’s movies, but Charles Portis' "True Grit" was a Western built specifically for Wayne.
The film had a firm moral spine, which gave the image-conscious Wayne license to play a bit of an old, if capable, fool. It proved to be the best material he'd been given in ages.
In 1969, Wayne told Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, "It's sure as hell my first decent role in 20 years [...] my first chance to play a character role instead of John Wayne."
Although "True Grit" is a masterpiece that required Wayne to really, truly act, some fans may be surprised that the actor didn't consider the bigoted Ethan Edwards his best role.