True Grit 1969 and True Grit 2010
A few nights ago, I watched the vintage 1969 True Grit, John Wayne's oscar winning role and one of his last movies. The following day, I saw True Grit 2010 with Jeff Bridges filling in on the John Wayne role. Comparing the two is interesting.
The pace of the older is slower, it ponders about in places. The new one is faster, cutting out scenes deemed wasteful that were in the original. Take the 1969 movie, it opens with important family characters and background of the teenage girl, Mattie. Gives some perspective. The 2010 edition ignores it totally and states that Mattie's father was killed outside a saloon in narrative form, soon, Mattie is on the train arriving in town with a mission.
The new edition is grittier and probably depicts how the time period really was. I found the girl in the 1969 version who played Mattie totally dressed wrong for a western, it was too clean, nice. The hangings and the fights are much bloodier in the new version for sure, which fingers be cut off. The horse trading scene between Mattie and the man was very funny in the 1969 version, the 2010 editions pales in comparison. I tried to laugh and even though the dialogue was near verbatim to the 69 film, the actors were nearly not as good in pulling off this comedy.
I am sure the Cohen Brothers who wrote the script and directed used the original 1969 script. The dialogue was verbatim in many scenes and this made it hard for Bridges compete with Wayne. Wayne is iconic for western films, the swagger, the facials, the accent, he always injected quips of humor. Bridges played the Federal Marshall as a sloppy, ill-kept, cheating lawman. Mattie was a bit too serious all the time, a know-it-all becoming a bit obnoxious. So much so, that Matt Damon (who plays the Texas Ranger, LeBouf) yanks from her horse, throws on the ground and whips her with a stick. This never happened in the 69 movie. After a period of time, Bridges pulls the gun and stops it. In the 69 film, the role is played by Glen Campbell, a singer with several hits at the time. Damon is way better than Campbell in the role.
The 1969 film also had unknown actors that are now famous, Robert Duvall, who played a great adversary and I believe, Dennis Hopper, in a small role. The 2010 film, I think, depicts that time period much more accurately in dress, look. The manner in which Wayne portrayed an aging, down and out, US Marshall, fits better and more realistic. Bridges played the role too gritty and bum-like. US Marshalls, even then, did have a particular appearance more like Wayne than Bridges.
The Coen Brothers crafted other scenes differently to some degree and added new ones not in the 69 film. The Cabin scene for one, where the bad guys fingers are cut off, and Mattie climbs to the roof to smoke out the baddies. The end is totally different. In the 69 film, Wayne basically is riding off after visiting Mattie. In the 2010, 25 years pass, and Mattie is a woman seeking her old friend, who is making a living at a wild west show. But she arrives too late, the Marshall passed away and she visits the grave site and then walks off. The panoramic shot is beautifully framed and artisitc. The scene leaves a lingering thought of how time flies by quickly in life. Something everyone can attest to.
The overall thing that struck me was the amount of dialogue and scenes that were almost verbatim to the 69 film. Maybe the Coen Brothers realised that True Grit was already a great story and just updating was all that was needed. Sort of like musical artists trying to cover a Beatle song. Hard to improve on.