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Sunday, December 26, 2010

True Grit - Then & Now

We watched the 1969 version of True Grit with John Wayne Friday evening off a DVD from Redbox. We watched the new Coen Brother's version with Jeff Bridges Saturday (Christmas) afternoon at the theater in Cornelius. They are both fine films. It was interesting to see them back to back and be able to compare them. There were some small differences, but they basically played exactly the same, right down to the dialog.

The first thing I noticed was the scenery in the old version. It looks like it was shot in Colorado with the Rocky Mountains in the background. However, the story starts out in Fort Smith, which if I recall correctly, is in Arkansas. I let it go, after all this is just a story, and I don't think they ever really specify where they are, and Fort Smith, well, perhaps it's just a fictitious fort made up for this story.

But the new version definitely starts off in Arkansas, and there are no Rocky Mountains anywhere in the background. This also helps explain the number of black characters. Or maybe I'm all wet. When I was younger I loved me some cowboy shows, but there were never any blacks in them, or maybe I just never saw them. Were there any blacks in Colorado in 1875? I found one reference that says there were 46 blacks in Colorado in 1860 out of a total population of 35,000. So not many, so Arkansas makes a little more sense.

Choctaw Nation 1905

Fort Smith, Arkansas, is very near the border with Oklahoma at a point approximately half way between the Northern and Southern extremities of Oklahoma. You can see it on the extreme upper right corner of the map. The Choctaw nation occupied the Southeast corner of Oklahoma, then and now. So that part of the story about the villain running into the Indian territories makes geographical sense. And as Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas are all adjacent, it make sense that a Texas Ranger could be involved as well.

Then there's the gun: a Colt Dragoon according to Rooster, a Colt Walker according to the Internet Movie Firearms Data Base. It's a honking big black powder revolver. It's a little hard to judge just how big it is. This photo helps.

From the top: Walker, Dragoon, Navy, Police

Winchester 1892 "Saddle Ring Carbine"

Another thing I noticed was the extra large loop in the cocking lever on Rooster's rifle. There is a scene that has him cocking the rifle one-handed. He has his hand in the lever and he flips the rifle up and forward, and then back to cock it. Billy Jack did the same stunt with a rifle with a similar loop. I tried this with a lever action Marlin once. It is not for computer geeks. You need a very strong hand to be able to pull off this move. Or maybe there is a trick and it just takes a lot a practice. Or maybe you need that big loop. With a standard lever it's a good way to break your hand.

Mattie being deafened by Rooster's muzzle blast

I'm not going to touch on safe gun handling here, but I do want to mention sound etiquette. There is a scene in the old version that has Mattie in front the muzzle of a rifle while it is being shot. She is off to the side, so she is not in danger from the gun, but the noise from a gun is much, much louder when you are in front of the muzzle. I think there was a similar scene in the new version, but I don't recall the particulars exactly.

There were any number of other interesting little bits, like the rattlesnake bite, the Younger brothers, and the intelligence and determination of the Ranger, but me, I'm going to stop now.

Update June 2016 replace missing pictures.

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