I grew up in a John Wayne household.
For one thing, I share a birthday with The Duke, something I think pleased my dad enormously when I was growing up. He was the western fan in general, and a Wayne fan specifically. I still remember when he took me to see "Red River" in the theater at a revival screening, and the way he talked to me ahead of time to set up for who Wayne was and how much he meant to my dad as an icon. I think of that conversation when I talk to Toshi these days, knowing how heavy my dad's words weighed on me.
Over the years, I've seen pretty much everything Wayne ever made, and my feelings about him are mixed. I think offscreen he was a reactionary jerk, one of those guys who put the idea of "Amurica" above what's right and decent and humane, and I think the movies where he let his politics lead his creative impulses are nigh-unwatchable for me. I'm tempted to pick up "The Green Berets" this week just for the jaw-dropping holy crap factor of watching a film that takes an aggressive pro-Vietnam stance while shot entirely on American soil at the height of the actual conflict.
But what got me thinking about Wayne this weekend is the impending film version of "True Grit" that the Coen Brothers are preparing to make with Jeff Bridges playing Rooster Cogburn, the role that won Wayne his Oscar. Having read the novel by Charles Portis, I understand why they think a new film version is possible. What I was curious about, since it's been at least twenty years since I'd seen it, is just how closely the film followed the book the first time around.