Rooster took my cup and put it on the floor and a fat brindle cat appeared out of the darkness where the bunks were and came over to lap up the milk. Rooster said, “The General is not so hard to please.” The cat’s name was General Sterling Price.
Henry Hathaway’s True Grit, adapted from the novel by Charles Portis, felt like the last gasp of the traditional western when it first opened in the US, just one week before The Wild Bunch. Kim Darby plays the stubborn young miss who hires drunken one-eyed marshal Rooster Cogburn to help her catch her father’s killer; Glen Campbell, with rockabilly hair, plays a Texas ranger who rides alongside them.
Hathaway makes good use of landscape, allows his characters room to breathe, and sneaks in some unexpected violence. John Wayne’s Oscar-winning performance as Cogburn may not be his best, but it’s certainly one of his broadest; supporting actors (including young guns Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall) try their damnedest to out-ham him.
But they’re at a disadvantage; they have neither eye-patch nor cat.
The rat was a mess. I went over and picked him up by the tail and pitched him out the back door for Sterling, who should have smelled him out and dispatched him in the first place.
EYE-PATCHES IN THE CINEMA: an article I wrote for the Guardian a few years ago.