Rock the Oscars 2019: TRUE GRIT (both versions)

In 1969, Arkansan Charles Portis’ novel True Grit was made into a movie starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell.  Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin are also in the cast.

The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway, produced by Hal B. Wallis, and written by Marguerite Roberts.  Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels are uncredited actors in the movie.

Though set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the movie was filmed in Colorado.  Elvis Presley was the first choice for the part Campbell would play. But when his manager demanded top billing (over Wayne), he was bypassed and the part went to Campbell.

The movie was nominated for two Oscars: Wayne for Best Actor and composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black for the song “True Grit.”  The latter had been sung by Campbell in the movie.

Wayne won the Oscar that night, his only win.  He would reprise the character of Rooster Cogburn in the eponymously named sequel in 1975. This film, in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn, was his penultimate film.

In 1970, Campbell teamed up with Kim Darby again in a film written by Roberts based on a Portis book. This time it was Norwood.  It also starred Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Meredith MacRae, and Dom DeLuise.  It did not repeat the success of the earlier Portis based movie.

In 2010, the Coen Brothers released a new version of Charles Portis’ True Grit.  Co-written and co-directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, it starred Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson and Elizabeth Marvel.  Unlike the original film, which was filmed in Colorado, this film was actually filmed partially in Arkansas, where  several scenes takes place.  Filming also took place in Texas.  Many Arkansas actors appeared in the film, but at the risk of omitting some, there will not be an attempt to name them.

The film received ten Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Directing, Leading Actor (Bridges), Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Art Direction.  Sadly, the film went home empty handed.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: THE ALAMO

One of the early settlers in Little Rock was a man from Tennessee named Davy Crockett.  He did not stay in Little Rock very long. He and several others ventured to the Republic of Texas.  His final days are depicted (with more liberties than the original Texans had under Mexican control), in the film The Alamo.

(While Stephen F. Austin does not appear in the movie, he was actually one of Little Rock’s founding fathers before becoming a founder of Texas.)

The very fictionalized, grandiose, and jingoistic movie starred John Wayne as Crockett, Richard Widmark as Col Jim Bowie (another Arkansas traveler who left his impact on the state), Laurence Harvey as Col. William Travis, along with Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Chill Wills, Ken Curtis, and Denver Pyle.

Though one of the top grossing films of the year, it was still a financial flop due to its excessive cost.  However, when Oscar time came around, the film received seven nominations. They were Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Wills), Cinematography-Color, Film Editing, Sound, Song, and Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Wills took out an ad claiming that his fellow Alamo actors were praying for him to win even harder than the original Alamo soldier had prayed for victory.  There was much backlash.  It was felt that this may have affected award chances in all categories.  It only won the Award for Best Sound – which went to Gordon Sawyer and Fred Hynes.

The remake/new version of The Alamo received no Oscar nominations.

18 Cultural Events from 2018 – OXFORD AMERICAN celebrates 50 years of TRUE GRIT

Image result for true grit 50 oxford americanThroughout April, the Oxford American magazine haled a series of events to mark “50 Years of True Grit.” It culminated with programs over the weekend of April 20-21, 2018, to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of the beloved novel by Charles Portis, one of the magazine’s most acclaimed contributors.

The festivities included panel discussions, readings, tours, museum exhibits, film screenings, and a special Saturday-night variety show, featuring comedy, music by Portis’s fellow Arkansas native Iris DeMent, and appearances and performances by the book’s notable fans.

Published by Simon & Schuster in 1968 (after it was first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post), True Grit earned immediate popularity and critical praise as a rousing frontier adventure tale in which fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross seeks to avenge her father’s murder with the aid of a down-at-the-heels federal marshal named Rooster Cogburn. Over the past half-century, readers of all ages have come to treasure the book as a classic of American literature. The book has inspired two award-winning films-the 1969 version, which earned John Wayne his sole Academy Award, and the 2010 remake by Joel and Ethan Coen starring Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges.

“So few books stand the test of time but True Grit’s literary reputation and its popularity have only grown in fifty years,” said Jay Jennings, a senior editor at the Oxford American and editor of the collection Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany. “We thought the book’s landmark anniversary deserved a big celebration in the state that is the setting for much of the book and the home of both the author and the magazine.” Portis has published a number of humor pieces in the Oxford American and in 2010 was awarded the magazine’s inaugural prize for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature.

In October it was announced that the Oxford American was the 2019 recipient of the Arkansas Arts Council’s Governor’s Arts Award for Folklife.

Rock the Oscars: THE ALAMO

One of the early settlers in Little Rock was a man from Tennessee named Davy Crockett.  He did not stay in Little Rock very long. He and several others ventured to the Republic of Texas.  His final days are depicted (with more liberties than the original Texans had under Mexican control), in the film The Alamo.  (While Stephen F. Austin does not appear in the movie, he was actually one of Little Rock’s founding fathers before becoming a founder of Texas.)

The very fictionalized, grandiose, and jingoistic movie starred John Wayne as Crockett, Richard Widmark and Col Jim Bowie, Laurence Harvey as Col. William Travis, along with Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Chill Wills, Ken Curtis, and Denver Pyle.

Though one of the top grossing films of the year, it was still a financial flop due to its excessive cost.  However, when Oscar time came around, the film received seven nominations. They were Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Wills), Cinematography-Color, Film Editing, Sound, Song, and Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Wills took out an ad claiming that his fellow Alamo actors were praying for him to win even harder than the original Alamo soldier had prayed for victory.  There was much backlash.  It was felt that this may have affected award chances in all categories.  It only won the Award for Best Sound – which went to Gordon Sawyer and Fred Hynes.

The remake/new version of The Alamo received no Oscar nominations.

Rock the Oscars, TRUE GRIT – Part 1

Fifty years ago, former Arkansas Gazette reporter Charles Portis wrote a novel entitled True Grit.  It is more than a work of literature, it is a work of art.  In April 2018, the Oxford American will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the novel with a series of events.

In 1969, the movie was made into a movie starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell.  Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin are also in the cast.  The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway, produced by Hal B. Wallis, and written by Marguerite Roberts.  Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels are uncredited actors in the movie.

Though set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the movie was filmed in Colorado.  Elvis Presley was the first choice for the part Campbell would play. But when his manager demanded top billing (over Wayne), he was bypassed and the part went to Campbell.

The movie was nominated for two Oscars: Wayne for Best Actor and composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black for the song “True Grit.”  The latter had been sung by Campbell in the movie.

Wayne won the Oscar that night, his only win.  He would reprise the character of Rooster Cogburn in the eponymously named sequel in 1975. This film, in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn, was his penultimate film.

In 1970, Campbell teamed up with Kim Darby again in a film written by Roberts based on a Portis book. This time it was Norwood.  It also starred Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Meredith MacRae, and Dom DeLuise.  It did not repeat the success of the earlier Portis based movie.

Best Song Oscar nomination for Arkansan Glen Campbell

Glen_Campbell_I'll_Be_Me_PosterLost in the shuffle of Oscar nominations was the fact that Arkansan Glen Campbell received his first Oscar nomination. It was for co-writing the song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from the documentary Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me.  Unfortunately, due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s this plaudit comes too late in his career for him to relish it.

In 2014, the documentary was screened at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater with members of Campbell’s family and the filmmakers present. It later opened the 2014 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival before it was commercially released.

Though not featured in the film footage, Campbell’s last performance in Arkansas was at Robinson Center Music Hall to a sold out, lovingly appreciative and emotional audience.

Campbell’s previous closest brush with Oscar was as a co-star to John Wayne in the original True Grit, for which the Duke took home the trophy.

 

Little Rock Film Fest Honoree and Movie Icon Hal Needham Dies

Photo courtesy of Little Rock Film Festival

In June 2011, legendary movie stuntman and director Hal Needham attended the Little Rock Film Festival.  While there, Needham, director of the classic film Smokey and the Bandit, was interviewed on a panel by Tim Basham from Paste Magazine.  He started out as a stunt man, and later a stunt coordinator, before he went on to direct.  He worked with John Wayne on 8 films.

He wrote about his life and career in the book Stuntman.  It tells the story of how a kid from rural Arkansas with an eighth grade education became the highest paid stuntman in the world and went on to direct American classics.

While Needham was in town for the Film Festival, he was gracious and enthusiastic as he visited with fans and filmmakers.  As the 2011 Little Rock Film Festival closed out, Hal Needham was presented with the Diamond Award for Career Excellence in Filmmaking at the awards gala at the Clinton Presidential Library.