Charles Portis

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Posted by bender 04/13/2009 @ 18:07

Tags : charles portis, authors, books, fine arts

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Charles Portis

Charles McColl Portis (born December 28, 1933) is an American author who has been described as "one of the most inventively comic writers of western fiction". His books have inspired cult-like devotion amongst their fans. He is best known for his 1968 classic western novel True Grit and his 1966 novel Norwood.

Charles Portis was born in El Dorado, Arkansas to Samuel Palmer and Alice Waddell Portis on December 28, 1933. He was raised and educated in various towns in southern Arkansas. The family, which included two brothers and one sister, settled in Hamburg. Portis served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, reaching the rank of sergeant. He received his discharge in 1955. He enrolled in the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.

He began his career in journalism while in school, writing for both the UA student newspaper, Arkansas Traveler, and the Northwest Arkansas Times. After he graduated, he worked for various newspapers as a reporter, including almost two years at the Arkansas Gazette, for which he wrote the “Our Town” column. He worked for four years at the New York Herald-Tribune. His work for the New York Herald-Tribune allowed him to return to the South on many occasions to cover civil rights–related stories. After serving a year as a reporter and the London bureau chief of the New York Herald-Tribune, he left journalism in 1964, returned to Arkansas, and began writing fiction full-time.

His first novel, Norwood (1966), established his preference for travel narratives with deadpan dialogue combined with amusing observations on American culture. Based in the mid-1950s, the novel’s plot revolves around Norwood Pratt, a young, naïve, goodhearted ex-Marine living in Ralph, Texas, who is persuaded by con-man Grady Fring (the first of several such characters inhabiting Portis’s novels) to transport a pair of automobiles to New York City. Norwood comes into contact with a variety of unusual people on the way to New York and back, including ex-circus midget Edmund Ratner ("the world’s smallest perfect fat man"), Joann ("the college educated chicken"), and Rita Lee, a girl Norwood woos and wins on the bus ride back to the South. Norwood was made into a movie in 1970, starring Glen Campbell playing the title character, with Kim Darby and Joe Namath.

Like Norwood, his novel True Grit (1968) was serialized in condensed form in the Saturday Evening Post. His most successful work, this novel is told by Yell County native Mattie Ross who, at the time of the events described in the novel, was a prim, shrewd, strong-willed, Bible-quoting 14 year-old girl. When her father is murdered in Fort Smith by a hired hand, Tom Chaney, she recruits Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn—in whom Mattie sees one possessed, like herself, of "grit"—to help her hunt down Chaney and his outlaw band to "avenge her father’s blood". Both satirical of Westerns and realistic, the novel succeeded through its taut story line, Mattie’s believable narrative voice, sharp dialogue, and a journalistic attention to details.

Both Norwood and True Grit became successful movies starring fellow Arkansan Glen Campbell. John Wayne won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, which was one of the top box office hits of 1969. True Grit was released on June 11, 1969, earning $14.25 million at the box office.

In the 1990s, Portis published short fiction and biographical pieces in The Atlantic Monthly, including "Combinations of Jacksons" and "I Don't Talk Service No More".

Portis was born in El Dorado, Arkansas. He is reclusive and travels frequently to Mexico.

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William Blackstone

Portrait of Sir William Blackstone by Thomas Gainsborough, 1774.

Sir William Blackstone (originally pronounced Blexstun) (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist and professor who produced the historical and analytic treatise on the common law called Commentaries on the Laws of England, first published in four volumes over 1765–1769. It had an extraordinary success, reportedly bringing the author £14,000, and still remains an important source on classical views of the common law and its principles.

Blackstone was born in Cheapside in 1723, the posthumous son of a London silk mercer. He received his education at Charterhouse School and at Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1743 he became a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and he was called to the bar as a barrister at the Middle Temple in 1746. After practising in the courts of Westminster for several years, without great success, he returned to Oxford in 1758 when another lawyer, Charles Viner, established an endowed chair at the university for a lecturer in law. Viner's endowed chair became known as the Vinerian professorship, and it exists to the present day. At this time, he was appointed Principal of New Inn Hall (now St. Peter's College, Oxford). Blackstone lived at Castle Priory in Wallingford, and is buried at St Peter's Church in the town.

In addition to the Commentaries, Blackstone published treatises on Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forests. In 1761 he won election as a Member of Parliament for Hindon and "took silk" as a king's counsel. He also wrote some poetry.

Blackstone and his work occasionally appear in literature. For example, Blackstone receives mention in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. A passing reference to the Commentaries is also to be found in Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail. A bust of Blackstone is a typical ornament of a lawyer's office in early Perry Mason novels, and in Anatomy of a Murder. Blackstone's Commentaries are also mentioned in Charles Portis's comic novel, The Dog of the South. It is also mentioned in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird as the tool used to teach Calpurnia, a black woman, how to read. Blackstone wrote his books on common law shortly before the United States Constitution was written. Many terms and phrases used by the framers were derived from Blackstone's works.

U.S. courts frequently quote Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England as the definitive pre-Revolutionary War source of common law; in particular, the United States Supreme Court quotes from Blackstone's work whenever they wish to engage in historical discussion that goes back that far, or further (for example, when discussing the intent of the Framers of the Constitution). His work has been used most forcefully as of late by Justice Clarence Thomas. U.S. and other common law courts mention with strong approval Blackstone's formulation also known as Blackstone's ratio popularly stated as "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" — although he did not first express the principle.

Blackstone's work was more often synthetic than original, but his writing was organized, clear, and dignified, which brings his great work within the category of general literature. He also had a turn for neat and polished verse, of which he gave proof in The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse.

Blackstone's characterization of property rights as "sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe," has often been quoted in judicial opinions and secondary legal literature as the dominant Western concept of property. In spite of the frequency with which this conception is quoted, however, the phrase is often presented without taking into account the greater context of Blackstone's thought on the subject of property. Blackstone likely offered the statement as a rhetorical flourish to begin his discussion, given that even in his age, individual property rights were not sole and absolute. Property owners must rely on the enforcement powers of the state, in any event, for the realization of their rights.

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Coen brothers

COEN Brothers (cannesPH).jpg

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, known together professionally as the Coen brothers, are American filmmakers. For more than twenty years, the pair have written and directed numerous successful films, ranging from screwball comedies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy) to hardboiled thrillers (Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn't There, No Country for Old Men), to movies where genres blur together (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink and Burn After Reading). The brothers write, direct and produce their films jointly, although until recently Joel received sole credit for directing and Ethan for producing. They often alternate top billing for their screenplays while sharing film credits for editor under the alias Roderick Jaynes. They are known in the film business as "the two-headed director", as they share a similar vision of their films. Actors can approach either brother with a question and get the same answer.

Joel Coen (born November 29, 1954) and Ethan Coen (born September 21, 1957) grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Their parents, Edward and Rena Coen, both Jewish, were professors, their father an economist at the University of Minnesota and their mother an art historian at St. Cloud State University.

When they were children, Joel saved money from mowing lawns to buy a Vivitar Super 8 camera. Together, the brothers remade movies they saw on television with a neighborhood kid, Mark Zimering ("Zeimers"), as the star. Their first attempt was a romp titled, Henry Kissinger, Man on the Go. Cornel Wilde's The Naked Prey (1966) became their Zeimers in Zambia, which also featured Ethan as a native with a spear.

In the late 1970s, both brothers lived in the Weinstein dormitory at 5-11 University Place, an NYU dorm noted for housing such creatives as Ralph Bakshi, Rick Rubin, and film makers Chris Columbus and Dan Goldman.

Joel has been married to actress Frances McDormand since 1984. They adopted a son from Paraguay, named Pedro McDormand Coen (Frances and all her siblings are adopted themselves). McDormand has starred in six of the Coen Brothers' films, including a minor appearance in Miller's Crossing, a supporting role in Raising Arizona, lead roles in Blood Simple and The Man Who Wasn't There, her Academy Award winning role in Fargo, and her latest starring role in Burn After Reading.

Ethan is married to film editor Tricia Cooke.

Both couples live in New York City.

After graduating from NYU Joel worked as a production assistant on a variety of industrial films and music videos. He developed a talent for film editing and met Sam Raimi who was looking for an assistant editor on his first feature film The Evil Dead (1981).

In 1984, the brothers wrote and directed Blood Simple, their first film together. Set in Texas, the film tells the tale of a shifty, sleazy bar owner who hires a private detective to kill his wife and her lover. Within this film are considerable elements that point toward their future direction: their own subverted homages to genre movies (in this case noir and horror) and clever plot twists layered over a simplistic story; their darkly inventive and twisted sense of humor; and their mastery of atmosphere. The film starred Frances McDormand who would go on to feature in many of the Coen brothers' films (and marry Joel Coen). Upon release the film received much praise and won awards for Joel's direction at both the Sundance and Independent Spirit awards.

The next Coen brothers project to hit the big screen was 1985's Crimewave directed by Sam Raimi. The film was written by the brothers and Sam Raimi with whom Joel had worked on The Evil Dead.

The next film written and directed by the brothers was the 1987 hit, Raising Arizona. The film is the story of the unlikely married couple ex-convict H.I. (played by Nicolas Cage) and ex-cop Ed (played by Holly Hunter) who long for a baby but are unable to conceive. Fortune smiles on them when a local furniture tycoon appears on television with his five newly born quintuplets that he jokes 'are more than we can handle'. Seeing this as a sign and an opportunity to redress the natural balance, H.I. and Ed steal one of the quintuplets and start to bring up the child as their own. Raising Arizona was much more accessible to the mass market with its innocence and wacky slapstick easing the action along amongst a somewhat darker humor.

Miller's Crossing was released in 1990, a straight-ahead homage to the gangster movie genre. Starring Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne and future Coen brothers' staple John Turturro, the film is set during the prohibition era of the 1930s and tells the tale of feuding mobs and gangster capers. The film was praised for its dialogue and in-depth characterization. Typical of the brothers' oeuvre are the touches of dark humor and plot twists that were already becoming recurring features of their work.

The Coen brothers' reputation was seemingly enhanced with every subsequent release, but it took a massive leap forward with their next movie, 1991s visually stunning Barton Fink. Barton Fink is set in 1941 and is the story of a New York playwright (the eponymous Barton Fink played by John Turturro) who moves to Los Angeles to write a B-movie. He settles down in his hotel apartment to commence the writing but all too soon gets writer's block and allows himself to receive some inspiration from the amiable man in the room next door (played by John Goodman), together with some industry associates. Inspiration comes from the strangest places, and the hotel is definitely unusual and a magnet for the bizarre. Barton Fink was a critical success, garnering Oscar nominations plus winning three major awards at Cannes Film Festival, including the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm). Barton Fink was the first of the brothers' films to use Director of Photography Roger Deakins, a key figure in the brothers' circle over the following 15 years.

In 1994, with their stock at an all-time high, the brothers were able to attempt their first big-budget feature film The Hudsucker Proxy (co-written with Sam Raimi). The story revolves around a man who is made the head of a massive corporation with the expectation that he will ruin the company (so that the board can buy it for next to nothing); instead, he ends up inventing the hula hoop and becomes both a success and a "personality" overnight. The critics were, for once, lukewarm about the Coens' work, while Roger Deakins was universally praised for his skill as Director of Photography. The film was generally criticized for being "a pastiche too far." Most critics viewed the film as having nothing new to say due to its constant references and homages to classic movies of the 1930s and 40s. Many were disappointed by the Coens' first attempt at the big league. Perhaps more significantly, the film proved to be a massive commercial failure, making back only $3 million of its $25 million budget.

Following the commercial failure of The Hudsucker Proxy, the brothers returned to more familiar ground in 1996 with the low-budget noir thriller Fargo. Set in the Coen brothers' home state of Minnesota, the movie tells the tale of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a man with a money problem, who works in his father-in-law's car showroom. Jerry is anxious to get hold of some money to move up in the world and hatches a plan to have his wife kidnapped so that his wealthy father-in-law will pay the ransom that he can split with the kidnappers. Inevitably, his best laid plans go wrong when the bungling kidnappers deviate from the agreed non-violent plan and local cop Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) starts to investigate the whole affair. A critical and commercial success, with particular praise for its dialogue and McDormand's performance, the film received several awards including a BAFTA award and Cannes award for direction and two Oscars, one for Best Original Screenplay and a Best Actress Oscar for McDormand.

The Coens' next film would build upon this success and in 1998 The Big Lebowski was released. With its story about "The Dude," an LA slacker (played by Jeff Bridges), used as an unwitting pawn in a fake kidnapping plot with his bowling buddies (Steve Buscemi and John Goodman), the Coens had hit on a film that would provide a mainstream accessibility that they had not enjoyed since Raising Arizona. Despite a lukewarm reception from the critics at the time and only moderate commercial success, the film is now regarded as a cult classic.

Buoyed by the success of both Fargo and Lebowski, the Coen brothers' next film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) was another critical success. The title was borrowed from the 1941 Preston Sturges film "Sullivan's Travels," whose lead character, movie director John Sullivan, had planned to make a film with that title. Based loosely on Homer's "Odyssey" (complete with a cyclops, sirens, et al.) the story is set in Mississippi in the 1930s and follows a trio of escaped convicts who have absconded from a chain gang and who journey home in an attempt to recover the loot from a bank heist that the leader has buried. But they have no idea what the journey is that they are undertaking. The film also highlighted the comic abilities of George Clooney who starred as the oddball lead character of Ulysses Everett McGill (assisted by his sidekicks, played by Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro). The film's bluegrass soundtrack, offbeat humor and, yet again, stunning cinematography, made it a critical and commercial hit. The soundtrack CD became even more successful than the film, spawning a concert, a concert DVD of its own (Down from the Mountain) that coincided with a resurgence in interest in American folk music.

The Coen brothers produced another noirish thriller in 2001, The Man Who Wasn't There. Set in late 1940s California, the film tells the tale of a laconic chain smoking barber (played by Billy Bob Thornton), who in an effort to get some money together to invest in a dry cleaning business, decides to blackmail his wife's boss, who is also her lover. Unusual for a contemporary film, it was presented, though not shot, entirely in black and white. The film's twists and turns and dark humor were typical of Coen films, but here the slow deliberate build of the thriller, its dead-end roads look meant that the film was more for the purists rather than for casual audiences.

Intolerable Cruelty, arguably the Coens' most mainstream release, was released in 2003 and starred George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The film was a throwback to the romantic comedies of the 1940s with a story based around Miles Massey, a hot shot divorce lawyer, and a beautiful divorcee whom Massey had managed to stop getting any money from her divorce. She sets out on a course to get even with him while he becomes smitten with her. Intolerable Cruelty divided the critics, some applauding the romantic screwball comedy elements of the movie, others enquiring as to why the Coens would wish to supply us with their take on this genre. The film proved to be only a moderate commercial success.

In 2004, the Coen brothers made The Ladykillers, a remake of the Ealing Studios classic. The story revolves around a professor (played by Tom Hanks) who puts together a team to rob a casino. They rent a room in an elderly woman's house to execute the heist. When the woman discovers the plot, however, the gang decides to murder her to ensure her silence. This is easier said than done. The Coens received some of the most lukewarm reviews of their career with this movie; much criticism surmised that while the Coens have managed to make films in which a genre can be homaged or pastiched successfully, a relatively faithful reworking of an individual classic did not give them enough creative leeway to place a complete trademark touch on their work.

No Country for Old Men, released in November 2007, was based on the 2005 novel by the author Cormac McCarthy, the film tells the tale of a man named Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) living on the Texas/Mexico border who stumbles upon two million dollars in drug money that he decides to pocket. He then has to go on the run to avoid those looking to recover the money, including a sinister killer (Javier Bardem) who confounds both Llewelyn and the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones). This plot line is a return to the dark, noir themes which have provided the Coens with some of their most successful material, but it also marks a notable departure, including a lack of regular Coen actors (with the exception of Stephen Root), a less pronounced comedic element and minimal use of music. The film has received nearly universal critical praise, garnering a 94% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, all of which were received by the Coens, as well as Best Supporting Actor received by Bardem. (The Coens, as "Roderick Jaynes", were also nominated for Best Editor, but lost.) It was the first time since 1961 (Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise for "West Side Story") that two directors had received the honor of Best Director at the same time.

In January 2008, Ethan Coen's play Almost An Evening premiered Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company Stage 2 and opened to mostly enthusiastic reviews. The initial run closed on February 10, 2008 but was moved to a new theatre for a commercial Off-Broadway run. The commercial run began in March, 2008, and ran until June 1, 2008 at the Bleecker Street Theatre in New York City, produced by The Atlantic Theater Company and Art Meets Commerce.

Burn After Reading, a dark comedy starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney was released September 12, 2008. In its box office debut, it hit number one in North America.

In 2009, they directed a television commercial for the Reality Coalition entitled "Air Freshener".

The Coens are currently filming A Serious Man, which has been described as a "gentle" but "dark" period (circa 1967) comedy with a low budget. The film is based loosely on their own childhoods in a Jewish academic family in the largely Jewish suburb of St Louis Park, Minnesota. Other filming took place in late summer 2008 in some neighborhoods of Bloomington, Minnesota, at Normandale Community College, and at St. Olaf College.

In an interview with The Guardian in December 2007, the Coens said that they had written a Western, "with a lot of violence in it. There's scalping and hanging ... it's good. Indians torturing people with ants, cutting their eyelids off". In addition they hope to film James Dickey's novel To the White Sea. A project which has been mooted for several years is Hail Caesar, the third of the so called 'Numskull trilogy', a comedy starring George Clooney as a matinee idol making a biblical epic. However in an interview for the Los Angeles Times in February 2008, the Coens said that it did not exist as a script but only as an idea.

It has been announced that the Coen brothers will write and direct an adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union. They will produce the film with Scott Rudin for Columbia Pictures.

According to The Daily Mail, the Coens are planning to remake the 1969 film True Grit, though Joel Coen has said that the story will be closer to the Charles Portis's novel than the 1969 film. It will be 2010-11 before it is made.

In a 1998 interview with Alex Simon for Venice magazine, the Coens discussed a project called The Contemplations which would be an anthology of short films based on stories in a leatherbound book from a 'dusty old library'.

As well as their own projects, they have involvement in two other productions. Suburbicon, a comedy starring and directed by George Clooney. It will be written and produced by the Coens. In addition they have provided the screenplay for a remake of the 1966 film Gambit, due to star Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley. Both films are slated for a 2009 release.

Owing a heavy debt to film noir and other film styles of the past, the Coen brothers' films combine dry humor with sharp irony and shocking visuals, most often in moving camera shots. The Coens prefer not to put the opening credits at the very beginning of the film. The Coens are also amongst the few contemporary filmmakers who have shown a great affection for the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, and have incorporated their influences with varying degrees of subtlety, ranging from entire movies in the screwball mode like The Hudsucker Proxy and Intolerable Cruelty to occasional fast-talking wacky characters like Steve Buscemi's cameo in Miller's Crossing. Their style of characterisation creates a world in which even characters with small speaking parts seem to have exaggerated traits or characteristics. This can be attributed to the settings of many of the films (for example the characters in The Big Lebowski do not seem out of place in the many niche communities of LA).

Aside from their movie influences, many of the Coen Brothers films are written with the flavorings of specific works of crime fiction; they feel like stories that could have been written by their respective authors. Their first film Blood Simple, for example, with its themes of grisly violence and degenerate characters who are all screwing each other over, feels much like that of a Jim Thompson novel... "After dark, My Sweet" immediately comes to mind. It's even set in Texas, a place that pops up as the scenery in many of Thompson's gothic, hard-boiled yarns. Their 1990 film, Miller's Crossing has all the earmarks of a Dashiell Hammet novel, specifically "Red Harvest". While The Big Lebowski is an obvious modern-day farce of Raymond Chandler's debut crime novel published in 1939, "The Big Sleep"--wherein you can find 1930's counterparts for almost every character in the Coens' 1990's parody. "The Man Who Wasn't There", another original screenplay, contains all of the set-ups found in a James M. Cain novel--most notably, "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice". These classic novels contribute greatly to their character studies, areas of interest (Los Angeles, Texas, the Midwest), and vernacular, beyond the world of film.

Oscar winners for best original screenplay (Fargo) and best adapted screenplay (No Country For Old Men), the Coen brothers are known for the dialogue in their films. Sometimes laconic (The Man Who Wasn't There; Fargo; No Country for Old Men), sometimes unusually loquacious (The Big Lebowski, The Hudsucker Proxy), their scripts typically feature a combination of dry wit, exaggerated language, and glaring irony. Another effect they employ is having a character repeat lines multiple times (The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, Ladykillers, Burn After Reading). In addition to Fargo, several of their scripts have been nominated for awards (The Man Who Wasn't There, O Brother Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men).

The various aspects that make the character of a city, state or region of America are an integral component in several Coen brothers films. Raising Arizona strongly features the distinctive Arizona landscape, and some of the movie's characters are highly exaggerated stereotypes of some people's notions of Arizonans. Similarly, in Fargo the landscape and exaggerated accents of North Dakota and Minnesota are an essential component of the film. The Big Lebowski is the Coens' Los Angeles film, with the Dude and other characters emblematic of the city's eclectic population. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is distinctly Southern, as it was filmed in rural Mississippi, most of the characters speak with pronounced Southern accents, and the soundtrack is made up of bluegrass songs. Barton Fink is in some respects a satire on another famous area of Los Angeles, Hollywood, as The Hudsucker Proxy does for New York. No Country for Old Men is also a depiction of the remote desert landscape of life and characters on the West Texas/Mexico border in Terrell County mostly with the focus on the town of Sanderson and the city of Del Rio circa 1980. Burn After Reading depicts the culture in and around DC involving government employees.

In addition, the Coens often set their movies in times of American crises: Miller's Crossing during prohibition, Barton Fink in the time around the attack on Pearl Harbor, The Big Lebowski during the 1991 Gulf War, and O Brother Where Art Thou? during the Great Depression. World War II also is mentioned as an important plot point in The Man Who Wasn't There, and Hi blames his recidivism on Reagan's presidency in Raising Arizona. The Hudsucker Proxy is set at the turn of 1958/59, the period that included Sputnik and the consequent escalation of the Cold War.

The Coens often use dogs that seem to have an understanding of what is happening: for example, the bloodhound who looks surprised in the cabin scene of O, Brother, Where Art Thou?, the scruffy terrier accompanying the tyke in the Rug Daniels scene of Miller's Crossing and the lame pit bull who is seen through binoculars by Moss in No Country for Old Men.

Money is involved in most of Coens' films. In Fargo, money was the reason all the events throughout the film began. The Big Lebowski has money, either being paid, stolen, or lost which is the cause of a lot of the troubles and comedic situations for the characters. O Brother, Where Art Thou consists of three escaped convicts trying to find a hidden treasure. In The Man Who Wasn't There, the main character blackmailed his wife's boss to obtain money. The Ladykillers is about an eccentric Southern professor and his crew posing as a band in order to rob a casino. The story of No Country for Old Men revolves around a welder who flees with two million dollars of drug money, and the hitman hired to reclaim it. Burn After Reading involves a fitness center employee trying to obtain enough money to get plastic surgery.

The majority of the Coens' films are quite violent. In every one of their films, there is at least one death and, in many cases, multiple deaths, such as No Country for Old Men. In The Hudsucker Proxy, the plot is unleashed by the suicide of Waring Hudsucker, and in The Ladykillers several characters die in an attempt to dispose of an old woman. In some of their more graphic films, e.g., Fargo, most of the main characters die or are assaulted, all of which is portrayed onscreen; in one particularly graphic scene in Fargo, a character's body is fed into a wood chipper. In their newest film, Burn After Reading, one character gets shot in the face and another is hacked to death with a hatchet.

The majority of the violence in their films falls under the category of dark humor. A notable departure is in No Country for Old Men, in which most of the violence is portrayed with stark, grim overtones and minimal dark comedic effect in order to effectively and faithfully depict Cormac McCarthy's bleakly told original story. The Coens always use violence to drive the plot forward; for example, in Fargo Carl Showalters' assault by Shep Proudfoot drives Carl to call Jerry and tell him to deliver the money.

Several of the Coen brothers' films feature a character that embodies the archetype of "unstoppable evil." In many cases, it is hinted that these characters are inhuman, or feature demonic overtones. For example, Sheriff Cooley in O Brother, Where Art Thou? matches the description of the Devil given by one of the characters. He further indicates his otherworldliness when, advised that it would be illegal to hang pardoned fugitives, he sneeringly opines that "the law is a human institution." Gaear Grimsrud in Fargo, Loren Visser the private detective in Blood Simple, Aloysius the signwriter in The Hudsucker Proxy, Leonard Smalls "The Lone Biker of the Apocalypse" in Raising Arizona, the hitman Eddie Dane in Miller's Crossing and Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink also fit the description of this archetype. In No Country for Old Men, Anton Chigurh personifies the violence and death in the world of which Sheriff Bell tries to make sense.

Most of the Coens' movies have either been set in the past or taken on conventions of nostalgic genres (particularly the screwball comedies and film noir of the 1930s and 40s). They often take great care to recreate a time period, even when it is relatively recent (as with The Big Lebowski, set only 8 years before its release, but with care paid to dated fashion and references to current events of the day). The Coens frequently make use of classic American music styles like folk, country, and roots gospel as well. While the Coens tend to experiment with recapturing different time periods and settings, these have, as of present, not gone earlier than the Great Depression or later than the present day, and have never been set outside of the United States, except for a brief departure to Mexico in No Country for Old Men.

Visually, the Coens favor moving camera shots, especially tracking shots and crane shots; even when the camera is "static" it is often still drifting slightly. Their films are also distinguished by cinematic visual flourishes that mark turning points. Scenes that emphasize perspective or the interplay of shadow and light adorn many of the films: the rack of bowling shoes in the "Gutterballs" scene from The Big Lebowski, the boardroom table and the Hudsucker building in The Hudsucker Proxy, the night scene with "Wheezy Joe" in Intolerable Cruelty and the midnight chase scene in Fargo are a few examples.

Occasionally in their tracking shots they "rush" the camera forward, as in the scene in Raising Arizona where Nathan Jr. is discovered missing by his mother; the Coen brothers dubbed the rush forward the "Raimi cam" in tribute to their longtime friend and director Sam Raimi, who used rushes extensively in Evil Dead (which Joel Coen helped edit). The Hudsucker Proxy features two consecutive rushes when Norville shows Mussburger's secretary the Blue Letter: first on the mouth of the lady screaming on the ladder, and then on Norville reacting to the scream. This method was also used in their segment of the collective film Paris, je t'aime.

The Coen brothers' earlier films (with the exception of Miller's Crossing) made extensive use of wide-angle lenses, which are the preferred lenses of their first cinematographer, Barry Sonnenfeld. When Sonnenfeld left to pursue a directing career he was replaced by Roger Deakins, who has been trying to wean the Coens off these lenses since. Although wide angle lenses allow great field of vision, they cause considerable distortion in the apparent size of objects based on how far they are from the camera. Deakins has been working toward longer lenses, which appear to shorten the distance between objects but have narrower field of vision.

The Coen brothers use camera angles that sometimes hide rather than reveal information. Examples include in Fargo when Jean Lundegaard hides in the shower, in Miller's Crossing when Tom goes into his room after Leo leaves (Verna is on the bed behind him), and in Blood Simple when Abby is sitting up in bed with Ray and the Volkswagen pulls up outside her window.

They also frequently "hide" their cuts in close-ups on an object, in the style of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope: one obvious occurrence in Fargo is when Carl bangs on the television to get it to work, and when the picture comes in it is a cut to Marge's television as seen from her bed; a similar cut in Miller's Crossing happens when the close up of the window at Bernie's house pans away to show a man dead on the floor at another; in The Hudsucker Proxy when Amy Archer is cheering "Go Eagles!" after Norville hires her, the film cuts to her showing the same cheer to her coworker at the newspaper; and in Blood Simple when the "close-up" of the ceiling fan over Marty's head at the bar turns out to be from Abby's point of view on the couch at Ray's house. A similar technique is used to integrate the background music into the action. Some examples of this can be seen in The Big Lebowski where the song "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", which accompanies the introductory monologue, is then continued in muzak form in the supermarket scene where the monologue ends. In the same film, the background music playing as the main character confronts the private detective following him (played by Jon Polito), is playing on the detective's car radio. The same technique is featured in the wild chase scene in Raising Arizona, where a yodelling soundtrack is featured as the main character flees multiple pursuers; the yodelling swaps to a muzak version of itself as the character takes refuge in a supermarket. It happens again when HI is dreaming, the music turns into the lullaby that ED is singing to the baby when he wakes up.

The Coen brothers storyboard their films completely before filming (many directors only storyboard complex shots such as action sequences). They state that it helps them to get the size of budget they want, because they can show how most of the money will be used.

The Coen brothers have also stated that they use the storyboard as a reference tool but are open to collaboration from the actors as well. Several actors that have worked with the Coens have remarked that they were very open to suggestions from actors. If the actor suggests something different and it works, they use it without any complaint.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? was the first film to be fully color-corrected from start to finish using digital techniques. The brothers wanted the scenery to reflect the "dust-bowl" atmosphere of the Depression and, since the actual landscape for many of the scenes was much lusher and greener than the desired effect, this required extensive color correction throughout the film, achieved with the use of computers.

The Coens used cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld through Miller's Crossing until Sonnenfeld left to pursue his own directing career, including such films as The Addams Family, Get Shorty, and Men in Black. Roger A. Deakins has been the Coen brothers' cinematographer since Sonnenfeld's departure (see List of noted film director and cinematographer collaborations). However for their film Burn After Reading they used Emmanuel Lubezki as their cinematographer.

Sam Raimi also helped write The Hudsucker Proxy, which the Coen brothers directed; and the Coen brothers helped write Crimewave, which Raimi directed. Raimi took tips about filming A Simple Plan from the Coen brothers, who had recently finished Fargo (both films are set in blindingly white snow, which reflects a lot of light and can make metering for a correct exposure tricky). Raimi has cameos in Miller's Crossing and The Hudsucker Proxy. They met when Joel Coen was hired as one of the editors of The Evil Dead (mentioned on the movies' commentary).

William Preston Robertson is an old friend of the Coens who helped them with re-shoots on Blood Simple and provided the voice of the radio evangelist. He is listed in the credits as the "Rev. William Preston Robertson." He has provided vocal talents on most of the Coens' films up to and including The Big Lebowski. He also wrote The Making of The Big Lebowski with Tricia Cooke.

The Coen brothers have a number of actors whom they frequently cast, including George Clooney, John Turturro, Michael Badalucco, Holly Hunter, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand, John Goodman, Jon Polito, Stephen Root, and Richard Jenkins each of whom has appeared in at least three Coen productions.

All of their films have been scored by Carter Burwell, although T-Bone Burnett produced much of the traditional music in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Ladykillers and was also in charge of archive music for The Big Lebowski. Skip Lievsay handles the post-production sound work for all of their films.

Both Ethan and Joel have been nominated for eight Academy Awards, twice under their alias Roderick Jaynes, and have won two Oscars for screenwriting (original screenplay for Fargo and adapted screenplay for No Country for Old Men). They received their first awards for Best Achievement in Directing and Best Picture for No Country for Old Men.

2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In the past, Joel and Ethan Coen have had to split the producer and director credits due to guild rules that disallowed co-sharing of the director credit to prevent rights and ownership issues. The only exception to this rule is if the co-directors are an "established duo". Now that they are able to share the director credit (as an established duo), the Coen brothers have become only the third duo to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. The first two pairs to achieve this were Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (who won for West Side Story in 1961) and Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (who were nominated for Heaven Can Wait in 1978).

With four Academy Award nominations for No Country for Old Men (Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Editing (Roderick Jaynes)), the Coen Brothers have tied the record for the most nominations by a single nominee (counting an "established duo" as one nominee) for the same film. Orson Welles set the record in 1941 with Citizen Kane being nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay (with Herman J. Mankiewicz). Warren Beatty tied Welles' record when Beatty was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay for Reds in 1981. Alan Menken also then achieved the same feat when he was nominated for Best Score and triple-nominated for Best Song for Beauty and the Beast in 1991.

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Jesse James

Jesse James's home in St. Joseph, where he was shot

Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw in the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a grand celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. Recent scholars place him in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or economic justice.

The James brothers, Frank and Jesse, were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War, during which they were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers. After the war, as members of one or another gang, they perpetrated many bank robberies which often resulted in the murder of bank employees or bystanders. They also waylaid stagecoaches and trains.

Although James has often been mythically portrayed, even prior to his death, as a kind of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, this is incorrect. His robberies enriched only himself and his gang.

Jesse Woodson James was born in Clay County, Missouri, at the site of present day Kearney, on September 5, 1847. Jesse James had two full siblings: his older brother, Alexander Franklin "Frank" and a younger sister, Susan Lavenia James. His father, Robert S. James, was a commercial hemp farmer and Baptist minister in Kentucky who migrated to Missouri after marriage and helped found William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He was prosperous, acquiring six slaves and more than 100 acres (0.40 km2) of farmland. Robert James travelled to California during the Gold Rush to minister to those searching for gold and died there when Jesse was three years old. After the death of Robert James, his widow Zerelda remarried twice, first to Benjamin Simms and then in 1855 to Reuben Samuel, a doctor. Dr. Samuel moved into the James home.

Jesse's mother and Reuben Samuel had four children together: Sarah Louisa, John Thomas, Fannie Quantrell, and Archie Peyton Samuel. Zerelda and Reuben Samuel acquired a total of seven slaves, who served mainly as farmhands in tobacco cultivation.

The approach of the American Civil War overshadowed the James-Samuel household. Missouri was a border state, sharing characteristics of both North and South, but 75% of the population was from the South or other border states. Clay County was in a region of Missouri later dubbed "Little Dixie," as it was a center of migration from the Upper South. Farmers raised the same crops and livestock as in the areas from which they had migrated. They brought slaves with them and purchased more according to need. The county had more slaveholders, who held more slaves, than in other regions. Aside from slavery, the culture of Little Dixie was southern in other ways as well. This influenced how the population acted during and after the American Civil War. In Missouri as a whole, slaves accounted for 10 percent of the population, but in Clay County they constituted 25 percent.

After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Clay County became the scene of great turmoil, as the question of whether slavery would be expanded into the neighboring Kansas Territory came to dominate public life. Numerous people from Missouri migrated to Kansas to try to influence its future. Much of the tension that led up to the American Civil War centered on the violence that erupted in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery militias.

The Civil War ripped Missouri society apart and shaped the life of Jesse James. After a series of campaigns and battles between conventional armies in 1861, guerrilla warfare gripped the state, waged between secessionist "bushwhackers" and Union forces, which largely consisted of local militia organizations. A bitter conflict ensued, bringing an escalating cycle of atrocities by both sides. Guerrillas murdered civilian Unionists, executed prisoners and scalped the dead. Union forces enforced martial law with raids on homes, arrests of civilians, summary executions and banishment of Confederate sympathizers from the state.

The James-Samuel family took the Confederate side at the outset of the war. Frank James joined a local company recruited for the secessionist Missouri State Guard, and fought at the battle of Wilson's Creek, though he fell ill and returned home soon afterward. In 1863, he was identified as a member of a guerrilla squad that operated in Clay County. In May of that year, a Union militia company raided the James-Samuel farm, looking for Frank's group. They tortured Reuben Samuel by briefly hanging him from a tree. According to legend, they lashed young Jesse. Frank eluded capture and is believed to have joined the guerrilla organization led by William C. Quantrill. It is thought that he took part in the notorious massacre of some 200 men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas. Contrary to legend, there is no evidence that Jesse rode with Quantrill's Raiders, as they would later be known.

Frank James followed Quantrill to Texas over the winter of 1863–4, and returned in the spring in a squad commanded by Fletch Taylor. When they returned to Clay County, 16-year-old Jesse James joined his brother in Taylor's group. In the summer of 1864, Taylor was severely wounded, losing his right arm to a shotgun blast. The James brothers joined the bushwhacker group led by Bloody Bill Anderson. Jesse suffered a serious wound to the chest that summer. The Clay County provost marshal reported that both Frank and Jesse James took part in the Centralia Massacre in September, in which guerrillas killed or wounded some 22 unarmed Union troops; the guerrillas scalped and dismembered some of the dead. The guerrillas ambushed and defeated a pursuing regiment of Major A.V.E. Johnson's Union troops, killing all who tried to surrender (more than 100). Frank later identified Jesse as a member of the band who had fatally shot Major Johnson. As a result of the James brothers' activities, the Union military authorities made their family leave Clay County. Though ordered to move South beyond Union lines, they moved across the nearby state border into Nebraska.

Anderson was killed in an ambush in October, and the James brothers went in different directions. Frank followed Quantrill into Kentucky; Jesse went to Texas under the command of Archie Clement, one of Anderson's lieutenants, and is known to have returned to Missouri in the spring. Contrary to legend, Jesse was not shot while trying to surrender, rather, he and Clement were still trying to decide on what course to follow after the Confederate surrender when they ran into a Union cavalry patrol near Lexington, Missouri, and Jesse James suffered a life-threatening chest wound.

At the end of the Civil War, Missouri was in shambles. The conflict split the population into three bitterly opposed factions: anti-slavery Unionists, identified with the Republican Party; the segregationist conservative Unionists, identified with the Democratic Party; and pro-slavery, ex-Confederate secessionists, many of whom were also allied with the Democrats, especially the southern part of the party. The Republican Reconstruction administration passed a new state constitution that freed Missouri's slaves. It temporarily excluded former Confederates from voting, serving on juries, becoming corporate officers, or preaching from church pulpits. The atmosphere was volatile, with widespread clashes between individuals, and between armed gangs of veterans from both sides of the war.

Jesse recovered from his chest wound at his uncle's Missouri boardinghouse, where he was tended to by his first cousin, Zerelda "Zee" Mimms, named after Jesse's mother. Jesse and his cousin began a nine-year courtship, culminating in marriage. Meanwhile, His old commander Archie Clement kept his bushwhacker gang together and began to harass Republican authorities.

These men were the likely culprits in the first daylight armed bank robbery in the United States in peacetime, the robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in the town of Liberty, Missouri, on February 13, 1866. This bank was owned by Republican former militia officers who had recently conducted the first Republican Party rally in Clay County's history. One innocent bystander, a student of William Jewell College (which James's father had helped to found), was shot dead on the street during the gang's escape. It remains unclear whether Jesse and Frank took part. After their later robberies took place and they became legends, there were those who credited them with being the leaders of the Clay County robbery. It has been argued in rebuttal that James was at the time still bedridden with his wound. No concrete evidence has surfaced to connect either brother to the crime, or to rule them out.

This was a time of increasing local violence; Governor Fletcher had recently ordered a company of militia into Johnson County to suppress guerrilla activity. Archie Clement continued his career of crime and harassment of the Republican government, to the extent of occupying the town of Lexington, Missouri, on election day in 1866. Shortly afterward, the state militia shot Clement dead, an event which James wrote about with bitterness a decade later.

The survivors of Clement's gang continued to conduct bank robberies over the next two years, though their numbers dwindled through arrests, gunfights, and lynchings. While they later tried justify robbing the banks, these were small, local banks with local capital, not part of the national system which was a target of popular discontent in the 1860s and 1870s. On May 23, 1867, for example, they robbed a bank in Richmond, Missouri, in which they killed the mayor and two others. It remains uncertain whether either of the James brothers took part, although an eyewitness who knew the brothers told a newspaper seven years later "positively and emphatically that he recognized Jesse and Frank James ... among the robbers." In 1868, Frank and Jesse James allegedly joined Cole Younger in robbing a bank at Russellville, Kentucky. Jesse James did not become famous, however, until December 1869, when he and (most likely) Frank robbed the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri.

The 1869 robbery marked James's emergence as the most famous of the former guerrillas turned outlaw. It marked the first time he was publicly branded an "outlaw", as Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden set a reward for his capture. This was the beginning of an alliance between James and John Newman Edwards, editor and founder of the Kansas City Times. Edwards, a former Confederate cavalryman, was campaigning to return former secessionists to power in Missouri. Six months after the Gallatin robbery, Edwards published the first of many letters from Jesse James to the public, asserting his innocence. Over time, the letters gradually became more political in tone, denouncing the Republicans, and voicing his pride in his Confederate loyalties. Together with Edwards's admiring editorials, the letters turned James into a symbol for some of Confederate defiance of Reconstruction. Jesse James's personal initiative in creating his rising public profile is debated by historians and biographers, though the tense politics certainly surrounded his outlaw career and enhanced his notoriety.

Meanwhile, the James brothers joined with Cole Younger and his brothers John, Jim, and Bob; as well as Clell Miller and other former Confederates, to form what came to be known as the James-Younger Gang. With Jesse James as the public face of the gang (though with operational leadership likely shared among the group), the gang carried out a string of robberies from Iowa to Texas, and from Kansas to West Virginia. They robbed banks, stagecoaches, and a fair in Kansas City, often in front of large crowds, even hamming it up for the bystanders.

On July 21, 1873, they turned to train robbery, derailing the Rock Island train in Adair, Iowa and stealing approximately $3,000 ($51,000 in 2007). For this, they wore Ku Klux Klan masks, deliberately taking on a potent symbol years after the Klan had been suppressed in the South by President Grant's use of the Force Acts. The railroads were becoming an axis of political protest by former rebels, who feared the trend toward centralization. The James' gang's later train robberies had a lighter touch—in fact only twice in all of Jesse James's train hold-ups did he rob passengers, because he typically limited himself to the express safe in the baggage car. Such techniques fostered the Robin Hood image which Edwards was creating in his newspapers, but the James gang never shared any of the money outside of their circle.

The Adams Express Company turned to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1874 to stop the James-Younger Gang. The Chicago-based agency worked primarily against urban professional criminals, as well as providing industrial security, such as strike breaking. Because of support by many former Confederates in Missouri, the former guerrillas eluded them. Joseph Whicher, an agent dispatched to infiltrate Zerelda Samuel's farm, turned up dead shortly afterwards. Two others, Louis J. Lull and John Boyle, were sent after the Youngers; Lull was killed by two of the Youngers in a roadside gunfight on March 17, 1874, fatally shooting John Younger before he died. A deputy sheriff named Edwin Daniels was also killed in the skirmish.

Jesse and his cousin Zee married on April 24, 1874, and had two children who survived to adulthood: Jesse James, Jr. (b. 1875) and Mary Susan James (b. 1879). Twins Gould and Montgomery James (b. 1878) died in infancy. His surviving son, Jesse, Jr., became a lawyer and spent his career as a respected member of the bar in Kansas City, Missouri.

On September 7, 1876, the James-Younger gang attempted their most daring raid to date, on the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. After this robbery, of the gang, only Frank and Jesse James were left alive and uncaptured. Cole and Bob Younger later stated that they selected the bank because they believed it was associated with the Republican politician, Adelbert Ames, the governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction, and Union general, Benjamin Butler, Ames's father-in-law and the Union commander of occupied New Orleans. Ames was a stockholder in the bank, but Butler had no direct connection to it.

To carry out the robbery, the gang divided into two groups. Three men entered the bank, two guarded the door outside, and three remained near a bridge across an adjacent square. The robbers inside the bank were thwarted when acting cashier Joseph Lee Heywood refused to open the safe, falsely claiming that it was secured by a time lock even as they held a bowie knife to his throat and cracked his skull with a pistol butt. Assistant cashier Alonzo Enos Bunker was wounded in the shoulder as he fled out the back door of the bank. Meanwhile, the citizens of Northfield grew suspicious of the men guarding the door and raised the alarm. The five bandits outside fired in the air to clear the streets, which drove the townspeople to take cover and fire back from protected positions. Two bandits were shot dead and the rest were wounded in the barrage. Inside, the outlaws turned to flee. As they left, one shot the unarmed Heywood in the head. The identity of the shooter has been the subject of extensive speculation and debate, but remains uncertain.

The gang barely escaped Northfield, leaving their two dead companions behind, along with two innocent victims (Heywood and Nicholas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant from the Millersburg community west of Northfield.) A massive manhunt ensued. The James brothers eventually split from the others and escaped to Missouri. The Youngers and one other bandit, Charlie Pitts, were soon discovered. A brisk gunfight left Pitts dead and the Youngers all prisoners. The James-Younger Gang was destroyed except for Frank and Jesse James.

Later in 1876, Jesse and Frank James surfaced in the Nashville, Tennessee area, where they went by the names of Thomas Howard and B. J. Woodson, respectively. Frank seemed to settle down, but Jesse remained restless. He recruited a new gang in 1879 and returned to crime, holding up a train at Glendale, Missouri, on October 8, 1879. The robbery began a spree of crimes, including the holdup of the federal paymaster of a canal project in Killen, Alabama, and two more train robberies. But the new gang did not consist of old, battle-hardened guerrillas; they soon turned against each other or were captured, while James grew paranoid, killing one gang member and frightening away another. The authorities grew suspicious, and by 1881 the brothers were forced to return to Missouri. In December, Jesse rented a house in Saint Joseph, Missouri, not far from where he had been born and raised. Frank, however, decided to move to safer territory, heading east to Virginia.

With his gang decimated by arrests, deaths, and defections, James thought that he had only two men left whom he could trust: brothers Robert and Charley Ford. Charley had been out on raids with James before, but Bob was an eager new recruit. To better protect himself, James asked the Ford brothers to move in with him and his family. James often stayed with the Fords' sister Martha Bolton, and according to rumor he was "smitten" with her. He did not know that Bob Ford had been conducting secret negotiations with Thomas T. Crittenden, the Missouri governor, to bring in the famous outlaw. Crittenden had made capture of the James brothers his top priority; in his inaugural address he declared that no political motives could be allowed to keep them from justice. Barred by law from offering a sufficiently large reward, he had turned to the railroad and express corporations to put up a $5,000 bounty for each of them. President Ulysses S. Grant had also wanted James to be captured, but by this time was out of office.

On April 3, 1882, after eating breakfast, the Fords and James prepared for departure for another robbery, going in and out of the house to ready the horses. It was an unusually hot day. James removed his coat, then declared that he should remove his firearms as well, lest he look suspicious. James noticed a dusty picture on the wall and stood on a chair to clean it. Robert Ford took advantage of the opportunity and shot James in the back of the head. James' two previous bullet wounds and partially missing middle finger served to positively identify the body.

The murder of Jesse James was a national sensation. The Fords made no attempt to hide their role. Indeed, Robert Ford wired the governor to claim his reward. Crowds pressed into the little house in St. Joseph to see the dead bandit, even while the Ford brothers surrendered to the authorities—but they were dismayed to find that they were charged with first degree murder. In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pled guilty, were sentenced to death by hanging, and two hours later granted a full pardon by Governor Crittenden.

The governor's quick pardon suggested that he may have been aware that the brothers intended to kill, rather than capture, James. The Ford brothers, like many who knew James, never believed it was practical to try to capture such a dangerous man. The implication that the chief executive of Missouri conspired to kill a private citizen startled the public and helped to create a new legend around James.

The Fords received a small portion of the reward and fled Missouri. Some of the bounty went to law enforcement officials who were active in the plan. The Ford brothers starred in a touring stage show in which they reenacted the shooting.

Charley Ford committed suicide on May 6, 1884 in Richmond, Missouri after suffering from tuberculosis and a morphine addiction. Bob Ford was killed by a shotgun blast to the throat in his tent saloon in Creede, Colorado, on June 8, 1892. His killer, Edward Capehart O'Kelley, was sentenced to life in prison. O'Kelley's sentence was commuted because of a medical condition, and he was released on October 3, 1902.

Zerelda Samuel selected an epitaph for Jesse James that stated: In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here.

James's widow Zee died alone and in poverty.

Rumors of Jesse James's survival proliferated almost as soon as the newspapers announced his death. Some said that Robert Ford killed someone other than James, in an elaborate plot to allow him to escape justice. These tales received little credence, then or now. None of James's biographers has accepted them as plausible. The body buried in Kearney, Missouri as Jesse James was exhumed in 1995 and tested for DNA. The report, prepared by Anne C. Stone, Ph.D., James E. Starrs, L.L.M., and Mark Stoneking, Ph.D., stated the remains were consistent with the DNA of Jesse James's relatives.

James's turn to crime after the end of Reconstruction helped cement his place in American life and memory as a simple but remarkably effective bandit. After 1873 he was covered by the national media as part of social banditry. During his lifetime, James was celebrated chiefly by former Confederates, to whom he appealed directly in his letters to the press. Displaced by Reconstruction, the antebellum political leadership mythologized the James Gang exploits. Frank Triplett wrote about James as a "progressive neo-aristocrat" with purity of race. Indeed, some historians credit James' myth as contributing to the rise of former Confederates to dominance in Missouri politics (in the 1880s, for example, both U.S. Senators from the state were identified with the Confederate cause).

In the 1880s, after James' death, the James Gang became the subject of dime novels which set the bandits up as preindustrial models of resistance. During the Populist and Progressive eras, James became a symbol as America's Robin Hood, standing up against corporations in defense of the small farmer. This was despite the fact that his robberies benefited only him and his band, and they attacked small banks that benefited local farmers. This "heroic outlaw" image is still commonly portrayed in films, as well as songs and folklore.

Jesse James remains a controversial symbol, one who can always be interpreted in various ways, according to cultural tensions and needs. Renewed cultural battles over the place of the Civil War in American history have replaced the longstanding interpretation of James as a Western frontier hero. Some of the neo-Confederate movement regard him as a hero. Recent historians place him as a self-aware vigilante and terrorist who used local tensions to create his own myth among the widespread insurgent guerrillas and vigilantes following the Civil War.

The Defeat of Jesse James Days in Northfield, Minnesota is among the largest outdoor celebrations in the state. Thousands of visitors can watch reenactments of the robbery, championship rodeo, a carnival, and parade.

During the Jersey County, Illinois Victorian Festival at the 1866 Col. William H. Fulkerson estate Hazel Dell, Jesse James' history is told in stories and by reenactments of stagecoach holdups. Over the three-day event, thousands of spectators learn of the documented James Gang's stopping point at Hazel Dell, and of the connection between ex-Confederates Fulkerson and Jesse James. Historical Civil War reenactments, arts and crafts, and music all compose this family-oriented event, one of the largest historical festivals in the Midwest, held every Labor Day Weekend in Jerseyville, Illinois.

Jesse James's boyhood home in Kearney, Missouri is a museum to the town's most famous resident. Each year during the third weekend in September, the Jesse James Festival, a recreational fair, is held.

Russellville, Kentucky, the site of the robbery of the Southern Bank in 1868, holds the Jesse James International Arts and Film Festival. The JJIAFF completed its second annual event in April 2008 and the third annual is planned for April 25, 2009. The festival has featured a bluegrass band from San Francisco, experimental bands from southern Kentucky, as well as painters, sculptors, photographers and comic artists. Children's activities are a mainstay of the festival. A highlight for adults is the film festival held at the Logan County Public Library in Russellville. Past entrants have included films from Norway and northwestern Kentucky, modern silent film projects, nature studies and fan films.

The annual Tobacco and Heritage Festival in Russellville features a reenactment of the James-Younger Gang's robbery of the Southern Bank. Today used as a residence, the historic structure on South Main Street has been preserved by the town and county.

The small town of Oak Grove, Louisiana, also hosts a town wide Jesse James Trade Days every year, usually in the early to mid fall. This is supposedly a reference to a short time James spent near this area.

In 1969, artist Morris and writer René Goscinny (co-creator of Asterix) had Lucky Luke confronting Jesse James, his brother Frank and Cole Younger. The adventure poked fun at the image of Jesse as a new Robin Hood. Although he passes himself off as such and does indeed steal from the rich (who are, logically, the only ones worth stealing from), he and his gang take turns being "poor", thus keeping the loot for themselves. Frank quotes from Shakespeare, and Younger is portrayed as a fun-loving joker, full of good humor. One critic has likened this version of the James brothers as "intellectuals bandits, who won't stop theorising their outlaw activities and hear themselves talk". In the end, the at-first-cowed people of a town fight back against the James gang and send them packing in tar and feathers.

Another Belgian comic series, Les Tuniques Bleues ("The Blue Coats"), is set during the American Civil War. Again the emphasis is on humour, though there is also a good deal of drama. An adventure published in 1994 had the main protagonists, Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and Corporal Blutch of the Union Army, confronting the infamous William Quantrill and his henchmen Jesse and Frank James.

James has been the subject of many songs, books, articles and movies throughout the years. Jesse James is often used as a fictional character in many Western novels, including some that were published while he was alive. For instance, in Willa Cather's My Antonia, the narrator reads a book entitled 'Life of Jesse James' - probably a dime novel.

In Charles Portis's 1968 novel, True Grit, the U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, describes fighting with Cole Younger and Frank James for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Long after his adventure with Mattie Ross, Rooster Cogburn ends his days in a traveling road show with the aged Cole Younger and Frank James.

In his worshipful adaptation of the traditional song "Jesse James", Woody Guthrie magnified James's hero status. Guthrie borrowed the tune for his outlaw hero ballad "Jesus Christ". "Jesse James" was later covered by the Irish band The Pogues on their 1985 album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, and by Bruce Springsteen on his 2006 tribute to Pete Seeger, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

A somewhat different song titled "Jesse James," referring to Jesse's "wife to mourn for his life; three children, they were brave," and calling Robert Ford "the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard," was also the first track recorded by the "Stewart Years" version of the Kingston Trio at their initial recording session in 1961 (and included on that year's release "Close-Up").

Warren Zevon's 1976 self-titled album Warren Zevon includes the song "Frank and Jesse James", a romantic tribute to the James Gang's exploits, expressing much sympathy with their "cause". Its lyrics encapsulate the many legends that grew up around the life and death of Jesse James. The album contains a second reference to Jesse James in the song "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" with the lyric "Well, I met a girl in West Hollywood, I ain't naming names. She really worked me over good, she was just like Jesse James." Linda Ronstadt covered the song a year later with slightly altered lyrics, but still containing the Jesse James reference, and it became a minor hit for her.

In her album Heart of Stone (1989), Cher included a song titled "Just Like Jesse James", written by Diane Warren. This single, which was released in 1990, achieved high positions in the charts and sold 1,500,000 copies worldwide.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's album Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy features the song "Jesse James," ostensibly recorded on a wire recorder.

Jon Chandler has also written a song about Jesse and Frank James entitled "He Was No Hero," written from the perspective of Joe Hayward's widow cursing Bob Ford for cheating her out of killing Jesse James.

Around 1980 a concept album titled The Legend of Jesse James was released. It was written by Paul Kennerley and starred Levon Helm (The Band) as Jesse James, Johnny Cash as Frank James, Emmylou Harris as Zee James, Charlie Daniels as Cole Younger and Albert Lee as Jim Younger. There are also appearances by Rodney Crowell, Jody Payne, and Roseanne Cash. The album highlights Jesse's life from 1863 to his death in 1882. In 1999 a double CD was released containing The Legend Of Jesse James and White Mansions, another concept album by Kennerley about life in the Confederate States of America between 1861-1865. Interestingly, Kennerley was an Englishman.

There have been numerous portrayals of Jesse James in film and television, including two wherein Jesse James, Jr. depicts his father. In many of the films, James is portrayed as a Robin Hood-like character.

Some museums devoted to Jesse James are associated with places where he robbed banks.

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Rooster Cogburn (character)

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn is a fictional American Old West character who first appears in the 1968 Charles Portis novel, True Grit. The novel was adapted into a movie 1969 film, True Grit, and from that a 1975 sequel entitled Rooster Cogburn (also known as Rooster Cogburn (... and the Lady)) was also produced.

In both films, Rooster was portrayed by John Wayne. Wayne garnered his only Oscar for his performance in the first of the two movies. Cogburn is portrayed as an anti-hero, which was an unusual role for Wayne, who usually played a strait-laced hero.

Rooster Cogburn was also featured in a 1978 made-for-TV sequel, called True Grit: A Further Adventure, starring Warren Oates in the featured role.

Cogburn is a veteran of the American Civil War who probably served under Confederate guerilla leader William Quantrill. He was once married to an Illinois woman, who left him to return to her first husband after bearing Cogburn a single, extremely clumsy son (of whom Cogburn says, "He never liked me anyway."). Cogburn is described as a "fearless, one-eyed U.S. marshal who never knew a dry day in his life." He is "the toughest marshal" working the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) on behalf of Judge Isaac Parker, the real-life judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas (having criminal jurisdiction in the Indian Territory, as the bailiff repeatedly announces in both films).

In the first film, Cogburn helps a headstrong 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (played by Kim Darby), to track down Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), the man who drunkenly killed her father. In the sequel, he teams up with elderly spinster Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn) and Wolf (Richard Romancito) while on the trail of a desperado, Hawk (Richard Jordan), who has stolen a shipment of nitroglycerin from the U.S. Army.

Cogburn lives in Fort Smith, Arkansas in the back of a Chinese dry-goods store, along with the proprietor, his friend and gambling buddy Chen Lee, and an orange tabby cat named after Confederate Gen. Sterling Price.

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True Grit


True Grit is a 1969 Western film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The film is adapted from the 1968 novel, True Grit, by Charles Portis.

After Frank Ross (John Pickard) is killed by his hired-hand, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), Ross' daughter Mattie (Kim Darby), a headstrong 14-year-old girl, hires the aging, irascible and drunken U.S. Marshal Rooster J. Cogburn (John Wayne) to track down Chaney. To do so, the pair must head into Indian territory. They are joined by a young Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), who also hopes to capture Chaney and collect a reward.

Mattie Ross arrives in Fort Smith, Arkansas looking for a Marshal or Deputy Marshal who will help her search for Chaney.

Upon arriving in Fort Smith she learns about a Deputy Marshal called Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn. Upon hearing about Cogburn's legendary grit, Ross decides that he may be the man to help her. Unable to meet with Cogburn straight away she goes to a hotel, where she meets Texas Ranger Le Boeuf.

Le Boeuf has recently come from Mattie's home in Dardanelle, Arkansas, in Yell County, and advises Mattie that he too is searching for Chaney who killed a Texas Senator on his porch some time past. Mattie refuses Le Boeuf's assistance.

The following day she meets Cogburn, his Chinese room-mate, Chen Lee (H.W. Gim), and the ginger cat, General Sterling Price. Agreeing to a price of $100, Ross and Cogburn set out to capture and return Chaney, who has taken up with a known criminal "Lucky" Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) and his gang. Ross goes to see a local horse dealer, from whom her father had bought four ponies, which he had not collected before his death.

After finally getting the horse dealer to return the money paid for the horses (at $25 per head), along with her father's saddle amongst other things, Mattie leaves with $300 in cash. She returns to Rooster and gives him $25 as a down-payment, promising another $25 when they leave Fort Smith and the remaining $50 upon completion of the job. She then leaves to buy a horse, from the same horse-dealer for $12 (including shoeing as she "will not ride a barefoot pony").

Returning the following day to Cogburn, she is less than thrilled to see Le Boeuf also there, discussing the search for Chaney. She attempts to convince Cogburn to ignore Le Boeuf's offers of a share of $1,500 but ends up asking for her down-payment to be returned. Cogburn admits to having spent it. Mattie leaves.

Cogburn and Le Boeuf arrive at a river ferry crossing, to find Mattie Ross and her horse waiting to cross the river. They refuse to let her travel, claiming to a nearby Marshal that she is a runaway and that there is a $50 reward for her capture. She escapes the Marshall and makes her horse swim over the river, wherein she beats the two men to the other side. The two men ride away quickly, but she follows. After they lay a trap for her and catch her, they realize she is determined to go along and she joins the posse.

After a couple of days, the posse come across a home in a valley, which Cogburn had claimed would be empty, so they could stay the night. However, the place is not empty and is the hideout of two horse thieves who, they find out, are waiting for Ned Pepper. After an argument between the horse thieves one stabs the other, and then Rooster shoots the first dead. They have, however, found out that Ned and his band are due at the hideout that night, so lay a trap.

After dark, Rooster tells Mattie about his former life and his former wife and son (who "never liked anyway"). Whether the past is the reason for his constant drinking is only hinted at, but is never confirmed.

The following morning, Ned Pepper and his band arrive at the hideout, but realise that something is wrong when their signals go unanswered. A shootout ensues with Rooster and Le Boeuf killing two of Ned's posse and one horse. But Pepper survives (despite having his horse shot from under him) and he and the remaining members of his group escape.

Rooster, Le Boeuf and Mattie make their way to a small outpost known as McAlester's store. There Rooster arranges for the four dead to be buried and, after prompting from Mattie, keeps an earlier promise to the stabbed horse thief to send money to his brother in Austin, Texas.

A few days later Mattie wakes up and makes her way down a steep hill to a river to wash. She slips down the hill and finds herself face-to-face with Tom Chaney. She gets up and raises her pistol. Chaney goads her and she shoots him, much to his surprise, injuring him in the stomach. She calls out to Le Boeuf and Cogburn, but Ned Pepper and his gang get there first and capture Mattie. Using her as a bargaining tool, they make Cogburn and Le Boeuf leave. Then Ned's gang abandon Mattie and Chaney and prepare to ride off to "business elsewhere".

Cogburn has doubled back, however, and meets the four members of Pepper's gang in a large clearing. They ride towards one another and Cogburn manages to dispose of the three other members of Pepper's group, and injure Ned himself. However, Cogburn's horse, Bo, is shot and killed, landing on Rooster's leg, pinning him underneath, with his gun just out of reach.

Meanwhile, Le Boeuf has made his way to Chaney and Mattie and moves Chaney to an area he thinks is secure. Then he and Mattie move to an outcropping and watch Rooster's four-on-one fight with Ned and his gang.

Pepper has survived the shootout and advances on Rooster, who still can't reach his gun. Just as he prepares to shoot Rooster, Le Boeuf shoots Pepper from a great distance, killing him.

Le Boeuf and Mattie return to Chaney, only to find him missing. Chaney appears from behind a large boulder and smashes a rock over Le Boeuf's head, apparently killing him. Mattie attempts to shoot him, but the kickback makes her stumble and she falls into a pit, breaking her arm.

Cogburn arrives and manages to shoot Chaney dead. Mattie screams for help as there is a rattlesnake in the pit. While waiting for rescue, Mattie starts swiping at the snake with a branch from the pit, angering the snake, which ultimately bites her on the hand. Moments later, Cogburn shoots the snake dead.

The two are unable to get out, but Le Boeuf comes to the rescue as he announces that he "ain't dead yet", climbs a horse, with a rope attached, and pulls the two from the pit. This action takes the last bit of life from Le Boeuf who collapses and dies moments later. Cogburn is forced to leave Le Boeuf, telling Mattie that if he doesn't get her to a doctor quickly then she'll be "deader than he is". He and Mattie climb on Mattie's horse, despite her protestations that the horse can't carry them both, and they ride away at speed.

After a while, the exertion becomes too much for the horse, which dies. Cogburn lifts an unconscious Mattie and carries her. He comes across - and "borrows" - a wagon and drives to McAlester's, where an Indian doctor treats her snakebite and splints her broken arm.

Cogburn and Chen Lee are playing cards when Mattie's attorney, J. Noble Daggett (John Fiedler) arrives and pays Cogburn the remainder of the fee for the capture of Chaney, plus a further $200. He informs them, though, that Mattie is gravely ill. Rooster asks Daggett if he is a betting man, which he is "on occasion". Rooster offers the $250 and his cat that Mattie makes it back to Yell County. Daggett refuses the bet.

Mattie and Cogburn arrive at Mattie's home, and Mattie shows him her family plot. She tells Rooster that she wants him to be buried beside her, which surprises him, but he accepts, as long as she doesn't mind if he doesn't "try to move in too soon!". Then he rides away, jumping a four-rail fence, as the film ends.

Filming took place mainly in Ouray County, Colorado, in the vicinity of Ridgway (now the home of the True Grit Cafe), and the town of Ouray. (The script maintains the novel's references to place names in Arkansas and Oklahoma, in dramatic contrast to the Colorado topography.) The courtroom scenes were filmed at Ouray County Court house in Ouray.

Mia Farrow was originally cast as Mattie and was keen on the role. However, prior to filming she made a film in England with Robert Mitchum who told her about director Henry Hathaway being rude to actresses. When producer Hal B. Wallis wouldn't replace Hathaway, Farrow quit the role which was given to Kim Darby.

Wayne called Marguerite Roberts' script “the best ever read.” He particularly liked the scene with Darby where Rooster tells Mattie about his wife in Illinois, calling it the best scene he ever did.

In the last scene, Mattie gives Rooster her father's gun. She comments that he got a tall horse, as she expected he would. He notes that his new horse can jump a four rail fence. Then she admonishes him "You're too old and fat to be jumping horses." Rooster responds with a smile “Well, come see a fat old man sometime” and jumps his new horse over a fence. Despite popular belief, Wayne did not jump over the fence himself. In fact, according to biographer Garry Wills in his book on Wayne, Wayne was not healthy enough to do such stunts. Wayne had an entire lung removed four years prior to making the film and actually had trouble walking more than 30 feet without breathing heavily.

Wayne fell in love with the horse, which would carry him through several more Westerns, including his final movie, The Shootist. A chestnut Quarter horse gelding, Dollor ('Ole Dollor), had been Wayne's favorite horse for ten years, through several Westerns. The horse shown during the final scene of True Grit was Dollor, a two-year-old in 1969. Wayne had Dollor written into the script of The Shootist because of his love for the horse, it was a condition for him working on the project. Wayne would not let anyone else ride the horse. Robert Wagner was a rare exception, who rode the horse in a segment of the Hart to Hart television show, after Wayne's death.

John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe. Upon accepting his Oscar, Wayne said, "If I'd known this, I'd have put that eyepatch on 40 years ago." The song “True Grit”, by composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black, and sung by Glen Campbell who co-starred in the movie, received nominations for both the Academy Award for Best Song and the Golden Globe.

Garry Wills notes in his book John Wayne's America that Wayne's performance as Rooster Cogburn bears close similarities to the way Wallace Beery portrayed characters in the 1930s and 1940s, an inspired if surprising choice on Wayne's part. Wills comments that it's difficult for one actor to imitate another for the entire length of a movie and that the Beery mannerisms temporarily recede during the scene in which Cogburn discusses his wife and child.

Unlike the book, the movie doesn’t introduce Mattie as an old woman telling a story of her childhood, but instead begins and ends in 1880, when Mattie is 14 years old. Also, in the book, Mattie remains the central character throughout; in the movie, Mattie starts out as the main character, but Rooster Cogburn gets an equal share of the limelight once his character is introduced. The film also downplays the novel's Biblical tone and adds a hint of romance between Mattie and La Boeuf. La Boeuf also does not die in the novel, but survives his head injury. Another significant difference from author Charles Portis' original tale is that Mattie does not have her arm amputated as a result of the rattlesnake attack, in contrast to the final scene in the film where Kim Darby is seen with only a sling on her arm--indicating that she is recovering from the snake bites and intact physically. The novel's conclusion makes the reader aware that the story has been recounted by Mattie as an elderly, one-armed woman who never married.

In the book, Tom Chaney was a young man; Mattie guessed his age to be around twenty-five. Jeff Corey, who played Chaney in the movie, was clearly much older than that. In the movie, LaBoeuf claims to have a girl in Texas who would "look with favor" on his capture of Tom Chaney. In the book, LaBoeuf made no mention of a girlfriend. His motive for capturing Chaney was purely financial.

In the book, Rooster Cogburn had a mustache and did not wear an eye patch, though he had only one eye. In his fight with Ned Pepper, he wielded two Navy six-shooters. In the movie, he carried a six-shooter in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Also, the film's Colorado location and mountain scenery is in sharp contrast to the script's references to place names in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

A film sequel, Rooster Cogburn, was made in 1975, with John Wayne reprising his role from the first film, and Katharine Hepburn as an elderly spinster, Eula Goodnight, who teams up with him. A made-for-television sequel, entitled True Grit: A Further Adventure was made 1978, starring Warren Oates and Lisa Pelikan, and featured the further adventures of Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross.

In 2009 it was announced that the Coen brothers are planning a remake of the film.

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True Grit (novel)

The cover of the 1969 movie tie-in paperback.

True Grit by Charles Portis first appeared as a 1968 serial in The Saturday Evening Post. Portis subsequently re-issued it in book form with a somewhat changed storyline. In 1969, True Grit was adapted for a screenplay as an American Western film starring John Wayne, which spawned a sequel in 1975 entitled Rooster Cogburn.

Portis’ novel is narrated in the first person by Mattie Ross, a thrifty, churchgoing spinster distinguished by a rare independence and strength of mind. As an old woman in the year 1928, she tells the story of her adventures many years earlier, in 1873, when, at the age of fourteen, she undertook a quest to avenge her father’s death at the hands of a drifter named Tom Chaney.

As Mattie's tale begins, Chaney is employed on the Ross’ family farm in west central Arkansas, near the town of Dardanelle in Yell County. Chaney isn't much use as a farmhand and Mattie has only scorn for him, referring to him as "trash." She says her father, a good, kind man, only hired him out of pity. One day, Frank Ross and Chaney go to Fort Smith to buy some horses. Ross takes $150 with him to pay for the horses, along with two gold pieces he always carried. When Ross tries to intervene in a barroom confrontation, Chaney kills him, robs the body, and flees into Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) on his horse.

Hearing that Chaney has joined an outlaw gang led by the infamous "Lucky" Ned Pepper, most of the local marshals refuse to give chase. Mattie means to track down the killer, and upon arriving at Fort Smith she looks for the toughest deputy Marshal in the district. That man turns out to be Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, and although he is an aging, one-eyed, overweight, trigger-happy slob who never seems to miss a drink of whiskey, he also has “grit.” Mattie decides she's found her man.

Playing on Cogburn's need for whiskey money, Mattie finally persuades him to take on the job, insisting that, as part of the bargain, she must go along. During the negotiations a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf appears. He, too, is tracking Chaney for killing a senator in Texas, and is out for glory, and a big cash reward. Cogburn and La Boeuf don't much like each other, but, after some haggling, they agree to join forces in the hunt. The two men try hard to leave Mattie behind, but she proves more tenacious and resourceful than they'd expected and eventually she becomes an accepted member of the posse.

Together, but with very different motivations, the three ride into the wilderness to confront Ned Pepper's gang. Along the way, they begin to appreciate each other a little more.

True Grit is an adventure story told in a plain style - Mattie's style. Portis frames the narrative in the tone and perspective of a Puritanical (and, at first glance, rather disagreeable) Arkansas frontier woman. In keeping with Mattie's worldview, the story is replete with Biblical motifs, especially the “eye for an eye” style of justice. Portis also blends a good deal of deadpan humour with the book's serious themes of murder and retribution.

An important element of the story is the comradeship that develops between Mattie and Cogburn despite their very different characters. Portis contrasts Mattie’s strict, abstemious nature with Rooster’s abundant indulgence in both alcohol and profanity. However, the two do have one trait in common, and this allows them to develop a strong mutual respect: they both have "true grit." Other characters - notably LaBoeuf and Ned Pepper - also, for good or ill, possess this trait. With this gallery of (mostly) rogues, Portis illustrates the many faces of courage, and the various uses to which courage can be put.

True Grit is arguably a story of transitions, particularly the parallel transitions of Mattie. First, and most obvious, are the physical changes: the loss of her forearm from snakebite, her development from girlhood into womanhood, and, on a symbolic level, the death of her horse. Second is the implied emotional damage Mattie suffers; after she avenges her father's murder, she never marries, instead becoming a formidable old maid working in a modern-day fortress - a bank. Third, Mattie's adventures challenge one of her deepest conceits; an overreliance, amounting to self-righteousness, on words and precepts. She begins by assuming that the answers for every problem can be found in the Bible, the Law, and the Protestant work ethic, and she tries to handle every situation by aggressively quoting both the Scriptures and the wise sayings of her attorney, J. Noble Daggett (whom she "draws like a gun”). She later discovers that some situations cannot be managed so easily; in the wilderness, her homilies bounce off unpredictable men like Chaney, Cogburn, La Boeuf, and Ned Pepper.

In this view, Rooster and La Boeuf also experience changes. Rooster, once a henpecked storekeeper in Illinois, is, when Mattie first sees him, a hardened lawman whose "family" consists of a roommate, a horse, and a cat. Getting to know Mattie, and learning to respect her courage, gives him a new allegiance. The selfish drunkard Mattie meets in Fort Smith becomes her hero, first facing four men alone in a shootout, then rescuing her from a snakepit. Afterwards, in search of a doctor, he rides her horse until it drops dead, then carries Mattie in his arms, and finally steals a wagon and team. La Boeuf, too, moves from obsession with the money and glory of capturing Chaney, and the pride of being a Texas Ranger, to a measure of humility and self-sacrifice. Although he's suffering from a head injury, he assists in Mattie's rescue.

It is possible, however, that Mattie, Rooster, and La Boeuf don't actually change that much in the course of the novel; they simply improve upon closer acquaintance. Mattie's later life demonstrates her unquenched high-mindedness, together with a remarkable steadiness of character; once Rooster returns her to civilization, she resumes her old responsibilities. Rooster, too, remains true to his lights, and ends up in a wild west show. The purpose of the novel, then, may be to show courageous people remaining steadfast in the face of their worst fears (as Mattie does when she falls into a pit full of snakes and human bones), not to show them learning to amend their characters through hardship.

The novel was adapted by Marguerite Roberts for the screenplay of the 1969 Western film, directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, a role for which Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1970.

A film sequel, Rooster Cogburn, was made in 1975, with John Wayne reprising his role, and Katharine Hepburn as an elderly spinster, Eula Goodnight, who teams up with him. A made-for-television sequel, entitled True Grit: A Further Adventure, was made 1978, starring Warren Oates and Lisa Pelikan, and featured the further adventures of Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross.

In March 2009 it was announced that Joel and Ethan Coen would be producing another version of the book for the screen. this time staying closer to the original novel.

Unlike the book, the movie doesn’t introduce Mattie as an old woman telling a story of her childhood, but instead begins and ends in 1880, when Mattie is 14 years old. Also, in the book, Mattie remains the central character throughout; in the movie, Mattie starts out as the main character, but Rooster Cogburn gets an equal share of the limelight once his character is introduced. The film also downplays the novel's Biblical tone and adds a hint of romance between Mattie and La Boeuf. La Boeuf also does not die in the novel, but survives his head injury. Another significant difference from author Charles Portis' original tale is that Mattie does not have her arm amputated as a result of the rattlesnake attack, in contrast to the final scene in the film where Kim Darby is seen with only a sling on her arm--indicating that she is recovering from the snake bites and intact physically. The novel's conclusion makes the reader aware that the story has been recounted by Mattie as an elderly, one-armed woman who never married.

Also, the film's Colorado location and mountain scenery is in sharp contrast to the script's references to place names in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

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Source : Wikipedia