The Star-News

At the movies with Roosterand Marlowe

Sat, Jan 08 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena

Many years ago, back in my college days I recall taking a class in American Literature at UCSD. It really wasn't a course per se. It was more like a meeting of a group of men and women discussing one particular book that all had read and all were prepared to dissect. I daresay it was similar to what organized book clubs do nowadays, sans the Brownies and Lipton Tea.

In retrospect I would have to say that the class got a bit derailed. The professor had known the author Raymond Chandler, and, as a result our reading was nudged in his direction, so it was almost a full semester of Phillip Marlowe.

The derailing of the course was not due to the professor or the book. It was the members of the class, mostly men.

Among them were some movie buffs who had a fixation with Phillip Marlowe. The constant argument was which actor was the better Marlowe. This was one of those arguments that could not be easily settled. A number of good actors had played the part, all admirably, and it would have been rather difficult to select a number one. To top it off, this was not during a time when past movies were easily obtainable. Most television movies were shown in the day time and few were of the mystery ilk.

I thought about this the other day when I saw a full page ad in the calendar section of the newspaper for one particular movie: "True Grit." By coincidence I had seen the original make of this film with John Wayne a few days earlier on TCM and I thought it might be enlightening to see the new one and make comparisons. Since I had a doting daughter here for the holidays it would have been quite simple for me to make this trek.

I don't often go to downtown theaters for motion picture viewing. I suppose that in this age of complacency one needs to simply check the papers, see what's on and make one's selection. Or, for that matter, we might pick out one of the many CDs that have been given to us over the years and put it in that instrument that sits atop our TV, and pray that we remember how to use it. The electronic age, you know, has a tendency to leave us behind.

Daughter Margaret took charge and one afternoon last week we went over to the movie complex at Plaza Bonita. This is a massive structure that was added a few years ago. It is rather simple. You buy your ticket, select what you want from the snack bar and walk down an aisle to find your theater. We saw the one that read "True Grit" and entered this cavernous opening, pitch dark and found a couple of seats. Thank goodness for the comfort of popcorn.

The original "True Grit" was a good film. It was in color and it exhibited many nostalgic scenes of the old West.

In addition to Wayne it had Glen Campbell as the Texas Ranger and Kim Darby as the fourteen-year old, a precocious youngster who is going to have her say.

The gist of the story centers on the girl who in a quest to find someone to avenge her father's murderer hires Wayne, who happens to be a one-eyed Marshal named Rooster Cogburn. The Campbell character, who also wants this bad guy, joins the party.

The remake that comes along 50 years later is not in color. It is filmed in a sort of sepia tone shade, a kind of smoky finish that lends a bit of eeriness to the final product. The wide-screen effect along with a sound system gives one a showing that one is not going to find in his TV.

Jeff Bridges, a renowned actor is Rooster in the new version while a newcomer, Haillee Steinfeld plays the precocious girl. And it is in these two characters that I found the differences in the two films. Bridges was great as Rooster; he made us believe that he was truly that character. Wayne was good in the part but he played mostly Wayne, not Rooster.

On the other hand Steinfeld's acting was, I believe, overdone. Her mannerisms were as one who went to acting school and was putting it to good use. Her street smarts, along with an inherited intelligence were really not realistic when she was pitted against an old and experienced horse trader. The youngster is not supposed to get the better of this guy.

In spite of all this I strongly recommend this film. It is worthwhile to, once in a while, indulge in such entertainment.

When I will go to another movie I don't know. I think I will wait for another remake of a Raymond Chandler movie.

By the way in those arguments concerning Phillip Marlowe so long ago I was always partial to Humphrey Bogart. It just dawned on me, perhaps he could have made a good Rooster Cogburn.

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