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Monday, March 9, 2015

Henry Hathaway's 'True Grit' by Stacy DeLano

We are into a busy second week of “One Book, One Community: Stillwater Reads True Grit.” Over 100 people have already picked up their free books. You can get yourself registered and have a book held for you by signing up online on the library’s webpage.

Spring Break includes “Lost Skills of the Old West” on Saturday, March 14, 1-5 p.m. at the Multi Arts Center. Registration ends today, so if you want to attend call 405-747-8084 or emailing as soon as you can. The Oklahoma WONDERtorium will hold its crafting series March 16-20 when families can make Old West crafts like sling shots and cornhusk dolls. For more details, check the webpage at

On Thursday, March 19 at 6 p.m., the Stillwater Public Library will present a viewing of the 1969 version of the film “True Grit.” The Western classic will be shown on the library’s big screen and will include popcorn and drinks. It is rated G, so the whole family can attend. In addition, an American Sign Language interpreter will be present at the film, and we are excited that we are offering ASL interpretation at most of the events this year.

The 1969 version of the film stars Wayne, Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell and was directed by Henry Hathaway. Hathaway directed a substantial number of Westerns including “Rawhide,” “Shepherd of the Hills” and “North to Alaska.” The director was, as author Charles Portis put it, “a gruff old bird” who was exceptionally hard on the actors.

Originally, Mia Farrow was asked to take the role of young Mattie Ross, but she refused after actor Robert Mitchum warned her how tough Hathaway was. The role of the 14 year old Ross ended up going to Darby who was 21 years old at the time and had just become a new mother. Hathaway screamed at her so much the first day of filming that she fled to her trailer and wouldn’t return until Hathaway promised not to yell at her again.

Portis was also wary of some of Hathaway’s other directorial decisions. Hathaway had been taken with a particular stand of yellow aspens in the mountains near Montrose, Colorado. The director was determined to film his next movie there, regardless of what the script called for. When Portis pointed out that there were no such settings in “True Grit,” the director said he didn’t care---that Westerns were fairy tales that demand a majestic landscape.

Hathaway did help John Wayne create the role that would bring the Western legend his only Oscar. Portis, who was on the set of the film for several days, was especially impressed with the famous actor, saying that Wayne was even larger than he appeared on screen. Portis was also impressed with the actor’s kindness, having witnessed the actor give his undivided attention to an early morning, bumbling fan.

“A gentleman at four o’clock on a cold morning is indeed a gentleman.”

More history and analysis of the film will be given by Dr. William M. Hagen, a retired English professor from Oklahoma Baptist University. Hagen is a bit of a “True Grit” expert, having presented multiple library programs on the novel and having written on its two filmed versions.

The “True Grit” film is free and open to the public. For more info on the “True Grit” program, visit

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