Saturday, December 17, 2022

Quote of the Day (Charles Portis, on a Most Unlikely Western Hero)

“He stirred as I came through the curtain. His weight was such that the bunk bowed in the middle almost to the floor. It looked like he was in a hammock….The brindle cat Sterling Price was curled up on the foot of the bed. Rooster [Cogburn] coughed and spit on the floor and rolled a cigarette and lit it and coughed some more. He asked me to bring him some coffee and I got a cup and took the eureka pot from the stove and did this. As he drank, little brown drops of coffee clung to his mustache like dew. Men will live like billy goats if they are let alone.”—American novelist and journalist Charles Portis (1933-2020), True Grit (1968)

It can be pretty fascinating to see how two different actors portray the same character. Both John Wayne and Jeff Bridges kept Deputy U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn’s character-defining eyepatch. Both the 1969 adaptation of the Portis novel and the Coen brothers’ 2010 version featured this bedroom scene with the cat.

But, while Wayne embodied the character’s considerable heft, Bridges—at least as pictured here—depicted him as grungier. He’s not only got the mustache that Wayne decided not to grow, but a beard.

This Rooster Cogburn is just the kind of “billy goat” that the narrator of the above quote, Mattie Ross, would have recoiled from—if, that is, she wasn’t looking for the toughest U.S. deputy marshal in the district.

Cogburn, having killed more than a few men in the line of duty (all justified, he claims), more than meets her requirements—and then some.

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