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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