Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn (1975)


(director: Stuart Millar; screenwriters: Martin Julien(Martha Hyer)/from the book True Grit by Charles Portis; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr.; editor: Robert Swink; music: Laurence Rosenthal; cast: John Wayne (Rooster Cogburn), Katharine Hepburn (Eula Goodnight), Anthony Zerbe (Breed), Richard Jordan (Hawk), John McIntire (Judge Parker), Richard Romancito (Wolf), Strother Martin (Shanghai McCoy), Jon Lormer (Rev. George Goodnight), Paul Koslo (Luke); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Universal Home Entertainment; 1975)

“Not much to crow about.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A disappointing ripoff film that exploits the two aging legendary actors, John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn, with this overbaked and awkwardly conceived sequel to the popular True Grit–the film that gave Wayne his only Oscar (albeit a sentimental one). The stars were both 69 at the time and with Kate coming off hip surgery and the Duke diagnosed with lung cancer. Wayne reprises his role in True Grit as the unschooled, gruff, one-eyed patch-wearing hard-drinking marshal who has a paunch. While Kate plays the same type of strong-willed, sharp-tongued, elderly spinster role she did in the African Queen, here as a Bible-thumping teacher at an Indian missionary. Aside from the good chemistry between the two stars, the film has little to offer but B Western antics and an uninteresting formulaic story line.

In the Arkansas Territory in 1875, Judge Parker (John McIntyre) fires Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) for using excessive force and then re-hires him to go after Hawk (Richard Jordan) and his 9-man gang who killed an army patrol and stole a wagon load of nitro-glycerine and a Gatlin gun in order to rob a bank in the nearby town. The Judge promises permanent reinstatement as marshal if he brings in Hawk alive, and he also promises a posse but they never arrive. Rooster sets out on his own and discovers that the outlaws killed the Yankee preacher father (Jon Lormer) of Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn) and the family of the young Indian man Wolf (Richard Romancito) at the missionary. The two force Rooster to take them along so they can get justice for the murderers of their kin.

Rooster crows about his ornery ways, Eula nags and talks Bible talk, and Wolf hero worships his elders. The three prove to be a match for the gang, as they trick them into thinking they have a posse with them and therefore the gang flees leaving the wagon behind. Hawk was in town with Breed (Anthony Zerbe) casing the bank and when he returns goes after the wagon. For some strange reason (probably because it was in The African Queen script rooster) Rooster takes the nitro and Gatlin gun downstream on a raft. Needless to say it works out swell, as he out maneuvers the gang and blows ’em sky high with the nitro.

Not much to crow about. It was made strictly to cash in on the success of True Grit and offers nothing fresh. The writer Martin Julien was a pseudonym for producer Hal B. Wallis’s wife Martha Hyer. It uses the True Grit story by Charles Portis, but Hyer pens the tailor-made parts for the Duke and Kate. Director Stuart Millar seemed to be along for the ride, as this is a star vehicle and they overact because that’s the way they wanted to play it.