"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Trivia about True Grit

This is a follow-up to True Grit vs True Grit (comparing the remake to the original).  In that post, I mentioned this item about the original (1969) version...

The novel was adapted into a screenplay by Marguerite Roberts, who was blacklisted in 1952 for refusing to name names in her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and had been branded a communist for that.

When she learned that her script was being submitted to John Wayne, she was certain that, because of his right-wing politics, there was no way he would ever read it.

The Duke surprised her, twice, by saying, "Well, let me take a look at the script.  Let's give her a chance.", and then later coming out and saying, "This is the best western written in years.  Let's do it."

Most of the following will concern the 2010 remake and/or the novel.

Judge Isaac Parker - His court and his marshals...
The story takes place in 1878.  At that time, what we know as Oklahoma was then the Indian Territory, occupied by the five civilized tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole). Being free of local law enforcement, it became a magnet for cattle thieves, horse thieves and various other desperadoes.

The only court having any jurisdiction over the territory was the U. S. Court for the Western District of Arkansas, located in Fort Smith, Arkansas right on the western border. In 1875, Judge Isaac Parker was appointed to preside over the court and quickly became known as the "Hanging Judge" (In 21 years, one hundred and sixty men were sentenced to hang, of which 79 actually were).

From Wikipedia (Yeah, I know, I KNOW - Supposedly you can't trust it) ...
One unusual element of the Western District's jurisprudence was the fact that, with respect to the Indian Territory, during this period it was a court of final jurisdiction. From 1875 until 1889, statutory law did not provide for appeals of Indian Territory cases from this court to any court of appeal.

To enforce the law, he used U. S. Deputy Marshals, of which author Charles Portis noted (in his character's words), "There is near about two hundred of them...". Mattie later observes, on someone calling the court "the Parker slaughterhouse", "I don't know who was right.  I know sixty-five of his marshals got killed.  They had some mighty tough folks to deal with."

Among those marshals was one Heck Thomas, who later rode with Bill Tilghman and was the one who killed outlaw Bill Doolin after an escape from the prison that Tilghman had helped to put him in. Thomas became known for that killing, and for his absolutely relentless pursuit of those he went after.  I've seen several mentions that Portis probably had him in mind when he conjured up the character of Rueben J. "Rooster" Cogburn.

A character in the remake (not in the original nor in the novel) refers to someone currently "hunting north of the Picketwire".  Any who have seen John Wayne's  "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" may recall mention of it there.

It is a river, in southeastern Colorado, that empties into the Arkansas River.  It was named the Purgatoire River by the French, and is so named on maps.  A Google search for Picketwire Canyon will disclose that parts of the river are famous for the amazing amount of dinosaur tracks preserved there.

Locals, having difficulty wrapping their mouths around the French pronunciation, simply called it the "Picketwire".

Guns, guns and more guns!  Oh, boy!! My favorite subject...
Mattie goes hunting her father's murderer with this...

It is an 1848 Colt Dragoon, carried by her father in the Civil War. She declares to Rooster that, "I intend to kill Tom Chaney with it, if the law fails to do so". To which he replies, "Well, that piece will do the job".

I reckon it would. It is a six-shot, .44 caliber revolver using 50 grains of black powder to propel its bullet.  A powerful weapon, it was an evolution of the even larger 1847 Walker Colt.  You may have noticed that the cylinder does not extend all the way to the frame.  There's a reason for that; in the Walker model, it did, allowing for 60 grains of powder, sometimes resulting in cylinders being blown apart by that charge.  Shortening the cylinder precluded that possibility.

Rooster has, as his main sidearm...

... An 1873 Colt Single-Action Army in .44-40 Winchester caliber.  The caliber is not mentioned in the movie but is mentioned early in the novel, and later confirmed when Mattie is surprised by Rooster using the same cartridges to load that pistol and his rifle.  That, after all, was the whole point of making the pistol for that particular round.

Rooster also carries two of this model...

... in saddle holsters hung from the saddle horn.  This is the Model 1851 "Navy" Colt.  It was never adopted by the Navy; it was so named because (early models at least) came with an engraving on the cylinder of a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843.

When this model came out, metallurgy had some ways to go, and guns had to be more heavily built to handle the pressures of the powders used. The use of .36 caliber for this model resulted in a weapon not as powerful as its .44 caliber brothers, but still powerful enough to be taken seriously.

It was lighter than the Dragoon, beautifully balanced and superbly accurate, making it a favorite of people who depended on the weapon for their lives, including (among others) one James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok.

That Rooster carried a pair, in saddle holsters, is another nice touch. He was supposed to have ridden with Quantrill during the Civil War. Quantrill equipped his men with four revolvers each, two carried on their persons, the other two in saddle holsters, giving each man 24 shots without reloading - quite a bit of firepower when they fell upon their prey.

And, finally (for this post), the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf favored...

... the Model 1874 Sharps Cavalry Carbine, in .45-70 Government caliber.  Every bit as accurate as LaBoeuf bragged, and perfectly capable of the shot he made.  There were various .50 caliber models of this weapon available, but an awful lot of Army models in the .45-70 caliber wound up in the hands of the Texas Rangers, so there's nothing at all strange about him having that particular weapon.

One of the things I really loved about the remake was how much they got right.

Update - 12 Jun 2011 - Perceptive readers will notice the addition of two new labels: "History";  which has been retroactively applied to some of my other posts as well, and "Guns";  first applied to this post.  From its addition, you may correctly assume that it is a subject I plan on revisiting from time to time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I repost it on my Facebook.
Bob Peters, CA


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