Monday, December 6, 2010

Jeff Bridges and Larry McMurtry by Shane Cashion

Jeff Bridges is fast becoming a favorite of mine. Even though he’s been around forever, I never really gave him much thought until recently seeing him in Crazy Heart. I loved his performance, and am excited to see him in his new movie: True Grit. For those old enough to remember, it’s the Coen Brothers’ remake of the western starring John Wayne. Jeff Bridges is recreating John Wayne’s role as Rooster Cogburn.

The only reason I’m aware of the original movie is because of my crazy uncle George. For much of his adult life he lived in my grandma’s basement. When I was a kid, I used to spend Saturday nights at her house. Uncle George would make us Chef Boyardee pizza while we watched John Wayne movies. The westerns and war movies were always his favorites. Looking back, he even kind of looked like The Duke with his sandy blond hair, broad shoulders, and considerable stature, which was peculiar considering the rest of my family’s stumpy with dark hair.

To keep me entertained, he’d arm me with various weapons he brought back from Vietnam and make me march from one end of the basement to the other while he sang: From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles… When the marching got old, we’d pretend the basement was an island in the South Pacific and we were hunting “gooks.” I can’t tell you how many pillows I stabbed with my Marine Corp issued bayonet. I was seven-years-old.

With uncle George home, Saturday night’s were never boring, and somewhat educational. I learned a lot about John Wayne, and knives, and guns, and discipline, and faraway places. I also learned that war changed people in ways different from college. It’s been a decade since uncle George died of cancer. Whenever I see a John Wayne movie on TV, I tune in for a bit and think of my uncle with fondness and sadness. If he were alive today, I’m sure he’d pass on seeing the remake of True Grit. He’d say, “John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn,” and leave it at that.

I also read that Jeff Bridges is teaming up with Peter Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry to reprise his role as eccentric west Texas oil man, Duane Moore, in a sequel to The Last Picture Show. Larry McMurtry has long been my favorite author, and in my humble opinion, The Duane Moore series, of which The Last Picture Show is the first of five installments, is among his best work:

The Last Picture Show (1966)
Texasville (1987)
Duane’s Depressed (1999)
When The Light Goes (2007)
Rhino Ranch (2009)

Texasville and Duane’s Depressed were written in that fifteen year period when McMurtry was at the top of his craft. It was then that he also wrote the Lonesome Dove series:

Lonesome Dove (1985)
Streets of Laredo (1993)
Dead Man’s Walk (1995)
Commanche Moon (1997)

McMurtry’s later books, of which he’s written more than a dozen, including the last two in the Duane Moore series, are far more pedestrian. Unlike McMurtry, Bridges seems to be at the peak of his career, having won an Oscar earlier this year. We’ll have to see if he can keep it going in True Grit and the sequel to The Last Picture Show. Hopefully, McMurtry can find his former genius in writing the screenplay to the latter and give us a movie worthy of his wonderful books.


KK Brees said...

While there will never be another John Wayne, Jeff Bridges is a good choice for the remake of True Grit. Looking forward to the great line - "Fill your hand..."

Shane Cashion said...

Ha. Lots of memorable lines for sure. I think he's a good choice too, KK.

Unknown said...

While I hate to admit it, I have not read these books, nor watched the movies, except for Wayne's fantastic performance. But I enjoyed the original TRUE GRIT movie, and was curious how Bridges would compare in what I consider Wayne's best role. I will definitely check out this movie when it's on DVD, and I guess I'll have to put McMurtry's books on my Must Read lists. Damn, there are a lot of books on that list.

Shane Cashion said...

At least put Lonesome Dove on your list. I think you especially would enjoy it, Ben.

June Shaw said...

What great memories you brought back. Thanks for reminding me about them.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I've enjoyed McMurtry's books but an old cowboy I once interviewed wasn't pleased with the inaccuracy of his fictional cowpokes. I'm also a Jeff Bridges fan and look forward to his part in "True Grit."

Shane Cashion said...

Thanks June. And don't tell me that, Jean; that's like telling me there's no Santa. I took his word as Bible! :)