True Grit is a 1969(foreign) American western Technicolor film written by Marguerite Roberts, directed by Henry Hathaway, and starring John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn; Wayne won his only Academy Award for his performance in this film and reprised his role as Cogburn in the 1975 sequel Rooster Cogburn. Historians believe Rooster was based on Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas, who brought in some of the toughest outlaws. The picture is the first adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel True Grit. The supporting cast features Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and Strother Martin.
Frank Ross (John Pickard) is murdered by his hired hand, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Ross’ daughter, Mattie (Kim Darby), hires aging U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” J. Cogburn (John Wayne) to bring Chaney in. Mattie has heard that Cogburn has “true grit”. She gives him a down payment to track and capture Chaney, who has taken up with “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall) in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
A young Texas Ranger, La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), is also pursuing Chaney and joins forces with Cogburn, despite Mattie’s protest. The two try to ditch Mattie, but she catches up and joins them.
After several days, the three discover two horse thieves named Emmett Quincy (Jeremy Slate) and Moon (Dennis Hopper) who are waiting for Ned Pepper at a remote dugout cabin. The trio capture the cabin and Cogburn interrogates the thieves. Moon’s leg is injured and Cogburn uses the injury as leverage to get information about Lucky Ned. To prevent Moon from talking too much Quincy stabs Moon, and Cogburn kills Quincy. Before Moon dies, he tells Cogburn that Pepper and his gang are due at the cabin that night. The trio lays a trap for them.
When Pepper and his men arrive, La Boeuf blows their cover by firing too soon and a firefight ensues, during which Cogburn and La Boeuf kill two of the gang, but Pepper and the rest of his men escape. Cogburn, La Boeuf, and Mattie make their way to McAlester’s store with the dead bodies. Cogburn tries to persuade Mattie to stay at McAlester’s, but she refuses.
The three resume their pursuit. Fetching water one morning, Mattie finds herself face-to-face with Chaney. She shoots, injuring Chaney and calling out to her partners. Pepper and his gang capture her, and Lucky Ned forces Cogburn and La Boeuf to abandon the girl. Pepper leaves Mattie in the care of Chaney, who has lost his horse. He promises he will send a horse back for Chaney, and that he will kill him if he harms Mattie.
Cogburn doubles back and attacks Pepper and his gang. La Boeuf finds Mattie and moves Chaney to an area he thinks is secure. La Boeuf and Mattie watch as a mounted Cogburn confronts Ned and his three gang members. Cogburn gives Pepper a choice between being killed right there or surrendering and being hanged in Fort Smith. Declining to surrender, Pepper insults Cogburn, who charges the four outlaws, guns blazing. He kills two of the gang and mortally wounds Pepper. In the fight, Ned shots Rooster’s horse, trapping Rooster’s leg under him as he goes down. As the wounded Ned Pepper prepares to kill Rooster, La Boeuf makes a long shot with his Sharps Rifle, killing Pepper.
As La Boeuf and Mattie return to Pepper’s camp, Chaney comes out from behind a tree and strikes La Boeuf in the head with a rock, fracturing his skull and knocking him unconscious. Mattie shoots Chaney in the arm, but, driven back by the recoil, falls into a snake pit and breaks her arm. Cogburn arrives and shoots Chaney dead. As Cogburn descends into the pit on a rope to retrieve Mattie, she is bitten by a rattlesnake. The mortally injured La Boeuf helps them out of the pit. Once Rooster and Mattie have been rescued, La Boeuf dies.
Cogburn is forced to leave La Boeuf’s body behind as they race to get help for Mattie at McAlester’s on Mattie’s pony. After stealing a buckboard, they arrive at their destination. There, an Indian doctor treats Mattie’s snakebite and broken arm. She is in a bad way.
Some time later, Mattie’s attorney, J. Noble Daggett (John Fiedler) meets Cogburn in Fort Smith. He pays Cogburn a reward for Chaney’s capture. He also declines a bet with Cogburn, who offers to wager the reward money that Mattie will recover just fine.
In the epilogue, Mattie, arm in a sling, is recovered and at home. She promises Cogburn he will be buried next to her in the Ross family plot after his death. Cogburn reluctantly accepts her offer and leaves, jumping over a fence with his new horse to disprove her good-natured jab that he was too old and fat to clear a four rail fence, and rides off into the valley below.