I found something interesting on line while doing some research; it's an article from May of 2000 and includes an interview with Charles Portis talking about "True Grit" and John Wayne! I copied and pasted the interview here, and included the link at the bottom if you want to read the entire short article....
An Interview with Charles Portis
In the summer of 2000, Charles Portis, the author of True Grit corresponded with park staff regarding the background of his novel and the famous film based on it. Below are excerpts of his comments:
What was your inspiration for the story?
“I was reading some frontier memoirs at the time…. I liked the form and tone – a first-person narrative, simple, direct and innocent. So, I thought I would try my hand at a fictional version. I settled on a revenge plot, common enough in such accounts.”
Using a woman as the main character in a Western was unusual at the time True Grit was written. Tell us more about the character of Mattie Ross.
“An old lady is telling the story. She relates these rather squalid events in what she takes to be a proper, formal way. And she shows herself , unconsciously, perhaps, to be just as hard in her own way as these hard customers she disapproves of, and has to deal with. For some reason I just liked the idea of having a starchy old lady as a narrator.”
Are any of the events in the novel based on actual incidents?
“Yes, I did take the snake pit episode from an actual event. Some other things too, from written accounts… “
What type of research did you do for your story?
“As for my research methods, they were alternately intense and slapdash. I did read newspaper accounts of the trials on microfilm from the Fort Smith Elevator and other papers. I read whatever books and pamphlets came my way, and I did walk the ground where the events in the story take place. If I couldn’t confirm something, or locate a fact I needed, I would just make something up. Still, you like to get things right.”
How did you feel about the screen adaptation of your novel?
“The screenplay stayed pretty close to the book. I noticed that the movie director, Henry Hathaway, used the book itself, with the pages much underlined, when he was setting up the scenes. I also noticed that some of the actors had trouble speaking the intentionally stiff dialogue. I didn’t write the screenplay. It was sent to me and I made a few changes, not many. I did write the last scene, in the graveyard, which didn’t appear in the book.”
What can you tell us about the choice of locations for the filming of the movie?
“Hal Wallis, the producer, had considered making the movie in Arkansas, and sent an advance man here. I drove this man around northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. He did like the town of Van Buren, saying it would do nicely for 1870s Fort Smith. Later, Hal Wallis called to tell me that there were logistical problems with shooting the picture in Arkansas. I have the idea that Hathaway (the director) persuaded Wallis to make it in Colorado.”
What impressions do you have of John Wayne from the film?
“Wayne was a bigger man than I expected. He was actually bigger than his image on screen, both in stature and presence. One icy morning, very early, before sunrise, we were all having breakfast in a motel…. A tourist came over to speak. Wayne rose to greet her. He stood there, not fidgeting and just hearing her out, but actively listening, and chatting with her in an easy way, as his fried eggs congealed on the plate. I took this to be no more than his nature. A gentleman at four o’clock on a cold morning is indeed a gentleman.”
Fort Smith Goes to the Movies: True Grit - Fort Smith National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
Thank you for sharing that. I enjoy seeing little nuggets like this. It's hard to find anything new regarding Duke. We take what we can find.
Mark"I couldn't go to sleep at night if the director didn't call 'cut'. "