"True Grit (1969)"
Featuring Vocals By Glen Campbell
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1260
28 Tracks/Disc Time: 68:36
The Western genre was kicking alive and well by the time 1969 rolled around along with the genre's legendary star, John Wayne, who was just about at the beginning of what soon would be battle with cancer. Another Western made some headway the very same year which was the brilliant and violent, "The Wild Bunch" directed by the late Sam Peckinpah, but "True Grit" would be a Western that it was more than its' equal for the next decades to come. The film based on the novel by Charles Portis revolves around a stubborn young woman named Mattie Ross (Kim Darby, "Better Off Dead") who's father was murdered by a tempermental cowboy Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) on a mission to avenge his death. She enlists the help of a drunken, stubborn U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Wayne, in his lone Oscar winning performance) who she knows would go to great lengths to get the job done. Aided by Texas Ranger LeBeouf (Glen Campbell), who's also looking for Chaney and his gang for another murder, the trio set across Indian Territory in search of him. The film also co-stars Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper and was also nominated for Original Song performed by Glen Campbell written by Elmer Bernstein and Don Black. The film would later be remade by the Oscar Winning Cohen Brothers in 2010 starring Oscar Winner Jeff Bridges in the famous role Wayne created, Oscar Winner Matt Damon, Oscar nominee Josh Brolin and newcomer and rising star, Hailee Steinfeld, which earned her a Best Supporting Actor nomination and the film would garner ten nominations altogether including Best Picture.
By the end of the 60's, composer Elmer Bernstein was really established as one of Hollywood's best composers and rightfully so with such memorable and unforgettable scores for "The Great Escape", "The Magnificent Seven", "The Ten Commandments", "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "The Man With The Golden Arm" to name a few at the time. Bernstein's sound was distinctive and powerful that made him all that more attractive for serious films and action-adventures. The Western genre was definitely was no stranger to Bernstein, who's discography features at least half dozen during the 60's that included the likes of "The Commancheros" (a film that also starred John Wayne), The Magnificent Seven and its' sequels "Return of The Magnificent Seven" and "Guns Of The Magnificent Seven", "The Hallelujah Trail", "The Sons of Katie Elder", and "The Scalphunters". Bernstein would end up scoring a few more Westerns over the next four decades that would include "Billy Jack" and its sequels, "The Magnificent Seven Ride!", "From Noon Till Three", "Wild Wild West" and a few more of Wayne's that would include "Big Jake", "Cahill, U.S.Marshal", and Wayne's last on screen film while battling cancer, "The Shootist" in 1976.
The score to "True Grit" is one of the major highlights of all the films that Bernstein had scored starring the late iconic Wayne and features his most memorable material which is rousing at times, action oriented and mostly a pensive dramatic work. The extent of the rousing material lays Bernstein's trademark melodies that are featured with gusto from the onset and featured throughout in the tracks "A Stiff Job / Businesslike Mattie", which establishes the headstrong Mattie's theme which later gets a more playful reading in "Mattie And Little Blackie", "Runaway Races Away/The Chase/On Their Way", the rousing "Rooster and La Boeuf Off", the patient, dramatic suspense of both "Preparation Dugout" and "Dugout Stakeout/Shots Galore". Bernstein perfectly blends the dramatic and lighter material of the score with some of the action so well that tracks such as "Over Bald Mountain / Rooster In The Meadow", and "The Meadow Fight / A Long Shot/The Snake Pit / The Liftout / Sad Departure / Chen Lee And The General (The Pace That Kills)" are more important to the score as the major big moments that make the film memorable such as the urgency of "Ride For Life" with its' aggressive urgency has a moment to extend its' dramatic chops."Warm Wrap Up" features a nice violin solo playing against some somewhat somber material as Bernstein provides some tender moments of both reflection and tenderness to the track that is quite similar to that of "Papa's Things / Pony Mine", which plays out in the same vein."End Credits" wraps up the score with a trumpet solo and beautiful soaring strings and woodwinds to continue the previous tracks mood.
The film opened with the Oscar nominated ballad "True Grit (Main Title) sung by co-star Glen Campbell, which was a nice memorable tune that was featured on the original 1969 soundtrack album that didn't feature one original note of Bernstein's classic score which is now making its' debut as originally recorded by the late Bernstein. For many years, Varese's album re-recordings of Bernstein's John Wayne Western film scores the latest album entitled "True Grit" featured over 20 minutes of score from this film with a nice re-recording by the Utah Symphony Orchestra and was primarily the place to find any music of substance from the original score for a couple of decades. Now finally, La-La Land Records has released the complete score that Bernstein wrote (albeit in mono sound) and the score is very potent and dramatic much like the film is and one the reasons why it has been highly requested over the years. Not to mention it also fills a major gap in the brilliant career of the late composer who was lost in 2004. "True Grit" is a very solid album and a solid Western score that really cemented Bernstein's career as John Wayne's personal composer as well as the greatest Western composer outside of Ennio Morricone. The score also displays Bernstein perfectly capturing the moments where the film truly needed them and not just score the film wall to wall, especially in the presence of the late John Wayne. Very solid thumbs up! Very good score!