John Wayne Once Said Working with Kim Darby On ‘True Grit’ ‘Was a Little Rough’

by Suzanne Halliburton

John Wayne won his only Academy Award for playing Marshal Rooster Cogburn in the classic True Grit.

His fellow cast members included country singer Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper and Kim Darby, a young actress making her first star turn. Darby portrayed Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old who hires John Wayne to apprehend Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father.

John Wayne didn’t much like Darby. And he tactfully mentioned his feelings about Darby in 1976 when he made an appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Donahue allowed audience members, who were mostly women, to ask John Wayne all sorts of questions. Wayne was promoting The Shootist, his latest movie. But True Grit came out in 1969, so you can see why people still were curious about Wayne and his relationship with Darby.

“She was a little rough to work with,” John Wayne said. “She was a little rough on everybody. It was kind of new to her, being so popular. But then … we’ve all done it.”

John Wayne Reportedly Wanted His Daughter to Play Mattie in True Grit

Here’s some back story. According to IMDb, John Wayne wanted True Grit director Henry Hathaway to cast his daughter Aissa as Mattie Ross. But Hathaway refused. Darby was 21 and already a mother of a young daughter. But she ably played the teen-aged Mattie. Reports from the set suggested Wayne and Darby rarely spoke, unless it was scripted.

Still, True Grit gave us some classic dialogue between John Wayne, who wore an eye patch, and Darby. Like this exchange:

Rooster Cogburn: “Why, by God, girl, that’s a Colt’s Dragoon! You’re no bigger than a corn nubbin, what’re you doing with all this pistol?

Mattie Ross“It belonged to my father, he carried it bravely in the war, and I intend to kill Tom Chaney with it if the law fails to do so.”

Rooster Cogburn: “Well, this’ll sure get the job done if you can find a fence post to rest it on while you take aim.”

John Wayne also didn’t get along with Robert Duvall on the True Grit set. Duvall played Ned Pepper, an outlaw. The two shared one of the best exchanges in the movie. Remember when Cogburn told Pepper that he was either going to kill him right then or take him to be hanged?

Pepper replied: “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.”

John Wayne embraced the eye patch as he played Rooster Cogburn. He gained weight for the role and allowed his hair to go gray. He played Cogburn as a rascal, who was a belligerent, wise-cracking drunk.

At the Academy Awards, Barbra Streisand presented John Wayne his Oscar. In his acceptance speech, Wayne quipped:

“Wow. If I’d have known that, I’d have put that patch on 35 years earlier.”