Hollywood types like Barbra Streisand (who was in both F-films), who have contempt for the ordinary Americans who have made them rich, loved the title of the previous film, Meet the F——s. And Hollywood's contempt was reaffirmed, when "the little people" made the movie a hit. Well, I haven't seen the first F-movie, either. When I find movies with foul language (or foul titles) on the TV, I change the channel. The only exceptions I make are for masterpieces of historical significance, such as Saving Private Ryan, though I was disappointed that Ron Howard had some unnecessary profanity in Apollo 13.
Hollywood used to be able to make movies on all sort of brutal subjects, without recourse to profanity. And the introduction and routinization of showing cursing and sex in the movies has made the entire culture not just more coarse, but more violent and immoral. Meanwhile, not only is one no longer permitted to speak home truths, but one is not permitted to say "No" to all sorts of immoral behavior, even in the classroom. We are told that the vulgarity and viciousness are "real"that was rap impresario Russell Simmons' line, too), but just being part of reality doesn't make something fit for depiction on the screen. After all, we're not permitted to depict the reality of black-on-white crime, or black racism, in general. Or girls saving themselves for marriage. And movie executives lied for years, in claiming that their refusal to make movies on Biblical themes was based on box office reality, a claim that Mel Gibson gave the lie to, when he produced and directed The Passion of the Christ, which has grossed over half-a-billion dollars. The last thing that folks in the entertainment business are interested in is "keepin' it real."
On St. Patty's Day of 2009, we saw True Grit together, which was the first time for my now ten-year-old son. When John Wayne won his Oscar for Best Actor for his over-the-top performance as Marshal Rooster Cogburn, some of Wayne's friends, like Ronald Reagan, seemed embarrassed, saying that the award had essentially been a career achievement award. But Wayne gave a marvelous performance.
I wasn't much of a fan of Wayne's during my childhood, because he made a bunch of clunkers, towards the end; I hadn't seen his great pictures with the likes of John Ford; and I looked down on him for taking on a royal nickname ("Duke"). It was long after his death that I learned that when he was a boy, some firemen had named him "Duke" after his trusty Airedale, and that I saw masterpieces like The Searchers. I concluded that though there are many actors I'd place before him (Alec Guinness, Fredric March, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, et al.) Wayne had grown into a fine actor.
A critic I know would rank actors a mite differently.
A few days before Christmas, as I was walking my boy to school, I mentioned that a couple of brothers named Coen had re-made True Grit, though they denied that it was a re-make. I said of their star, "Jeff Bridges is a fine actor, but he's no John Wayne."
Son: "John Wayne is the greatest!"(That boy of mine knows darned well who Fredric March was! He saw him last summer in The Best Years of Our Lives, prior to which I'd had him read MacKinlay Kantor's 268-page poem, Glory for Me, which was the basis for the picture.)
Dad: "Well, he's a marvelous actor, but I'd say that Fredric March was America's greatest actor."
Son: "Well, that's your opinion!"
At my primary blog, some longtime readers engaged me in a spirited discussion about profanity in movies, particularly in gangster pictures and westerns; the relative virtues of the original True Grit and the remake; and what John Wayne's best roles were. You're welcome to grab a cup of hot joe, and join in.
True Grit, Then and Now