100 dollars for a sheriff: why John Wayne couldn’t stand his partner Kim Darby? – CineSeries

In 1970, John Wayne received the only Oscar of his career for his portrayal of the gruff and violent marshal Rooster Cogburn in “100 dollars for a sheriff”. A role and a project of which the actor was particularly proud, even if he had a lot of trouble getting along with his young partner Kim Darby.

100 dollars for a sheriff : John Wayne’s only Oscar

41 years before the Coen brothers, Henry Hathaway adapts in 1969 the novel True Grit by Charles Portis. 100 dollars for a sheriff marks the reunion between the filmmaker and John Wayne after The lost city, The Great Sam, The biggest circus in the world and The Four Sons of Katie Elder.

The actor lends his features to one-eyed marshal Rooster Cogburn. To avenge the death of her father, young Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) uses his services to stop the criminal Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). Renowned for being ruthless, Cogburn sets out in pursuit of the outlaw and teams up with LaBoeuf (Glen Campbell), a Texas Ranger.

Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) – 100 dollars for a sheriff ©Paramount Pictures

Robert Duval, Dennis Hopper and Strother Martin complete the distribution of this western, which allows John Wayne to win the only Oscar of his career. A few months before obtaining the award, the actor confided to Roger Ebert thatthis is one of his most interesting roles :

This is my first decent role in 20 years, and my first opportunity to play a non-John Wayne character.

He adds :

I love so many things about this movie. The dialogues, to begin with. They’re authentic, that’s how people talked. The last time I had such dialogues was in The Heroic Charge, for which John Ford had the integrity to use dialogues that corresponded to the era. Most don’t give a damn.

A broken promise

If he is “proud” of his performance and more generally of the feature film, John Wayne does not particularly appreciate his young partner Kim Darby. Originally, the actor hopes to be able to give the reply to his daughter Aissawhich appeared a few years earlier in Alamo, The Comancheros, The Irish Tavern and The Big McLintock. Quoted in the book John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth by Michael Munn, the actor explains that he even goes so far as to promise her that she will play Mattie Ross:

I was convinced that Aissa was perfect for the role. I forgot that it wasn’t a Batjac film (his production company, editor’s note) and that I was working for two tough veterans, Hal Wallis (the producer, editor’s note) and Henry Hathaway. I made the mistake of telling her the role was for her. Then when I told Hathaway what I had done, he was like, ‘Duke, you stupid bastard. It’s not your movie. We have already chosen the actress. So you can go break your daughter’s heart and tell her she won’t.

100 dollars for a sheriff
100 dollars for a sheriff ©Paramount Pictures

A complicated collaboration with Kim Darby

Disappointed, the star later struggles to get along with Kim Darby. John Wayne says about the actress:

Kim Darby wasn’t too different from Mattie. She was strong-willed, independent and determined. It was great for his character, but not so great for an actor or actress. I tried to establish rapport between the two of us, but it didn’t work. (…) She was a superb actress, there is no doubt about it. But she was spoiled. Henry said to me, ‘I think she’s trying to show everyone that she’s not impressed because she’s working with John Wayne.

Kim Darby apparently remains distant with the actor, who believes that their relationship doesn’t always work out on screen. He assures that “that’s not the way he likes to work”. John Wayne even goes so far as to affirm with irony that he got along better with Kirk Douglaswith whom relations were particularly tense.

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100 dollars for a sheriff: why John Wayne couldn’t stand his partner Kim Darby? – CineSeries