Rooster Cogburn (film)

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For the character, see Rooster Cogburn (character).
Rooster Cogburn
Rooster cogburn.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stuart Millar
Produced by
Written by Martha Hyer
Based on Rooster Cogburn (character) 
by Charles Portis
Music by Laurence Rosenthal
Cinematography Harry Stradling, Jr.
Edited by Robert Swink
Hal Wallis Productions
Distributed by
Release dates
  • October 17, 1975 (1975-10-17) (USA)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $17,594,566 [1]

Rooster Cogburn is a 1975 American Western Technicolor film directed by Stuart Millar and starring John Wayne, reprising his role as U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, and Katharine Hepburn. Written by Martha Hyer, based on the Rooster Cogburn character created by Charles Portis in the novel True Grit, the film is about an aging lawman whose badge was recently suspended for a string of routine arrests that ended in bloodshed. To earn back his badge, he is tasked with bringing down a ring of bank robbers that has hijacked a wagon shipment of nitroglycerin. He is helped by a spinster searching for her father's killer. Rooster Cogburn is a sequel to the 1969 film True Grit.[2]


Because of his drunkenness and questionable use of firearms, aging U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) has been stripped of his badge. But he's given a chance to redeem himself after a village in Indian Territory is overrun by a gang of violent, ruthless criminals, who've killed an elderly preacher, Rev. George Goodnight (Jon Lormer). His spinster daughter, Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn), wants to join Cogburn to track the criminals down, becoming his unwilling partner. But Rooster must use care, because the criminals, led by Hawk (Richard Jordan) and Breed (Anthony Zerbe), have stolen a shipment of nitroglycerine. Rooster rides by the following morning, while Eula and Wolf mourn their friend's and family member's deaths. Rooster convinces them to come, but he attempts to drop them off at Bagby's Store, but the trio follow him close behind. Meanwhile, in a scuffle between two bandit men, one of them is wounded by a stab wound. The wagon also hit a rock, but the men manage to fix it. Rooster, Wolf, and Eula stake out at a crossing in the woods, barricading the path with logs. The bandits are stopped and Rooster threatens to blow up the wagon unless the men dismount, which they do. A man attempts to shoot Rooster in the back, but Eula makes the perfect shot and kills him. Another man tries the same, but is killed instantly by a bullet to the chest. Rooster cries out Posse! and his two partners fire into the air, causing the men to actually think he has a posse, which they flee. Rooster captures the wagon. The men carry on back to their leader, Hawk. He orders Breed to investigate the tracks, which he finds out there was not a posse, much to Hawk's disdain. Hawk, Breed and the bandit which got stabbed ride on to town, while the other men attempt to fix the axle, which they eventually do. The stabbed man cannot make it, causing Hawk to shot him, saying Let the buzzards have him to Breed. That night the men kidnap Wolf, saying they will let him go if they give him the wagon, but are actually planning to get the wagon back, and to kill the three heroes. Wolf shoots the man who is holding him with the 5-shot Pepperbox handgun Rooster previously gave to him to protect himself and Eula if need be. He gets back to camp safely. Rooster has him hitch up the horses, while the bandits retreat because he fired the Gatling gun at them. They escape safely. The next day, Rooster borrows a raft from an old man, stashing as much dynamite as possible on board. The men attempt to ambush the three, but they fire the gun at them and they manage to escape around the corner. Breed and another bandit set up a trap across the river to capture Rooster and his gang. As the bandit is about the kill Rooster in cold blood, but Breed shoots him in the back in return for Rooster saving his life years prior They encounter massive rapids the following morning, causing enormous waves to fall on the raft, practically sinking it. They get through safely, though at the cost of losing the Gatling gun. They realize Hawk is planning to hold them up upriver, so they dump the dynamite overboard. They pretend to surrender, saying Rooster is sick. He jumps up and shoots the explosives, causing a massive wave to knock the riders over and blowing up the bandits. A few days later, Judge Parker gives Rooster's job back.



The screenplay was written by actress Martha Hyer, the wife of producer Hal B. Wallis, under the pen name "Martin Julien".[3] Director Stuart Millar, a longtime Hollywood producer, had directed only one film, When the Legends Die based on the classic novel by Hal Borland, prior to helming Rooster Cogburn.

Although True Grit was released by Paramount Pictures, Wallis made a deal with Universal Pictures to finance this film.

The film was shot in Oregon, in Deschutes County, west of the city of Bend (for the mountain scenes), on the Deschutes River for the whitewater rapids, and on the Rogue River in the counties of Josephine and Curry, west of Grants Pass (for the river scenes). Smith Rock State Park was a setting as well; the Rockhard/Smith Rock Climbing Guides building at the park entrance was originally built as a set for the movie, where it was portrayed as "Kate's Saloon".

John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn were born a mere two weeks apart (Hepburn being the elder), and their careers paralleled each other, yet Rooster Cogburn marked the only time the Hollywood veterans appeared together in a film. It was the final film from producer Hal B. Wallis. Although it was promoted as Rooster Cogburn (...and the Lady), the opening credits of the film give the title as simply Rooster Cogburn.

Strother Martin, who portrays Shanghai McCoy in this film, also appeared in True Grit, playing a different character.

The cinematography was by Harry Stradling Jr.


Critical response[edit]

In his review in the New York Times, Vincent Canby called the film "a high-class example of the low Hollywood art of recycling".[4] Canby praised the performances by the two leads—Wayne for his continuation of his Oscar-winning role as Cogburn, and Hepburn for a performance that recalls her "marvelous characterization opposite Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen".[4] Canby felt that the film's lighthearted tone and convincing performances allows the viewer to accept the film on its own terms.[4] Canby concluded that the film is "a cheerful, throwaway Western, featuring two stars of the grand tradition who respond to each other with verve that makes the years disappear".[4]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $17,594,566 at the box office,[1] earning $4.5 million in North American rentals.[5] It was the 25th highest grossing film of 1975.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Rooster Cogburn". Worldwide Boxoffice. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Rooster Cogburn (1975)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  3. ^ Steinberg, Jay. "Rooster Cogburn (1975)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Canby, Vincent (October 18, 1975). "A Recycled 'Rooster Cogburn' ...". The New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2014. 
  5. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 48

External links[edit]