Rooster Cogburn (1975)

rooster cogburn poster 1975 movie john wayne
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice looking locations

Dull story, Wayne seems tired, doesn't pair well with Hepburn

Movie Info

Movie Name: Rooster Cogburn

Studio:  Hal Wallis Productions

Genre(s): Western/Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  October 17, 1975 (Premiere)/November 1975 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

rooster cogburn john wayne katharine hepburn true grit sequel

Wow…the sparks…are flying?

Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) has lost his U.S. Marshal job but has been given an opportunity to regain his title.  Sent after a thief called Hawk (Richard Jordan) who has stolen dynamite and fled into the territories, Rooster finds himself paired with a missionary named Eula Goodnight (Katharine Hepburn) and a young Native American named Wolf (Richard Romancito) in pursuit of Hawk and the dynamite…and Rooster might have a harder time with Eula than the thieves.

Directed by Stuart Miller, Rooster Cogburn is an adventure Western.  A sequel to True Grit from 1969, the film was released to less favorable reviews and a smaller box office return which quashed plans for a third movie titled Someday.

I’m not the biggest Western fan, but True Grit is a fun Western.  While I admire Westerns a lot for their visuals, the plots always seem rather plodding and cliché…and Rooster Cogburn unfortunately falls into that category.

rooster cogburn anthony zerbe

This character…I get that he has loyalty to Rooster, but he makes no sense…and he pays for it.

The movie just doesn’t seem to have the spirit of True Grit.  Part of that film’s joy was the banter between the headstrong Rooster and the headstrong Mattie Ross (played by Kim Darby who Wayne disliked).  This movie tries to recreate this with Hepburn’s character, but as many have pointed out, it comes off as a remake of The African Queen (straight down to a raft on a river).  The film doesn’t really feel like it ever climaxes and the final showdown doesn’t feel dangerous.  It even borders on a rather mundane romance at points between Wayne and Hepburn.

Wayne was tired at this point.  The filming was difficult for him and the high altitude played with his limited lung capacity.  The filmmakers debated casting a younger costar, and that would have been a mistake for multiple reasons.  The characters are supposed to have a sexual tension between them and create a different feel from True Grit, but Hepburn also just doesn’t seem to fit in the picture.  The film also has roles by Anthony Zerbe, Richard Jordan, Jack Colvin, Lane Smith, John McIntire, and Strother Martin.

rooster cogburn john wayne katharine hepburn richard romancito

Why do I end up on rivers with cantankerous men?

Visually (like many Westerns), it does well with the scenery of the West.  I prefer the Westerns shot on location to the set-heavy western-town style Westerns that Wayne sometimes stars in.  It gives the story more validity and explores the vastness of the world the characters live in (something that is easy to forget where you can get food at every interstate exit).

Rooster Cogburn for its faults moves rather quickly, but overall it is a disappointing sequel to a good movie.  The film is Wayne’s penultimate film.  He followed it with 1976’s The Shootist and passed away in 1979.  If you are Wayne fan, you should see Rooster Cogburn, but you also might want to remember him for better films.  I still would have liked to have seen Rooster crow one more time.

Related Links:

True Grit (1969)

True Grit (2010)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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