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Ghost Canyon

'The Real Story - True Grit'
(DVD / NC-17 / 2018 / PBS)

Overview: The line between good and evil in the Wild West was often blurred, and perhaps no Hollywood Western captured the realities of the dangerous frontier better than True Grit.

Explore a violent and unforgiving time in America's history and see how Rooster Cogburn and young Mattie's encounters with hangings, shootouts, and kidnappings would have been part and parcel with life in the Wild West.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the complete know, 'True Grit' is a 1969 American western film and is the first film adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Marguerite Roberts.

The film was directed by Henry Hathaway and starred Kim Darby as Mattie Ross and John Wayne as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. Wayne won his only Academy Award for his performance in this film and reprised his role for the 1975 sequel Rooster Cogburn.

Historians believe Cogburn was based on Deputy U.S. Marshal "Heck" Thomas, who brought in some of the toughest outlaws. The cast also features Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin. The title song, sung by Campbell, was also Oscar-nominated.

'True Grit' was adapted again in 2010, starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld.

'The Real Story - True Grit,' directed by Christie Callan-Jones and narrated by Corey Johnson is a quite enthralling look back at a time when outlaws ruled the West. But there were always good guys, such as the aforementioned Henry Andrew "Heck" Thomas (January 3, 1850 – August 14, 1912), who was a lawman on the American frontier, most notably in Oklahoma.

As we learn throughout this wonderful new Smithsonian Channel / PBS documentary, Thomas and his family migrated to Texas in 1875 and, with the help of his cousin, Jim Thomas, obtained a job with the railroad as a guard.

Indeed, Thomas became a railroad detective and later went to work for the Fort Worth Detective Association. He was appointed U.S. Deputy Marshal out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, working under U.S. District Judge Isaac C. Parker.

By 1889, Thomas teamed with two other deputy U.S. marshals, Chris Madsen and Bill Tilghman. They became known as the Three Guardsmen and were credited with bringing law and order to the Indian Territory, in the state that would become Oklahoma in 1907.

The Three Guardsmen were credited with the apprehension of more than three hundred outlaws over the next decade, killing several. They were credited with the ultimate demise of the Wild Bunch or Doolin Gang.

Thomas was specifically mentioned by Emmett Dalton, years after his release from prison, as one of the main reasons that the Dalton Gang chose to commit two simultaneous bank robberies in Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas, the gang stating that Thomas was relentless in his pursuit.

It decided to make one big score and leave the territory for a time. Instead, the gang was wiped out in the Coffeyville robberies, with Emmett Dalton being the only survivor.

These facts and so many more are brought to light here with 'The Real Story - True Grit,' out now via Smithsonian Channel / PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.