Encore’s Westerns Channel has announced that, beginning in 2010, the channel will be broadcasting a new batch of vintage TV Westerns, including Gunsmoke; Have Gun, Will Travel and Rawhide. The cabler also intends to bring back Wagon Train, The Virginian, Laredo and, most important, Lawman, a top-quality, black-and-white, half-hour series that ran on ABC from 1958-1962. Lawman, starring John Russell and Peter Brown, has yet to resurface as a DVD or VHS tape, so it’s understandable that the fans who remember it with great affection are anxious to get reacquainted.

True Grit

Legions of Westerns fans, especially those who love John Wayne, helped to make 1969s True Grit one of the Duke’s most successful pictures. Wayne’s Wallace Beery-inspired portrayal of the rough, gruff Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn was exactly the right role at the right time for the 61-year-old actor; the role landed him his first and only Academy Award.

But many fans of Charles Portis’s 1968 novel were less than happy with the adaptation, in part because it shifted the perspective of the story away from the Bible-quoting, 14-year-old Mattie Ross. In the book, she narrates the story of her hunt for her father’s killer and her relationships with Cogburn and Texas Ranger La Boeuf, as a 70-year-old spinster in 1928.

Joel and Ethan Coen, who wrote and directed No Country for Old Men, are close to beginning their adaptation of True Grit. They intend to steer their remake back to its original premise and point of view. Mattie has yet to be cast, and auditions were held in Waco, Texas, in mid-November for a “gritty girl,” 12-16 years old, “preferably the kind that rides horses, gets dirty and speaks her mind,” the press release stated. I imagine a knowledge of scripture would be a plus. Whoever gets the part should expect a lot of attention, especially as she will have to stand her ground beside Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, Josh Brolin as the outlaw Ned Pepper and Matt Damon as La Boeuf.

In the original film, Mattie was played by Kim Darby, who was considerably older than the novel’s heroine. To her credit, Darby held her own beside the scene-chomping Duke.

Thadd Turner’s Latest

Thadd Turner is a one-man Western mogul. He has re-edited his family Western Miracle at Sage Creek, adding scenes and renaming it Christmas Miracle at Sage Creek for a DVD release.

Turner has also secured cast and funding for two Western projects. He expects to shoot Palominas in January with Michael Madsen, Estella Warren, Wes Studi, Michael Parks and Buck Taylor. The Hard Ride is expected to lens sometime in spring 2010 with Val Kilmer, Elisabeth Shue, Ryan Merriman and Wes Studi. Turner will direct these films in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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