A History of True Grit
True Grit was certainly one of the most famous Westerns ever made. The film was directed by Henry Hathaway, famed for his work on a long string of Westerns most notably in the 1950s and '60s, with the top stars of his day: Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and John Wayne. True Grit's celebrity-studded cast featured Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper.
Spectacular scenery around our charming Colorado town caught the attention of the director of the film that was released in 1969. Ouray County was the main film location with key sets in the movie located right in Ridgway. In six weeks in 1968, the film crew turned the center of this old railroad town into the 1880s-style Fort Smith, Arkansas, complete with Hanging Judge Parker’s three-man gallows. The firehouse now survives as an artist studio, and the livery stable became the post office. The jail wagon, which John Wayne brings back from the Indian Territories, now sits in the front yard of the Ouray County Ranch History Museum, the building that was originally the Old Rio Grand Southern Railroad Depot. A short walk up Clinton Street, past the Sherbino Theater, leads you to the living quarters of Rooster Cogburn. Be sure to visit the John Wayne-themed True Grit Cafe and check out the actor and movie memorabilia.
True Grit Walking Tours & Guides
To explore more film locations on your own (or by hiring a guide), you can head on out on a day trip to find some of the famous movie sites as well as the state’s most photographed mountain scenery. Ten miles west of Ridgway on Last Dollar Road are the remains of the ranch of matriarch Mattie Ross (performed by Kim Darby in the movie), where John Wayne jumped his horse over the fence at the end of the film. And to the East, towards Owl Creek Pass, sits the aspen-lined valley of Katie’s Meadow – one of the most memorable scenes from True Grit. Fifteen minutes up Highway 550 in Ouray, you can visit Ouray County Courthouse where the film's interior court scenes were filmed. Pick up your free Movie Locations Guide at the Visitors Center.