Speaking of stories about growing up good, I was eight when True Grit came out in 1969. Loved it then, love it now.
Kim Darby plays Mattie Ross, a teenage girl in 1880, who is looking to hire a federal marshall with "true grit" to hunt down her father's murderer, intending to go along herself to see justice done. She settles on tough old Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne).
My favorite "movie moment" from the film:
Rooster Cogburn and La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) try to discourage Mattie from accompanying them on the manhunt by forbidding her and her horse to cross a wide river on the ferry with them.
So she rides her horse into the river and swims across.
Rooster watches, and says with admiration, "By God! She reminds me of me."
And so the story proves: they both have true grit. He calls her Little Sister.
It's odd that Kim Darby didn't go on to have a wonderful film career, because she truly is wonderful in this movie--she holds her own against John Wayne, some forty years and a world of fame her senior, in a role for which he won an Oscar.
Mattie Ross is a rare girl hero at the center of an adult film.
Another is Scout (Mary Badham, right, with Gregory Peck) in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), which I saw on TV about the same time I saw True Grit. My sister and I begged our parents to take us to buy overalls like Scout's the very next day, which they did.
I recognized in these characters some of the best of what it is to be female--someone smart and scrappy and splendid. And someone who can take a lot of guff for being herself in a world that wants girls to be silly and submissive and sweet. As John Wayne said in another movie, "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness."
When it comes to apologizing for who you are, I agree. I've never been as unflinching as Mattie, but then, I'm not done yet.