It takes grit to make a movie in Colorado -- sometimes True Grit. This state's film industry has gotten mixed reviews over the years, but there's no question that producer Hal Wallis created a classic when he made True Grit, based on the book by Charles Portis, in Colorado in 1969. The San Juan Mountains provide the stunning background for a performance by John Wayne, playing U.S. marshal "Rooster" Cogburn, a "one-eyed fat man," that wound up winning the icon his first Academy Award. And on Friday, August 1, you can be a winner, too, because there will be a free showing of the original True Grit in Civic Center Park in honor of Colorado Day.
See also: Ten hit movies filmed in Colorado
Colorado's film industry got off to a fast start. At the turn of the last century, Harold Buckwalter, a news and commercial photographer, made several short pictures about life in Denver and Colorado, including Denver Firemen's Race for Life - a 1902 film that showed Denver firemen racing at full speed up 16th Street. Between 1910 and 1912, Chicago's Selig-Polyscope Company came to Cañon City and fired off dozens of two-reel silent Westerns, many starring the legendary Tom Mix. But news of year-round filming conditions in a little town called Hollywood drew the company to California in 1913, and it never came back.
Colorado continued to make cameos, though, some more extensive than others. Parts of the Western Cat Ballou (1965) were filmed here, as was the abysmal 1976 Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox and the 1978 Clint Eastwood fist-fighting love story Every Which Way But Loose. Chevy Chase stopped in Durango for the 1983 classic Vacation, while Bruce Willis came to Denver to film a scene for 1990's Die Hard 2, and Steven Seagal stopped by a few years later to play a chef at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, which became the fictional Mile High Cafe in Under Seige 2: Dark Territory. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels played idiots at the Stanley Hotel, better known as the inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining, in 1994's Dumb and Dumber. And then, of course, there was Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead.
Donald Zuckerman, director of the state Office of Film, Television and Media, has been working to bring Colorado's movie career back from the dead, using both state incentives and scenery to lure more business. And on August 1, in celebration of Colorado Day, Zuckerman's office will sponsor a free screening of True Grit - the original, starring John Wayne, much of it filmed in Colorado's San Juan Mountains - at Civic Center.
This is part of the park's Bike-In movie series. The film will start at dusk, and there will be time to socialize and visit local food trucks before the showing -- or you can bring a picnic, along with a blanket and/or seats. Find more information here.
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Best of all, the film is free. Happy Colorado Day!