DARBY, Kim

(1947– )
   Born Deborah Zerby in Los Angeles, California, Kim Darby will probably be forever remembered by Western fans for her role as Mattie Ross in Henry Hathaway’s True Grit (1969). Mattie is a tomboy who sets out on a mission of revenge by hiring aging lawman Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to accompany her into Indian Territory after the outlaw who killed her father. Part of the film is a coming of age story for the young girl as the old lawman tries to keep her from growing bitter over what life has dealt her. John Wayne attempted to talk the popular singer Karen Carpenter into taking the role, and Mia Farrow was also suggested for the part. But Hathaway ignored other advice and recruited the young television actress. In later years, Darby recalled that Hathaway asked her on 10 separate occasions to take the role. She had just delivered a child and was going through a divorce, so she hesitated. In the end she agreed and brought her newborn daughter to the set each day. Her short stature and cherubic face allowed Darby to play teenagers well into her twenties, and the contrast between the young tomboy and the six-foot-four Wayne is a feature of the film. While True Grit was Darby’s only Western, she maintained a distinguished acting career and now teaches acting at the University of California at Los Angeles as well as in her own studio.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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