The granddaughter of Oscar-winner John Wayne is about to step into Fort Smith for the very first time.
Members of the Friends of the Fort nonprofit will host a reception for Anita La Cava Swift at 4 p.m. July 13 at Darby Junior High School, 616 N. 14th St. The event will celebrate Swift’s time in Fort Smith and will include a screening of the 1969 John Wayne movie, “True Grit,” as well as a discussion on the film’s accuracy and influence on Fort Smith, said Floyd Robison, treasurer for the Friend of the Fort.
“We are excited about this because this is in line with the 50th anniversary of the ‘True Grit’ film,” he said. “Anita Swift runs the John Wayne Cancer Institute in California and travels around the country, talking about her grandfather.
“Anita says her grandfather’s favorite movie was ‘True Grit’ because he won an Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn,” Robison added.
Swift is scheduled to “take the stage” at about 5 p.m. for a few minutes before the screening of “True Grit,” he said.
“Anita will talk a little bit about the John Wayne Cancer organization, which does research, during the reception, and she’ll mostly talk about the movie, ‘True Grit,’ and her grandfather,” Robison said. “John Wayne never was able to come to Fort Smith, although he always wanted to come to Fort Smith. John Wayne always wanted to see Fort Smith because he won his only Oscar for ‘True Grit,’ a film and story that was set here in Fort Smith.”
Following the screening, Fort Smith National Historic Site Ranger Cody Faber will answer questions and discuss the influence of the movie on Fort Smith, he said.
“Cody will talk about the differences between reality and the book and movie,” Robison said.
Swift also will take a private tour of the Fort Smith National Historic Site and its Judge Parker courtroom; the courtroom was featured in the movie, “True Grit,” and is something Swift has been wanting to see for years, Robison said.
“Anita is the oldest grandchild of John Wayne; she was 21 when John Wayne died in 1979, so she knew her grandfather really well,” he said.
Wayne, who also was known by many as “the Duke,” appeared in many popular films, including “Big Jake,” “The Cowboys,” “The Sons of Katie Elder,” “The Longest Day,” “Stagecoach,” “How the West Was Won,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “The Searchers” and his final movie, 1976’s “The Shootist,” Robison said.
According to RottenTomatoes.com, Wayne was “arguably the most popular — and certainly the busiest — movie leading man in Hollywood history.” The website rates Wayne’s 1967 film, “El Dorado,” with a perfect 100 percent score.
“Personally, I was always a John Wayne fan and I prefer the John Wayne movie version of ‘True Grit’ over the newer ‘True Grit’ film,” Robison said. “The original film did have some inaccuracies in it that the later film cleared up, but that is almost with any Hollywood movie.
“And John Wayne was such a larger-than-life figure,” he added.
Tickets for the reception for Swift are $30 per person and can be purchased by calling Robison at (479) 831-9274 and the Clayton House at (479) 783-3000, or by emailing FriendsOfTheFort@gmail.com. Tickets also can be purchased at the Clayton House, 514 N. Sixth St.
“We are going to be putting up a page on Facebook where people can order tickets soon,” Robison said.
The money raised will be used to support the Fort Smith National Historic Site’s education and interpretive programs, he said. Those seeking more information can visit the Friends of the Fort Facebook page and the Anita La Cava Swift Facebook page.
“We’re hoping that 200 people attend, although Darby Junior High will hold 1,000 people, I’m told,’” Robison said. “It would be nice to have a large crowd for this reception and screening of ‘True Grit.’ I know Anita is excited about it.”