Charles Portis

Charles Portis
Charles Portis
Born Charles McColl Portis
December 28, 1933 (1933-12-28) (age 77)
El Dorado, Arkansas, U.S.
Occupation Writer
Period 1966–1991
Genres Western
Notable work(s) True Grit

Charles McColl Portis (born December 28, 1933) is an American author best known for his novels Norwood (1966) and the 1968 classic Western novel True Grit (1968), both adapted as films. The latter also inspired a film sequel and made-for-TV movie sequel. A new film adaptation of True Grit was released in 2010.

Portis has been described as "one of the most inventively comic writers of western fiction".[1]


Early life

Charles Portis was born in 1933 to Samuel Palmer and Alice Waddell Portis in El Dorado, Arkansas. He was raised and educated in various towns in southern Arkansas, including Hamburg.

During the Korean War, Portis enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and reached the rank of sergeant.[2] After receiving his discharge in 1955, he enrolled in the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.


Portis began writing in college, for both the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville student newspaper, Arkansas Traveler, and the Northwest Arkansas Times. One of his tasks was to redact the colorful reporting of "lady stringers" in the Ozarks, a task credited as a source for the vivid voice which he created years later for his character Mattie Ross in True Grit.[3] After Portis graduated, he worked for various newspapers as a reporter, including almost two years at the Arkansas Gazette, for which he wrote the "Our Town" column.

He moved to New York, where he worked for four years at the New York Herald Tribune. His work led him to return to the South frequently to cover civil rights–related stories during the early 1960s. After serving as the London bureau chief of the New York Herald Tribune, he left journalism in 1964.

Portis returned to Arkansas and began writing fiction full-time. In his first novel, Norwood (1966), he showed his preference for travel narratives with deadpan dialogue, combined with amusing observations on American culture. Based in the mid-1950s, the novel revolves around Norwood Pratt, a young, naïve ex-Marine living in Ralph, Texas. He is persuaded by con-man Grady Fring (the first of several such characters created by Portis) to transport a pair of automobiles to New York City. Norwood encounters a variety of people on the way to New York and back, including ex-circus midget Edmund Ratner ("the world’s smallest perfect fat man"), Joann ("the college educated chicken"), and Rita Lee, a girl Norwood woos and wins on the bus ride back to the South. Norwood was adapted as a movie in 1970, starring Glen Campbell as the title character, with Kim Darby and the football star Joe Namath.[4]

Like Norwood, his novel True Grit (1968) was first serialized in condensed form in the The Saturday Evening Post. The story is told by Yell County native Mattie Ross who, at the time of the events, is a prim, shrewd, strong-willed, Bible-quoting 14-year-old girl. When her father is murdered in Fort Smith by a hired hand, Tom Chaney, she recruits Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn—in whom Mattie sees one possessed of "grit"—to help her hunt down Chaney and his outlaw band to "avenge her father’s blood". Both satirical of Westerns and realistic, the novel succeeded through its taut story line, Mattie’s believable narrative voice, sharp dialogue, and a journalistic attention to details.[citation needed]

Both Norwood and True Grit were adapted as movies starring fellow Arkansan Glen Campbell, and Kim Darby, and were commercially successful. John Wayne won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, one of the top box office hits of 1969. True Grit was released on June 11, 1969, earning USD$14.25 million at the box office. A second film version, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, debuted in December 2010.[5]

Portis published several short pieces in The Atlantic Monthly, including the memoir "Combinations of Jacksons"[6] and the story "I Don't Talk Service No More".[7]

Portis currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas.[8]


Charles Portis has written five novels:[2]

  • 1966: Norwood
  • 1968: True Grit
  • 1979: The Dog of the South
  • 1985: Masters of Atlantis
  • 1991: Gringos

Short fiction and articles

  • "The New Sound from Nashville," Saturday Evening Post, 239 (12 February 1966): 30-38.
  • "Traveling Light," Saturday Evening Post, 239 (18 June 1966): 54-77 ; 239 (2 July 1966): 48-75. (The revised, serialized version of Norwood).
  • "True Grit," Saturday Evening Post, 241 (18 May 1968): 68-85; 241 (1 June 1968): 46-61; 241 (15 June 1968): 44-57. (The condensed, serialized version of True Grit).
  • "Your Action Line", The New Yorker Archive, 53 (12 December 1977): 42-43. Faulkner Wells, Dean, ed. The Great American Writers' Cookbook. Oxford: Yoknapatawpha Press (1981).
  • "Nights Can Turn Cool in Viborra", The Atlantic Monthly, 270 (Dec. 1992): 101-106.
  • "I Don't Talk Service No More." The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1996, Vol. 277, No. 5, pp. 90–92.
  • "Combinations of Jacksons." The Atlantic Monthly, May, 1999, Vol. 283, No. 5, pp. 81–92. (A Memoir).


  1. ^ Portis. - English. - Emory University.
  2. ^ a b "True Grit". The Overlook Press. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Ingrid Norton, "True Grit and Greatness", Open Letters Monthly, December 2010
  4. ^ Norwood at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ "Coen brothers to adapt 'True Grit'". Variety. Retrieved 2010-02-16. 
  6. ^ Portis, Charles (December 1969), "Combinations of Jacksons", The Atlantic Monthly,, retrieved 2011-01-16 
  7. ^ Portis, Charles (May 1996), "I Don't Talk Service No More", The Atlantic Monthly,, retrieved 2011-01-16 
  8. ^ Jurgensen, John (December 21, 2010), Speakeasy, "The Author Behind 'True Grit'", The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company, Inc. c/o, 

External links

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  • Charles Portis — (Charles McColl Portis), né le 28 décembre 1933 à El Dorado, Arkansas, USA, est un écrivain américain connu surtout pour son premier roman Norwood (1966) et son roman western True Grit (1968), adaptés tous deux au cinéma (True Grit est adapté au… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Portis — Charles Mc Coll Portis (* 28. Dezember 1933 in El Dorado im amerikanischen Arkansas) ist ein US amerikanischer Autor. Berühmt wurde er durch seine Romane Norwood (1966) und True Grit (1968), die beide – zuletzt True Grit im Jahr 2010 – verfilmt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Norwood (novel) — Norwood is the first novel written by author Charles Portis. Originally published in 1966 by Simon Schuster, the book follows its namesake protagonist on a misadventurous road trip from his hometown of Ralph, Texas, to New York City and back.… …   Wikipedia

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  • Der Marshall — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Der Marshal Originaltitel: True Grit Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 1969 Länge: 128 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cent Dollars Pour Un Shérif — Titre original True Grit Réalisation Henry Hathaway Acteurs principaux John Wayne Glen Campbell Kim Darby Scénario Charles Portis (roman) Marguerite Roberts Musique Elmer Bernste …   Wikipédia en Français

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