After a villainous cowboy has murdered her only parent, a young girl persuades the local sheriff to find the killer. The only problem is that the sheriff is in semi-retirement, having turned his back on the law and taken to alcohol instead in the first Western where we see John Wayne playing a has-been.
John Wayne, unjustly denied even an Oscar nomination for outstanding work on Red River and The Searchers, took home his statuette for letting his gut hang out and putting on an eyepatch as Sheriff Rooster Cogburn, a has-been reprobate hired by a little girl (Darby) to bring in bad man Robert Duvall.
While it's broad comedy rather than real acting, Wayne's performance is mainly a delight, especially when he turns into John Wayne and puts the reins between his teeth so he can blast away with both guns at the scurvy likes of Dennis Hopper. Darby makes an impression as the oddly-mannered child but singer Campbell is a dull secondary good guy.
Although some say Wayne's Oscar was given out of sympathy instead of his performance, he still acts well as the sheriff who's past his peak. Proving he wasn't always a serious as he was made out to be, he plays the role with aplomb, even pastiching himself in other films.