This will sound or read like blasphemy to some, but the truth is is that this film is merely just good instead of being great or a classic. It is very entertaining, but it's mostly just fun and decently made fluff. I realize that Wayne got his one and onlyOscar for this film, and, even though he is really good as Rooster Cogburn, the award was more of a sympathy Oscar or consolation prize for his getting snubbed in the past (for his much better roles), or it was given to him in recognition of his career as a whole.
This is not a bad film, but it hasn't aged well, is quite cheesy, and is a tad overlong. The characters and the screenplay could have been fleshed out a lot more, but the other players besides Wayne aren't terrible, even though they don't match him. Campbell should have just stuck tosinging, and, even though Darby is kind of cute in an odd way, she's too old to convinclngly play a 14 year-old (she was 22 at the time of filming). Also, even though the scenery looks great, it does the film a disservice by obviously showing that it wasn't film where the story was supposed to be set.
For all of my complaining, I do like the film, but I think it's just a bit overrated. It does look nbice and have some good humor and action though. Plus, "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!" is one of the best and coolest lines ever spoken. Give this one a shot, but come to it with lowered expectations.