Fans of old school Westerns, and particularly of John Wayne, are usually the only ones who stand by the original True Grit as a classic, while the rest of the world has kind of moved on without it. But even less well-remembered is the Charles Portis novel it was based on, and which the Coen Brothers studied thoroughly as they prepared their new version of the story, which hit theaters a few days ago. The novel was the #2-best-selling book in the country when the True Grit movie came out in 1968, but there may be an explanation for why not that many people remember it-- no one actually read it the first time around either.

The New York Times talked to former Paramount publicity exec Bob Rehme, who confessed that he was in charge of goosing sales of the book before the movie adaptation hit theaters. Paramount wanted the book to "live up to its reputation as a best seller" before the movie was released, so Rehme, in their words, "set out to rig the game":

Mr. Rehme recalled sending out members of the Paramount office staff to buy boxes of books from stores that, according to his information, were being monitored by The New York Times in compiling its best-seller list. (These days a dagger symbol next to a book on the best-seller list indicates that booksellers have noted bulk sales.)

“It worked,” maintains Mr. Rehme, who then circulated all those books to people in the news media and others, pumping up interest in a story Paramount was promoting as “a brand-new brand of American frontier story.”

Sure that whole dagger-symbol thing means this exact scheme wouldn't work these days-- and they'd want to increase the Amazon ranking above anything anyway-- but this story is just another example of how endlessly inventive Hollywood can be when money is on the line. No word on similar shenanigans happening at Paramount for the Coens' take on the story, but if it turns out Jeff Bridges' Oscar win last year was a coordinated effort between Paramount and Sony to make Bridges a big star in time for True Grit and Tron: Legacy to hit theaters, you're not allowed to be surprised.

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