Real Old West Vs. Hollywood: The Portrayal of Pistol Pete

Is True Grit Based on Frank Eaton?

Frank Eaton Face

Hollywood doesn’t give much thought to being politically correct. Many famous phrases, scenes, movies, and storylines have been ‘borrowed’ from real life occurrences and portrayed incorrectly on screen, in books and through the media. Some of the most ‘borrowed’ storylines come from real stories and tall tales from the old west, while real stories from the Old West are ‘borrowed’ to use in Hollywood movies and television shows.

From sci-fi to the Wild West, there aren’t many films that I fail to find something interesting about in each of them. Through my love of films, I look for similarities between movies and history, as well as inaccuracies.

The Old West, also known as the Wild West is one of the most portrayed eras in American history through Hollywood movies. Frank Eaton, aka Pistol Pete has been overlooked and unappreciated despite his incredible story and impact on history. One of the most successful western movies of the past decade was True Grit, which seems to resemble more than just an imaginative fictional story.

True Grit (1969)

The 2010 remake of the1969 Western film True Grit was a huge success in the box office and during award season. The story is about a tough young girl who vows to find her dead father’s murderers and bring them to justice.

The 1969 movie True Grit features famous Hollywood cowboy John Wayne, who plays a drunken U.S. Marshall. In a famous line that is followed by a gunfight on horseback, Wayne says to an opposing cowboy “Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch!”

In the movie, the young Mattie Ross gets revenge for her father’s murder by gunning down the suspected killer Tom Chaney.

Frank Eaton

The film True Grit is eerily similar to the true life story of Frank Eaton.

The Old West Lawman’s Forgotten Memoir, a memoir based on the life of Frank Eaton details his life as a lawman and specifically the hunt for his father’s murderers. Eaton’s father was killed in front of him as a child. Similar to the heroine in True Grit, Eaton was much tougher than most at his age and dedicated himself to revenging his father’s death and to bring the killers to justice.

At the age of fifteen, Eaton started training and soon impressed others with his strong shooting skills, earning the nickname Pistol Pete. After tracking down five of the killers over several years, the hunt for the final of his father’s killers, Wyley Campsey began. Eaton, now 21, tracked Campsey to a bar where he was a bartender and finished avenging his father’s death by killing Campsey in a shootout.

If you think that the storyline may be a coincidence, think again. Eaton, according to the Old West Lawman’s Forgotten Memoir, told Campsey “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” Could the line in the movie be a tribute to Eaton, or just a coincidence?

Whether True Grit is an adapted version of a fascinating portion of Frank Eaton’s life is up to you, but the similarities and use of a Frank Eaton quote seem to imply that there is a true Pistol Pete aspect of True Grit.


Eaton Home



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