I was pleased to see Beliefnet blogger Mark Roberts write about the use of the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” in its evocative soundtrack.
Ironically, according to Ethan Coen, they knew “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” from another movie, The Night of the Hunter, where it is sung by an insane murderer. The Coens wanted to use music that reflected point of view of True Grit’s protagonist, 14-year-old Mattie Ross. According to Coen, she is “an old Protestant at the age of 14.” So they picked a hymn that would have been sung by Protestants in the late 1800s, the era in which True Grit takes place.
Roberts’ discussion of the song’s origins is fascinating and deepens my appreciation for the hymn and its resonant use in the film.