While I liked The Cowboys every bit as well as any John Wayne movie (except perhaps The Quiet man and Red River), I was quite disappointed when I saw it the first time. I often used it when teaching high school English as an example of the differences between the movie and the book.
When I learned that The Cowboys was coming out as a movie, I read the book. Throughout the story I could imagine how The Duke would portray Wil Anderson in the movie. Heck, I'd seen most of his movies, and I thought I had him cold.
Then I saw the movie, and John Wayne screwed it up! He didn't do it like he did in the movie I saw in my head while reading the book. Very few of the scenes in his rather short appearance lived up to my expectations.
The Cowboys became my best teaching example of how the visions we see in our heads while reading are often more real and vivid than what appears on the screen.
Don't get me wrong. The Cowboys is an excellent movie, and John Wayne's portrayal of Wil Anderson was certainly masterful. It's just that it fell short of my expectations--or were my expectations too high?