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The best, GREATEST Western comedy movie ever made! Or is it the best, GREATEST comedy Western movie ever made? With the best movie character ever portrayed: Lee Marvin as Tim Strawn! And the best movie song ever sung: The Ballad of Cat Ballou!
Catherine "Cat" Ballou (Jane Fonda), who wants to be a schoolteacher, is returning home from boarding school by train to Wolf City, Wyoming, to the ranch of her father, Frankie Ballou. On the way, she unwittingly helps accused cattle rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan) elude his captor, Sheriff Maledon, when Boone's Uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman), a drunkard disguised as a preacher, distracts the lawman. Arriving home, Cat learns that the Wolf City Development Corporation is scheming to take the ranch from her father, whose sole defender is his ranch hand, educated Native American Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini). Clay and Jed appear and reluctantly offer to help Catherine, and she hires legendary gunfighter Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) to help protect her father from gunslinger Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin), the hired killer who is threatening Frankie Ballou...
The film was well received by critics and was popular with moviegoers and earned over $20.6 million in ticket sales in 1965, making it one of the top ten moneymaking movies that year.
"Cat Ballou" is a wonderful piece of western comedy with a great story and funny dialogue. Loved it as a kid, and I still love it. It has a good mix of comedy and darker matters. Lee Marvin is excellent as Kid Shelleen/Tim Strawn and he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his dual role. A well deserved Oscar in my book. As the drunken Shelleen, he's a comic delight to watch and I have always loved the slightly dark and funny scene when Frankie has passed away and Kid thinks it´s his birthday due to all the candles. Jane Fonda is radiant, beautiful and perfect as the shy and honorable Cat. Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman adds humour as Clay and Uncle Jed and so does Tom Nardini as Jackson Two-Bears. And I love the music scenes with Nat King Cole as Shouter - Sunrise Kid and Stubby Kaye as Shouter - Sam the Shade. Such a great idea in the film and it adds so much to the movie. "Cat Ballou" is funny, sharp, witty, warm and action-packed with a great ensemble that brings life to all the characters.
Trivia: - At his acceptance of the Oscar, Lee Marvin opened by saying, "Half of this probably belongs to a horse out in the Valley somewhere".
- The film's horse trainer told Elliot Silverstein that the scene where a horse leans against a wall with its front legs crossed could not be shot because horses don't cross their legs, then that it might be possible if he had a couple of days. Silverstein invoked his rank as director and gave him an hour. The trainer plied the horse with sugar cubes while repeatedly pushing its leg into position, and they were able to get the shot.
- Roy Chanslor's original novel was a serious western. The comedy elements were added for the film.
- Even though everyone knew that they were making at least a good film, no one had any idea that they were making a classic. Jane Fonda recalled - "I have to admit, it wasn't until I saw the final cut of Cat Ballou that I realized we had a hit on our hands. I hadn't been around when they filmed Lee's horse, leaning cross-legged up against the barn in what's become a classic image, or when Lee tries to shoot the side of the barn."
- According to Jane Fonda, production moved at a brisk pace - "It seemed we'd never do two takes unless the camera broke down. The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. 'Jane,' he said, 'we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don't stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don't have the power we do to say, 'Sh*t, no, we're workin' too hard.' You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.'"
- Lee Marvin's larger-than-life personality and fondness for tipping back the bottle made the actor a raucous but irresistible presence on the set. "Working with Lee Marvin was an unbelievable experience," said Dwayne Hickman. "Never have I met such an outrageous personality. Lee loved to drink, and the more he drank, the more outrageous he became. He had a story about everything and everybody. He also had very definite theories on acting and a style that was all his own. Lee figured if a little bit was good, a lot would be so much better. As a result, each take of a scene was bigger than the last." According to Hickman, Marvin sometimes used alcohol to enhance his performance as the drunken Kid Shelleen. For instance, the very first scene that Marvin shot was the one in which everyone meets Kid Shelleen for the first time, and he is falling down drunk. "He rehearsed several times," said Hickman, "and then went behind the barn and took a shot of vodka to steel himself. I ran into him in front of his dressing room where he had just gotten sick. When I asked if he was all right, he said, in typical Lee Marvin fashion, 'Tension, baby...just a little tension.'"
- Conceived as a lightweight, commercial western spoof, the film unexpectedly went on to garner five Academy Award nominations, for Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Score and Best Song.
- The performances of Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye are delivered entirely through song.
A classic western comedy
Campy FUN. Lee is luscious in this.
Most review this film simply as a film and that's certainly a legitimate way to go, all things being equal, but it misses the context of the times it was created in. In 1965 a something happened that shook the world and that something we forget or take for granted: the realisation that not everyone was free. In those days there was a riot waiting to happen behind that thought depending on what side of the street one stood on. This film imagines what life might be like otherwise and therein is its importance. So there's a woman outlaw, a Native American compadre, black and white balladeers leading the narrative, and a drunk trying to reclaim his life: all losers societally, bound together to change their lives, an American tale then. And then there's the story. The story ... eh, generic Western. But the rest carries the idea, if not perfectly, of freedom from the presumption of what role lives ought to be. "I choose my life!", but played for cute, for laughs, lightheartedly.
6.7/10, my review: http://wp.me/p1eXom-2tG
One of my favorite films ever. Great scenery (Colorado), great music (Nat King Cole), and funny as all get out (Lee Marvin surprised everybody with his sidesplitting drunk and his even funnier horse), plus Jane Fonda at her hubba-hubba cutest. A 60's classic...
A lively romp. I enjoyed it back in the 1970s in my teens and I still do today.
My favorite western.
Fun film with a great performance from Jane Fonda. Don't know how Lee Marvin A. Won an Oscar for this B. Considered the Lead. Great song "The Ballad of Cat Ballou"