The Films


Friday, January 13, 2023

#2,891. Cat Ballou (1965) - Jane Fonda Triple Feature


Jane Fonda played the title character but the big winner was Lee Marvin, who walked off with an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Bafta award for his portrayal of not one, but two western gunslingers in this ‘60s western spoof.

Schoolteacher Catherine “Cat” Ballou (Fonda) returns home to Wolf City, Wyoming, bringing with her a pair of outlaws, Clay Boone (Michael Callan), and Clay’s Uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman), both of whom she “met” on a train.

But all is not well on the Ballou homestead. The Wolf City Development Association is trying to steal the family ranch out from under Cat’s dad, Frankie (John Marley), and sent notorious outlaw Tim Strawn (Marvin) – who has a tin nose where his real one used to be – to run them off.

Anxious to save her family’s ranch, and not sure she can rely on Clay, Jed, or native American ranch-hand Jackson (Tom Nardini) for help, Cat writes to legendary gunslinger Kid Shelleen (Marvin, again), begging for his assistance.

Unfortunately, when Shelleen arrives, he is drunk and barely able to stand!

A tragedy occurs, at which point Cat and her compatriots, including the always-drunk Shelleen, ride into the hills, with an angry Cat anxious to have her revenge on all of Wolf City.

But does she and the others have what it takes to defeat an entire town?

Cat Ballou is a wild, crazy western comedy, with over-the-top characters, lots of action, and a toe-tapping soundtrack delivered by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, both of whom perform on-screen throughout the movie. Their best number is the title song, “The Ballad of Cat Ballou”, which was also nominated for an Academy Award. Honestly, though, there isn’t a bad tune in the bunch!

Fonda is likable as the overzealous Cat, willing to take on all of Wolf City by herself, while Marvin shines as both the inebriated Shelleen and the frightening Strawn.

Marley, Callan, Hockman, and Nardini are also solid in support, as is Reginald Denny as Sir Harry Percival (whose money is funding Wolf City’s rejuvenation) and Jay C. Flippen as the shifty Sheriff Cardigan, who is more interested in bringing money into Wolf City than he is law and order. There are also a handful of exciting scenes, including a daring train robbery conceived by Cat and inspired by a tale from one of the many books recounting Kid Shelleen’s exploits. I also loved the scene where Kid finally “sobers up” and pays a visit to his old “pal” Strawn.

But while the story and characters do their part to make Cat Ballou a rollicking good time, it’s Nat King Cole’s and Stubby Kaye’s musical interludes that steal the show!
Rating: 8 out of 10

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