Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1965. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Harold Hecht Productions. Screenplay by Walter Newman, Frank Pierson, based on the novel by Ray Chanslor. Cinematography by Jack A. Marta. Produced by Harold Hecht. Music by Frank De Vol. Production Design by Malcolm Brown. Costume Design by Bill Thomas. Film Editing by Charles Nelson.
The tone is perfect in this spoof-flavoured western, starring a delicious Jane Fonda as the title character and featuring an Oscar-winning double performance from Lee Marvin as two gunslingers. Fonda returns to the frontier after finishing her education, determined to be a schoolteacher and live on the farm run by her cantankerous and unpopular father (John Marley). When he is dealt a raw hand by greedy neighbours and authorities who want his land for future development purposes, Fonda puts on a pair of pants, gets atop a horse and goes in search of revenge. She takes on two hired guns, one of whom she has the hots for, then ropes in a third, once-legendary, now drunk pistol shooter (Marvin again) to go to go after the evil, noseless killer (also Marvin) who has ruined her life, financing the operation with a train robbery that is full of hilarious incidents. Beautiful vistas, a game cast, a musical score performed onscreen by Stubby Kaye and Nat ‘King’ Cole are added to a strangely effective combination of witty dialogue and old world charm for a movie that is too slim to be satisfying but is far too easy to sit through to be worth complaining about. Fonda’s fiery personality and early gumption are unfortunately thrown away quickly in favour of letting the men do all the work, a shameful waste of the charisma she brings to the film that far outdoes her co-stars, but it’s a good time to be had all the same.
Academy Award: Best Actor (Lee Marvin)
Nominations: Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment; Best Song (“The Ballad of Cat Ballou”)
Golden Globe Award: Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Lee Marvin)
Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Jane Fonda); Best Original Song (“The Ballad of Cat Ballou”)