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Monday, November 17, 2014

Cat Ballou (1965)

When a young schoolteacher (Jane Fonda) returns from the East to her father's (John Marley) ranch in Wyoming, she finds that a land baron (Reginald Denny) is behind a scheme to take her father's ranch away. She hires a gunslinger (Lee Marvin) to protect her father but when he is killed by the land baron's hired gun (also Lee Marvin), she turns outlaw. This modest comedy was one of the surprise hits of 1965, winning Marvin a best actor Oscar and making him, after years in the business, a bankable leading man. It's a sweet good natured comedy, often poking friendly fun at the conventions of the western genre. While I personally may prefer other comedic westerns like THE PALEFACE or BLAZING SADDLES, it's an amiable treat. The cast all put their best foot forward (well, maybe not Dwayne Hickman) though Marvin's Oscar win does seem rather inexplicable today. Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye are two balladeers who occasionally pop up as a sort of singing Greek chorus, the songs courtesy of Mack David and Jerry Livingston and one of them, Ballad Of Cat Ballou, received an Oscar nomination for best song. Directed by Elliot Silverstein. With Michael Callan, Tom Nardini, Jay C. Flippen, Arthur Hunnicutt and Bruce Cabot.

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