Cat Ballou

Cat Ballou,  Cat  Ballou

She’s mean and evil through and through!

How many Western movies can you name that feature a Greek chorus (a group of singers that comment on the story, as in the classic Greek plays)?  I can only think of two.  One is the recently released RANGO, with the little singing owls.  The other is the 1965 comedy classic, CAT BALLOU.

Like RANGO, CAT BALLOU is a spoof on Western themes.  The Oscar-nominated movie, which I just rented and watched, is just as fresh and funny today as it was 46 years ago.

Cat (Catherine) is played by a young, Barbie-esque Jane Fonda.  She delivers an entertaining performance, but it’s the supporting cast that carries the show.

Let’s start with our Greek chorus – comedian Stubby Kaye and the incomparable Nat King Cole.  You’ll be singing their Oscar-nominated ballad long after you’ve heard it – you’ll find a YouTube link at the end of this blog.

But on with the story.  Aspiring schoolmarm Catherine arrives in Wolf City, Wyoming to discover that the Wolf City Development Corporation is trying to take her father Frankie’s ranch.  Frankie is being threatened by hired killer, Tim Strawn, alias Silvernose (did anybody else catch the silver beak on the hawk in Rango?) .  When Catherine, her two likeable rustler buddies and an educated Indian named Jackson Two-Bears can’t stand up to Strawn, she sends for legendary gunfighter Kid Shelleen, played by Lee Marvin, who also plays Strawn.

This film is worth seeing for Lee Marvin’s Oscar-winning performance alone.  As Kid Shelleen he won not only the Oscar (for which he gave 50% credit to his horse) but the Golden Globe and pretty much every known acting award on the planet.  Shelleen arrives, a drunken bum whose pants fall down when he draws his gun.  From the moment he rolls out of the stage boot, this is Marvin’s movie.

Strawn succeeds in killing Frankie.  When the city fathers won’t punish him, Catherine becomes outlaw Cat Ballou and vows to “make Wolf City bleed.”  When her gang robs the train carrying the city payroll, that promise is fulfilled.  Moved by unrequited love for Cat, Shelleen cleans up his act (the scene is priceless), goes after Strawn and kills him.

Meanwhile, Cat has a showdown with the head of the Wolf City Development Corporation and ends up shooting him.  Arrested, she’s sentenced to hang, which leads up a rip-roaring final action scene.  If you haven’t seen CAT BALLOU, you’ve missed out.  If you have, it’s worth a second look for old times’ sake.

Here’s the link to the song.  Enjoy.

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21 thoughts on “Cat Ballou”

  1. Hi Elizabeth, Just played the YouTube link and am expecting to be humming the song all day. It’s a charming movie. I haven’t seen it in ages! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  2. This movie is so much fun! I can understand why Lee Marvin gives so much credit to his horse! I hadn’t thought about comparisons with Rango…but there ya go.

    And what’s not to like about Stuffy Kaye? 🙂

    Looks like western movie week is off to a great start.

  3. Hi Elizabeth, I haven’t seen this movie in years. But I remember it being a fun movie, and you’re right Lee Marvin steals the show.

  4. My favorite part was when Lee Marvin And the horse were leaning against the building—both drunk. The horse even had his front legs crossed. That was his reference to the horse getting most of the award.
    Lee Marvin has always been my favorite cowboy and this movie showed off his ability as an actor.
    Great movie, Stuffy Kaye and all! LOL

  5. I can just picture that scene, Mary J. In his oscar acceptance speech, Lee Marvin said something like, “Somewhere out there there’s a horse who owns 50% of this.” That horse had to be superbly trained.

  6. I have wanted to watch this movie forever, but never gotten around to it. I think there is a VHS copy hiding on the shelf somewhere, I’ll have to go looking. If not, I’ll be looking for the DVD.
    Thanks for the reminder and the link.

  7. OMG I remember when this movie came out.. I loved it and Lee Marvin was great in the dual rolls, and the bad guy and in the drunk Hero… And Jane Fonda played the part so well.. The music in it was great.. I think this was one of the last things Nat King Cole did before he got sick…
    I could watch this movie over and over again.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. I hope it’ll encourage more people to watch this movie.
    I’d forgotten that Nat King Cole got sick not long after this movie was made. What a loss, he was the greatest. Thanks for the reminder.

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