Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cat Ballou!

Okay here is a semi-review of Cat Ballou (1965):

I LOVE this movie. It's one of those films that provides such nice, mind-smushing entertainment that one can't help but feel happier after seeing it. I started thinking about this movie after I did that post about Michael Callen looking exactly like Kris Allen. I just had to see it again...it's so much fun, so I checked it out from my library (although I really need to buy a copy).

First a run-down of the characters (I will list them as they were billed...not necessarily my order of importance though):

Jane Fonda is Cat Ballou, a fresh-out of the-girls academy student-who wants to be a school teacher. She seeks revenge on Wolf City for what they did to her father, wreaks havoc wherever she goes, and falls for Clay...not necessarily in that order!

I give her performance 4 out 5 stars (I measure my stars by how much an actor entertained me/lived up to my expectations). Jane did very well with what she had, which was not the main comedic role. She was the "foundation" for the film. Because you can't have every character be crazy in a film...it just doesn't work (most of the time). There has to be someone playing it straight...that's what Jane did. And she did quite well at it too!

Lee Marvin is Kid Shelleen/Tim Strawn. I have frankly NEVER even liked his performance in this film. I don't how he got the Oscar, because in my opinion (and I know it isn't shared by many others) he wasn't very funny in this film. Now, I have never, ever liked Lee Marvin as an actor...but I am usually willing to overlook something like that...if the actor does really, really well in a film. When I first saw this movie I was expecting him to do just that. The hype around his role was incredible, and I started to get excited about it. But, he just didn't deliver. There were a few funny lines, but not nearly as much as I expected from an Oscar-winning performance.

I give his performance 1 out of 5 stars.

Michael Callan is the "absolutely useless" Clay Boone, a cattle rustler with a price on his head ($35). He is a forever charming outlaw, but he doesn't want Cat to think that he's offering any "unwelcome advances", because he "put's women on a pedestal, he does". However his Uncle Jed would beg to differ, "His [Clay's] morals have been a millstone around my neck".

I give his performance 5 out of 5 stars. This is partially because I simply adore Michael, but it's also more than that. I really believe he gave an excellent performance. His Clay is one of the funniest characters in the film (along with Uncle Jed and Jackson Two-Bears). He delivers his lines perfectly and adds quite a lot to his supporting character.

Dwayne Hickman is Uncle Jed. Strangely enough he appears to be the same age as his nephew Clay. He likes to masquerade as preacher (and the costume becomes quite handy at times). At heart he is a great moralist, despite being a cattle rustler. His main function in life is to follow Clay around making sure he doesn't get into trouble.

I give his performance 5 out of 5 stars. He is hilarious. His facial expressions are priceless! He does this role so well! He and Michael work really well together. But his best scenes are when he gives his "eloquent" speeches about morality and righteousness.

Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye are the two singing narrators. They are fantastic. This is one of only two films I have seen Stubby in (the other being "Guys and Dolls"...he was Nicely-Nicely) and he is a joy. But, Nat King Cole is utterly amazing. His voice is such a refreshing sound. It is very sad that he died of lung cancer just months before the film was released. This was his final film...and he puts his all into it.

I give both of them 5 out of 5 stars.

Tom Nardini is Jackson Two-Bears, a non-Hebrew speaking, Sioux Indian. He is not responsible for what happened to General Custer ("I swear, I was just a little baby then!"), but some people just don't seem to understand that.

I give his performance 5 out of 5 stars. Tom does a stupendous job with this role. He is witty, caring, and simply hilarious! Jackson, Clay, and Jed are the funniest characters in the movie and this definitely in part because of Tom's brilliant acting.

John Marley is Frankie Ballou. He is Cat's father. And he is also a rancher, firmly convinced that Jackson is Jewish (as are all Indians). He is stubborn and brave, but has a tragic accident half-way through the film (well, as tragic as can be in a comedy such as this).

I give his performance 4 out of 5 stars. He is excellent in this movie and really delivers some laughs. His insistance that Jackson is Jewish is a definite highlight.

Okay, now I will show about a billion screen-shots and simultaneously semi-discuss the rest of the film:

SPOILER ALERT: I may give away small plot details, nothing incredibly important, but nonetheless I thought I should warn you.

This is the first scene when we meet Cat. She is sewing her "hanging dress" as she is sentenced to die the next day. She thinks back to how it all started (mere weeks/months (not exactly clear) ago).

This is the second scene, this is also when we first meet Clay. He is in a sheriff's custody and is being taken to trial.

This is seconds later and we first meet Uncle Jed (disguised as a drunk preacher).

Quote of the scene:
Jed: "I'm as drunk as a skunk. I apologize for being in this disgusting condition. I assure you, I'll not inflict myself on you further. It's the first time in my life I ever drank. I took the pledge at the the big temperance meeting...in Gratzburg, Montana. You remember that? It was a great outpouring of the spirit...and I'll not inflict myself on you further."

Clay hides out in Cat's berth after escaping the Sheriff.

Quote(s) of the scene:
Cat: "I thought you were lying."
Clay: "You mean I wasn't!?"

Clay: "What's your name, so I can vote for you in the next election?"

The silver-nosed ("it got bit off in a fight") gunfighter, Tim Strawn.

After a dance, Clay and his Uncle Jed come home with Cat (who has asked for their help). The "cowardly" Clay has different ideas on his mind, than helping defend the farm.

Quote of the scene:
Cat: "I can't talk with you just sitting on the bed."
Clay: "Try."

Uncle Jed pops up at the window at the most inopportune moment (according to Clay). But gallantly offers his services as a gunman.

Quote of the scene:
Cat: "I helped you before. Will you help me?
Jed: "Certainly ma'am, anything.
Cat: "Stay here with us. Somebody's trying to kill my father, Jed."
Jed: "We'll stay ma'am, to do what we can."
Cat: (pointing to Clay) "We don't need him then."
Clay: "I think you do. See, my uncle ain't never shot at a man. It's against his principles."
Cat: "Is that true."
Jed: "Yes, ma'am, that's true. Neither has he."
Clay: "But we'll stay and do what we can...........as long as there ain't no trouble."

The drunk, Kid Shelleen shows up. He is slightly less than what they were hoping.

Quote of the scene:
[Kid tries to hit a target and misses the whole barn]
Clay: "He did it! He missed the barn!"

The entire gang together at Hole in theWall: Kid, Cat, Clay, Jed, and Jackson.
This planning scene is one of my favorites. Clay is trying to impress Cat by suggesting the gang rustle 50 head of cattle. Cat is unimpressed and suggests robbing a train instead.

Quote(s) of the scene:
Jed: "Ma'am, I can understand your objection to rustlin' - a girl with your background and gentle upbringing - but it's the only way we can raise money. "
Cat: "No it's not."
Clay: Well, what do you think we ought to do that's fittin' and proper?"
Cat: "Rob a train."

Clay: "We can't hold up the train."
Cat: "Why not?"
Clay: "Lots of reasons."
Cat: "Name 'em."
Clay: "We're rustlers, not train robbers."
Cat: "Well, if people didn't try something new, there wouldn't be hardly any progress at all."

Jed, Cat, and Clay attempt to rob the train, but the guard is not at all scared by them (and their gun).

Quote of the scene:
Jed: "Here's the safe."
Cat: "Okay, you, open up!"
Guard: "Nope."
Clay: Come on now! Open it! I got a gun!
Guard: "You'll just have to use it."
Jed: "What are we gonna do?
Clay: "I told you this could happen."

After the train-robbery, Cat expresses her love for Clay, which thoroughly frightens him off. In fact, he runs right away!

Quote(s) of the scene:
Cat: "I think I love you."
Clay: "There you go, all serious all of a sudden. You're like all the rest of them, you gotta be in love with some guy! Come on! Don't be so serious!"
Cat: "You're nothing like you think you are."
Clay: "How's that?"
Cat: "Cowardy custard. Oh, you're selfish and a little stupid...but you're not cowardly at all."
Clay: "Well, I mean...when you admire a man, you just go all out!"
Cat: "Love is not blind. I see all your faults, and I don't care. I love you anyway!"
Clay: "Love! And I was gonna take you to St. Louis."

Clay: "I never promised to be no hero, did I?"
Cat: "You're no hero, so don't worry about it."

....Skipping a substantial part of the film in order to not give anything important away....

In the last scene, Cat is led to the gallows...beyond any hope...or so it seems....


Anyways, in conclusion, I simply love this movie. It's happy and very funny! And I would recommend it to anyone!

Terribly sorry about this disjointed and slightly (or more than slightly) confusing post. That is why it is called a semi-review....hahahaha! But, I keep getting the feeling I left something important out...I always do. Oh, well!

Jane in a publicity photo.



DKoren said...

Hee! Fun post and a fun movie! Naturally, I'm one of those opposites... growing up, we watched the movie only for Lee Marvin. My mom would start the movie at his arrival in town, and fast-forward through any scene he wasn't in. (But he is one of my top five fave actors of all time and hers too, so that's expected.) Later, when I was much older, we'd watch the whole movie instead of the shortened version and I came to appreciate the rest of it. Jackson and Jed were always my favorites. (I got to meet Dwayne Hickman earlier this year and tell him how much I loved him in Cat Ballou! He was very cool!) And her father! "She used to see moon men, creeping down the wall..." :-D My family quotes this movie all the time. If you haven't listened to the commentary from Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman on the dvd, you should... it's as funny as the movie! They're a crack up!

Millie said...

Thank you, DKoren!

I checked my e-mail and saw "New Comment From DKoren". I was like, oh no! Because I knew you loved Lee's performance in this movie.

That's funny about your mom. It sounds like something my mom would do.

That's so cool that you met Dwayne Hickman!

I have listened to the commentary. I was seriously laughing out loud over Michael trying to get all the parts, or when Dwayne told the story about the director telling him to just act like an idiot...like he'd been doing the whole time.

Nicole said...

This movie was a riot to watch and Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman were excellent as the uncle and nephew. They certainly did their best in this film. Marvelous review. =)

Millie said...

I know, Nicole! Michael and Dwayne were HILARIOUS!

Hahaha, you're sweet. Because really this is NOT a marvelous review...and I'm the first to admit that!

Dave said...

I remember seeing this film on TV when I was pretty young and not quite able or ready to get the jokes. But it sure did get my grandpa laughing! I like early Jane Fonda so that draws my interest, and found that publicity shot at the end quite charming - isn't that just about the quintessential 60's pin-up pose? Your write-up was great, thanks for triggering that happy memory of my granddad.

Millie said...

Aww, that's so cool that you have such happy memories involved with this film!

I like that shot too, and it definitely is!

Thanks, and I'm glad that it brought back good memories!

Clarity said...

Love Cat Ballou to pieces, one of my all time favourite films as a little girl watching it on VHS. Thank you for the reminders.

I dare you to track down Michael Callan and get an interview - like your blog and adoring you.

Millie said...

Well, I'm utterly glad I could remind you of it! :-D

HAHAHAHAHAH! That I don't see happening. However, maybe I'll write him a letter! ;-D

Clarity said...

Millie, following you back!

Oh go on, take me up on my dare, wouldn't it be groovy if you could get short sound bytes from him/ most of the inimitable performers we admire from the past? Just thinking aloud, I'm a young Director and wish half the actors out there would "learn from" sometimes.

P.S. If you write that letter I want to see it ;)

Millie said...

Oh, it would be definitely COOL! Utterly! I just don't think that would happen. Haha...

That's really cool, about you being a director!

I know, totally. They classic films/actors have so much to teach people in the movie-making business now!

Haha, well, all the letters I've written before would be very embarrassing for me to post. They usually are just full of gushing/not very understandable adoration from me! I actually have gotten responses from all three of the ladies I've written: Deanna Durbin, Doris Day, and Pat Hitchcock...so that's really exciting!

Hmm, I think YOU should write him a letter! ;-D

Randy_C_Jones said...

Honest though you may be, in saying you NEVER liked Lee Marvin sounds like an admission of prejudice to me. With this predisposition of indifference, there is no way your rating can contain any merit. (I understand you sentiment - I don't care for Betty Davis myself, but I must conceed she is incredibly convincing in her roles.) I would suggest a re-evaluation in light of the fact that he received the Oscar for best supporting actor playing dual roles. I found his performance not only entertaining and hilarious, but very convincing as both the dime-store novelized, burned-out drunken, gunfighter and the alter-ego villain Tim Straw. If you compare his version to the 1971 TV show version with Forest Tucker and Jack Elam, Lee Marvin's performance is undeniably the best.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin