Friday, May 13, 2011

Lee Marvin, comedian

I'm not a big fan of the movie, but some of you may want to catch Cat Ballou tonight at midnight on TCM.

The title role, Catherine "Cat" Ballou, is played by Jane Fonda, a woman of the old west who's gone east to train to become a schoolteacher, and is now returning home to teach. Home life isn't exactly peaceful, however, as her rancher father is in a dispute with the railroad (one of the western genre's oldest clich├ęs); it's a dispute that eventually leads to his getting shot. Cat vows revenge, and she's going to get it in the form of famous gunfighter Kid Sheleen (Lee Marvin). Unfortunately for her, Kid turns out to be the drunkenest gunfighter you've ever seen. Still, Cat presses on....

If you didn't guess it from the title of this post, you should get the point early on in the movie: Cat Ballou is, if anything, a spoof of the tradiitonal Hollywood western. Marvin not only plays Kid; he plays the bad guy, Tim Strawn, whose most noticeable trait is a silver nose, having lost his original nose in a gunfight years ago. There's also musical accompaniment/exposition provided by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye.

All in all, it adds up to a movie that's very well made and presented from a technical standpoint. All of the pieces fit together, and the movie should be a funny sendup of more traditional Hollywood westerns. And yet, there's something about it that's not quite my cup of tea. I'm not quite certain what that something is, although I must say that musicals and westerns aren't my favorite genres to begin with. Don't let that deter you, however; it would be unfair to call Cat Ballou a bad movie. For anybody who normally likes westerns, Cat Ballou should work very well.

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