Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Cat Ballou


For some unknown reason, I read two westerns around 1966: True Grit, and The Ballad of Cat Ballou. I don’t know why. I just don’t read westerns. It’s possible they were movie tie-ins, as the movies came out around that time. I enjoyed both of them, and the movies made from them. This one is clever and funny, though a lot of the first part is pretty lame, with Dwayne Hickman and Michael Callan providing so-so comic relief. I really liked having Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole providing an ongoing Greek chorus, singing about the action, and I liked Jane Fonda, but the movie doesn’t really come alive until the drunken Kid Shelleen, played wonderfully by Lee Marvin, shows up about a third of the way in. (He also plays the bad guy, Strawn, with his trademark menace.) It really shows the advantages of playing against type. Marvin steals the movie, handling the comedy wonderfully, and won an Oscar for it, beating the likes of Richard Burton, Rod Steiger, and … gasp! … Laurence Olivier!