Saturday, October 28, 2017

Cat Ballou

The opening moments of Elliot Silverstein's Cat Ballou pretty much establishes the general mood of it all, what with Nat King Cole (who died a few months before its release) and Stubby Kaye serving as a sort of Greek chorus. But boy, that doesn't even begin to describe it.

Starring Jane Fonda early in her career, Cat Ballou is a sort of send-up of the genre. (It's worth mentioning that her father was doing a number of westerns by this point in his own career.) It has a more slapstick approach to the subject matter, something not often seen in the otherwise somber field. (In fact, the source novel was a serious work. The comedy was added for the movie.)

Fonda may have been the star of Cat Ballou but the one responsible for stealing the show is Lee Marvin. (He didn't get that Oscar for nothing.) Playing dual roles as both Ballou's ally and enemy, he very obviously subverts his usual tough guy image. Now if only he had more opportunities to do comedy...

Similarly, Fonda is more known for serious fare but as she showed with Cat Ballou, she's good at comedy too. (Then again, Grace and Frankie might have reminded newer audiences to that fact.) And while she didn't enjoy making it, she still plays the straight woman role well.

Cat Ballou is a nice subversion of other films of the genre before it. Being released the same year as The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago, perhaps a less serious production was something the masses were looking for. (Hey, there was a lot going on then.)

My Rating: ****

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