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Efrem Zimbalist Jr.,
Cat(herine) Ballou's family farm is being threatened by the Rail Road. She sends for Kid Shelleen, finding him to be the drunkest gunfighter in the west. When her father is killed by the rail road magnate's gunman, she vowes to fight on. Shelleen manages to ride sideways in several scenes, while minstrels sing the ballad of Cat Ballou in between scenes. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
"The Queen Of The Outlaws, Her Name Is Cat Ballou"
Cat Ballou's significance in film history is not the quality of the film itself, though it's a pretty funny piece of work. It's because it vaulted Lee Marvin up from the ranks of featured players and made him a star with an hysterical Oscar winning performance.
It's also the only time in film history that anyone won an Oscar for a dual role. Marvin is featured as deadly contract killer, Jack Strawn and as his alcoholic brother Kid Shelleen.
The brothers get into a range feud and opposite sides. An eastern conglomerate headed by Reginald Denny is putting the squeeze on John Marley right at the same time as his daughter Jane Fonda in the title role is coming back from eastern finishing school.
Marley and Fonda have a hired killer strong arming them, so at the suggestion of a curious gang of friends she's developed, Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, and Tom Nardini, she goes and gets her own outlaw.
Of course the dueling Marvins do have it out and I think you can guess who won.
Sometimes it's easy to forget about some of the others in Cat Ballou because of Marvin's Oscar. Jane Fonda looks like she's having a great old time, satirizing certain themes that are sacred in Hollywood westerns. She plays her role as the budding Calamity Jane absolutely straight and lets the comedy fall around her.
One favorite I have from the film is Hollywood veteran Reginald Denny. In the old days he was usually a rival or best friend to various leading men in the Hollywood English colony. He looks like he's having one grand old time playing the rakish Harry Percival the chief villain of Cat Ballou.
The film is helped along with those singing narrations by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye. At one time Cole and Kaye are in a bordello and he's both singing and playing the honky tonk piano. Since Cole's velvet syrupy singing is what most remember him for, it's good to remember that in the beginning Cole was a jazz pianist and his original records were with the Nat King Cole Trio as a pianist. His singing was something added and then took over his career. Cole was one of the great and most unique voices of the last century, he left us way too soon.
Four years later John Wayne won his Oscar for the boozy Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. What I would have loved to have seen is Wayne and Marvin playing their Oscar winning characters in a dual venture. That would have been a movie to remember.
As is the funny and touching Cat Ballou.
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