When his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields, rancher Wil Andersen is forced to take on a collection of young boys as his drivers in order to get his herd to market in time to ... See full summary »
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When his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields, rancher Wil Andersen is forced to take on a collection of young boys as his drivers in order to get his herd to market in time to avoid financial disaster. The boys learn to do a man's job under Andersen's tutelage; however, neither Andersen nor the boys know that a gang of cattle thieves is stalking them. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
I've always had a feeling that John Wayne had some kind of health crisis and deliberately chose The Cowboys to be his swan song film. When it didn't work out that way, he went on and did some more until The Shootist.
Ever since his Oscar in True Grit, Wayne began playing men of his own age in his films and a common thread seemed to be imparting values to the next generations whether they wanted them or not. You can see that readily in films like Rio Lobo, Big Jake, Chisum, The Train Robbers, and Cahill, U.s. Marshal. Most especially in The Shootist with Ron Howard as his pupil.
But in The Cowboys he had a mess of pupils. Wayne's a hardworking rancher whose hands have deserted him because of a rumored gold strike. He has to get his cattle to market, so out of desperation he hires a bunch pubescent and pre-pubescent youngsters from the town.
The trail drive is quite the lesson for these kids. They learn about life that it is about hard work, responsibility, and keeping your given word. Wayne gets a second chance at fatherhood, he didn't do such a good job of it with his own two sons. More like grandfatherhood at his age, but the kids learn well.
Along as a second role model is Roscoe Lee Browne. Possessor of one of the greatest speaking voices in the English speaking world, Browne is the first black man they've ever met. In fact one of the kids uses the "N" word when first meeting him, out of ignorance more than racism. Browne sets them straight by example more than preaching.
The oldest two kids, A Martinez and Robert Carradine, have gone on to some considerable adult careers which they are still enjoying. All the kids are a winning bunch however.
A couple of the Duke's later westerns like The Train Robbers and Cahill I found to be flawed. Not so here. Director Mark Rydell keeps this one going at a good pace and does wonders with his cast of all ages.
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