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The Cowboys (1972)

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Rancher Wil Andersen is forced to hire inexperienced boys as cowhands in order to get his herd to market on time but the rough drive is full of dangers and a gang of cattle rustlers is trailing them.

Director:

Mark Rydell

Writers:

William Dale Jennings (novel), Irving Ravetch (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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3,746 ( 3,771)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Wil Andersen
Roscoe Lee Browne ... Jebediah Nightlinger
Bruce Dern ... Long Hair
Colleen Dewhurst ... Kate
Alfred Barker Jr. Alfred Barker Jr. ... Fats - Cowboy
Nicolas Beauvy Nicolas Beauvy ... Dan - Cowboy
Steve Benedict Steve Benedict ... Steve - Cowboy
Robert Carradine ... Slim Honeycutt - Cowboy
Norman Howell ... Weedy - Cowboy (as Norman Howell Jr.)
Stephen R. Hudis ... Charlie Schwartz - Cowboy (as Stephen Hudis)
Sean Kelly Sean Kelly ... Stuttering Bob - Cowboy
A Martinez ... Cimarron - Cowboy
Clay O'Brien ... Hardy Fimps - Cowboy
Sam O'Brien Sam O'Brien ... Jimmy Phillips - Cowboy
Mike Pyeatt Mike Pyeatt ... Homer Weems - Cowboy
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Storyline

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 <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The youngest was nine. There wasn't one of them over fifteen. At first, he couldn't stand the sight of them. At last, he couldn't take his eyes away. See more »


Certificate:

GP | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

13 January 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cowboys See more »

Filming Locations:

Durango, Colorado, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$7,500,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| 4-Track Stereo (some 35 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Mr. Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Brown) first meets John Wayne's character Mr. Anderson and is asked about his experience in cattle drives....he mentions the Oregon trail, Chisum and Sante Fe. John Wayne played John Chisum in the film "Chisum" previously in 1970. See more »

Goofs

After Cimarron calls Slim's Mom a name, and they fight, when Cimarron is getting on is horse to leave, you can see Slim putting his hat on in the background as he walks up. When the camera changes to a close up of Wil and the boys, Slim is standing behind him, and isn't wearing his hat. See more »

Quotes

Wil Andersen: You all right, boy?
Fats - Cowboy: Yes, sir. My name's Clyde Potter. They call me Fats.
Wil Andersen: Tend toward the gut myself.
See more »

Alternate Versions

During its roadshow release, the film featured - like most films shown in a roadshow format - an overture (heard on tape just before the film began), an intermission with entr'acte music, and exit music (heard after the film had ended). When the film went on general release, all of those elements were removed and the film was shown from beginning to end with no interruption. See more »

Connections

Featured in Big Guns Talk: The Story of the Western (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Home on the Range
(uncredited)
Music by Daniel E. Kelley
Lyrics by Brewster M. Higley
Sung by the boys in camp
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Breaking of Boys and the Making of Men.
9 May 2011 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

The Cowboys is directed by Mark Rydell and adapted from the novel written by William Dale Jennings; who co-writes the screenplay with Irving Ravetch & Harriet Frank Jr. It stars John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Browne, Bruce Dern and Colleen Dewhurst. John Williams scores the music and Robert Surtees is the cinematographer. Plot sees Wayne as tough cattleman Wil Andersen, who after finding all his cowhands have fled to find their fortune elsewhere, is forced to use a bunch of green teenagers to get his beef to market. It's a journey of some distinction, for Wil, the boys and the villains who lurk on the edges of the frame.

If ever there was a John Wayne picture that was in need of serious critical reevaluation, both as a measure of his acting ability-and quality in film narrative, then The Cowboys is the one. It's a film that has been known to upset the liberal minded, where the ideology at its core has been lambasted as being objectionable in the least. Yet looking at it closely, away from the humour that does exist within, it finds the Duke at his most vulnerable, therefore believable, and at its centre it's a coming of age tale told with cynical coldness. During this cattle drive innocence will be lost, Andersen is tough and a disciplinarian, yet he's always a benevolent father figure. Wil himself hit the cattle drive trail at 13, he knows the pains and perils of such a task. He also knows that boys need to become men, especially out here in the wilderness. I'd be disappointed in a piece of Western genre cinema if it glossed over this fact. And The Cowboys doesn't, it has a sting in its tail, the trick is that the boys are not judged by how Wil taught them, but defined by a turn of events that calls on them to "man" up. The actions of another being the catalyst for childhood's ending.

Robert Surtees' photography paints a beautiful picture, it's pastoral, broad and appealing, but crucially it doesn't make it poetic. These young lads are entering the unknown, each section of God's great land is beautiful to us, but dangerous to them. It's an overlooked point that critics of the film ignore, that of Wil Andersen not leading these boys on a romantic trip thru the colourful terrain. It's not romantic, it's dangerous, and it's credit to Surtees that he achieves both sides of the coin; beauty and peril in the same frame. The young actors are, expectedly, a mixed bunch, but there's nothing here to be overtly negative about. Roscoe Lee Browne is terrific, his shift from wry observationalist to "Mother Hen" is handled with great skill, and Bruce Dern is memorable in more ways than one. The complaints come from not enough screen time for Colleen Dewhurst, who playing a bordello madame positively threatens to send the film's rating thru the roof (and the male viewers temperature's), while the running time is simply too long-too episodic-and quite frankly, unnecessary.

The Cowboys is not a perceived John Wayne macho based fantasy movie, it has meaning, depth, bravery and a first class performance from the Duke himself. 8/10


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