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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.

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(novel), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Wil Andersen
... Jebediah Nightlinger
... Long Hair
... Kate
Alfred Barker Jr. ... Fats - Cowboy
Nicolas Beauvy ... Dan - Cowboy
Steve Benedict ... Steve - Cowboy
... Slim Honeycutt - Cowboy
... Weedy - Cowboy (as Norman Howell Jr.)
... Charlie Schwartz - Cowboy (as Stephen Hudis)
Sean Kelly ... Stuttering Bob - Cowboy
... Cimarron - Cowboy
... Hardy Fimps - Cowboy
Sam O'Brien ... Jimmy Phillips - Cowboy
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:

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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

13 January 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cowboys  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$7,500,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)| (some 35 mm prints)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the opening cast credits, the young actors portraying the cowboys are presented after Maggie Costain, while the end credits list them after Colleen Dewhurst. See more »

Goofs

The teacher calls Homer and Bob by each other's names when she asks them to adjust the blackboard. See more »

Quotes

Jebediah Nightlinger: [praying to God before he's about to hanged by Asa Watts and his gang] I regret trifling with married women. I'm thoroughly ashamed at cheating at cards. I deplore my occasional departures from the truth. Forgive me for taking your name in vain, my Saturday drunkenness, my Sunday sloth. Above all, forgive me for the men I've killed in anger
[eyes shifting to Asa Watts]
Jebediah Nightlinger: ... and those I am about to.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Farscape: Throne for a Loss (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Guitar Concerto in D, 2nd movement (Largo)
(uncredited)
Written by Antonio Vivaldi
Played by Slim and also heard during a scene of the drive
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Breaking of Boys and the Making of Men.
9 May 2011 | by See 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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