theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Elliot Silverstein|
|Produced by||Harold Hecht|
|Written by||Walter Newman
|Story by||Roy Chanslor (novel)|
Nat King Cole
|Music by||Frank De Vol (score)
Mack David (songs)
Jerry Livingston (songs)
|Cinematography||Jack A. Marta|
|Editing by||Charles Nelson|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||June 24, 1965 (US)|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Cat Ballou is a 1965 comedy/Western film which tells the story of a woman who hires a famous gunman to protect her father's ranch, and later to avenge his murder, but finds that the man she hires is not what she expected. The movie stars Jane Fonda in the title role, with Lee Marvin, who won an Oscar for his dual role, Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, and singers Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, who together perform the movie's theme song.
The film was directed by Elliot Silverstein from a screenplay adapted by Walter Newman and Frank Pierson from the novel The Ballad of Cat Ballou by Roy Chanslor. Chanslor's novel was a serious Western, and though it was turned into a comedy for the movie, the filmmakers retained some of the story's darker elements. The film references many classic Western films, most notably Shane.
Catherine Ballou (Jane Fonda), an aspiring schoolteacher, is traveling by train to Wolf City, Wyoming, to visit her rancher father, Frankie Ballou (John Marley). En route she unwittingly helps accused cattle rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan) elude his captor, the sheriff (Bruce Cabot), when Boone's Uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman), a drunkard disguised as a preacher, distracts the lawman. She reaches the ranch to find that the Wolf City Development Corporation is trying to take the ranch away from her father, whose only defender is an educated Indian, Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini). Clay and Jed appear and reluctantly offer to help Catherine. She also hires legendary gunfighter Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) to come and help protect her father from fast-drawing Tim Strawn (also Marvin), alias Silvernose, the hired killer who is threatening Frankie.
Shelleen arrives, a drunken stumblebum who is literally unable to hit the broad side of a barn when he shoots and whose pants fall down when he draws his gun. Strawn kills Frankie, and when the townspeople refuse to bring him to justice, Catherine becomes a revenge-seeking outlaw known as Cat Ballou. She and her four gang members rob a train carrying the Wolf City payroll, and Shelleen, inspired by his love for Cat (unrequited because she loves Clay), shapes up and kills Strawn. Later he casually reveals that Strawn was his brother.
Cat poses as a lady of loose morals and confronts town boss Sir Harry Percival (Reginald Denny), owner of the Wolf City Development Corporation. A struggle ensues, Sir Harry is killed, and Cat is sentenced to be hanged on the gallows. Just after the noose is placed around her neck, Uncle Jed (again as a fake preacher) cuts the rope as she falls through the trapdoor. Her gang then spirits her away in a daring rescue.
- Jane Fonda as Cat Ballou
- Lee Marvin as Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn
- Michael Callan as Clay Boone
- Dwayne Hickman as Jed
- Nat King Cole as The Sunrise Kid
- Stubby Kaye as Professor Sam the Shade
- Tom Nardini as Jackson Two-Bears
- John Marley as Frankie Ballou
- Reginald Denny as Sir Harry Percival
- Jay C. Flippen as Sheriff Cardigan
- Arthur Hunnicutt as Butch Cassidy
- Cast notes
- Cole and Kaye are billed onscreen simply as "Shouters". They act as a Greek chorus, intermittently narrating the story through verses of "The Ballad of Cat Ballou", which, along with the other songs in the film, was written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston.
Production notes 
- At the beginning of the film's opening credits, the Columbia Pictures "Torch Lady" does a quick-change into a cartoon Cat Ballou, who draws and fires her pistols into the air.
- Nat King Cole was ill with lung cancer during the filming of Cat Ballou. A chain smoker most of his life, Cole died several months before the film was released.
- Among many others, Kirk Douglas allegedly turned down the role of Shelleen; ironically, many years later he would play a similar double role in The Man from Snowy River. Jack Palance desperately wanted the role but was never offered it.
- Ann-Margret was first choice for the title role but her manager turned it down without letting the actress know about the offer. Ann-Margret later wrote in her autobiography that she would have wanted to play the part.
- The film was shot in just 28 days.
- Noted make-up artist John Chambers created the prosthetic nose worn by Lee Marvin through the film.
- The film was director Elliot Silverstein's second feature film, and his relationship with producer Harold Hecht during filming was not smooth.
Reception and influence 
- Although the film received mixed reviews, it was popular with moviegoers and earned $20 million in ticket sales in 1965, making it one of the top ten moneymaking movies that year.
- Cat Ballou is the favorite film of comedy directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly, as stated in The AFI 100 Years, 100 Laughs television special. The Balladeers from their film, There's Something About Mary, are inspired by the similar characters in Cat Ballou.
- Imagery from the hanging scene of Jane Fonda was used in spoofs advocating her execution for treason following her 1972 visit to Hanoi. A very brief shot from that scene was also used as part of Alex DeLarge's sadistic reverie in the movie A Clockwork Orange.
- "Cat Ballou" is a card in the spaghetti western board game Bang!.
Awards and honors 
- Lee Marvin awards won
- 1965 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
- 1965 British Academy Award Winner for Best Actor
- 1965 Golden Globe Award Winner for Best Actor
- 1965 Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 15th Berlin International Film Festival
In his acceptance speech at the Oscars, Lee Marvin opened by saying, "I think I should be sharing this award with a horse somewhere out there in the San Fernando Valley," a reference to the horse Kid Shelleen rode, who appeared to be as drunk as Shelleen was.
- Academy Award nominations
- Best Film Editing
- Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment
- Best Music, Song - Jerry Livingston and Mack David for "The Ballad of Cat Ballou"
- Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
- American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs - #50
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains:
- Tim Strawn - Nominated Villain
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs:
- The Ballad of Cat Ballou - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - #10 Western
In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Cat Ballou was acknowledged as the tenth best film in the Western genre.
- "Cat Ballou, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
- Cole, Georgelle. "Cat Ballou" on TCM.com
- "Music" on TCM.com
- Passafiume, Andrea (ed.) "Cat Ballou" on TCM.com
- Osborne, Robert. Outro to Turner Classic Movies presentation of Cat Ballou (May 14, 2011)
- Brian Pendreigh (7 September 2001). "Obituary:John Chambers: Make-up master responsible for Hollywood's finest space-age creatures". The Guardian. Retrieved Feb 27, 2013.
- "Berlinale 1965: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-02-30.
- American Film Institute (2008-06-17). "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- "Top Western". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- Cat Ballou at the Internet Movie Database
- Cat Ballou at AllRovi
- Cat Ballou at the TCM Movie Database