Cat Ballou (1965)

The Great Movie Re-Watch

Cat Ballou (1965)


Elliot Silverstein


Walter Newman

Frank Pierson


Jane Fonda

Lee Marvin

Michael Callan

Dwayne Hickman

Nat ‘King’ Cole

Stubby Kaye


A young schoolteacher turns into an outlaw to avenge her murdered father.


Cat Ballou is another one of my video rental finds. I’d never seen a western led by a woman, and I immediately loved it. Jane Fonda is gorgeous, and I loved how stubborn she was. She knew what she wanted, and when she decided how to do it, she was all in. She was the boss of the crew, and it was great.

While looking up this movie, I was surprised to find it had won an Oscar. Lee Marvin won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Eli ‘Kid’ Shelleen and Tim Strawn. It won a few other awards and was generally well-received by critics at the time. It was also one of the top-grossing movies of the year. Yet, we never got another female-led western like this one. How disappointing.

Because of the older men in my life, I’ve seen a fair few westerns, and it’s a genre of movies and books that I have enjoyed watching and reading. My problem with it and why I don’t enjoy more of it, is its depiction of women. Most of the time, they’re an afterthought, and other times they’re used as a tragedy to push the hero on to greatness. This isn’t a problem only westerns suffer from. It’s just harder to find female-led stories in the genre. Cat Ballou is one of just a handful of western movies led by women. Wyoming by Zane Grey and Ride the River by Louis L’Amour are my favorite western books. It’s been a while, but I used to re-read them frequently.

The Godless miniseries on Netflix is the last female-led western that I remember happening. Even that, though, had a man come in and save an entire town of women. I was so infuriated by that series, mainly because the trailer sold me something that wasn’t what I got.

I’ll stop before this gets any longer or angrier. Pretty sure more of these rants are to come, though.

Nat ‘King’ Cole and Stubby Kaye sing the narration in this movie, and I will end up having it stuck in my head for days.

There is a comedic element to the film, but it’s more of an undertone than flat out Blazing Saddles.

There are so many things to enjoy about this movie, and I’m happy that it’s one I own.


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