Cat Ballou

Cat Ballou Information

Cat Ballou is a 1965 comedy/Western film, the story of a woman who hires a notorious gunman to protect her father's ranch, and later to avenge his murder, but finds that the gunman 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 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 darker elements. The film references many classic Western films, notably Shane.


Catherine Ballou (Jane Fonda), an aspiring schoolteacher, is returning home by train to Wolf City, Wyoming, to the ranch of her father, Frankie Ballou (John Marley). On the way, 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. At the ranch, she learns that the Wolf City Development Corporation is scheming to take the ranch from her father, whose sole defender is an educated Indian, Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini). Clay and Jed appear and reluctantly offer to help Catherine. She hires legendary gunfighter Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) to help protect her father from fast-draw Tim Strawn (also Marvin), alias Silvernose, the hired killer who is threatening Frankie.

Shelleen arrives, a drunken stumblebum, unable to hit the broad side of a barn 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 gang 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 as the noose is placed around her neck, Uncle Jed (again as a 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 simply as "Shouters". They act as a Greek chorus, intermittently narrating the story through verses of "The Ballad of Cat Ballou", which, along with other song, was written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston.

Production notes

  • At the beginning of the 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, Cole died several months before the film was released.
  • Among others, Kirk Douglas allegedly turned down the role of Shelleen; ironically, years later he would play a similar double role in The Man from Snowy River. Jack Palance desperately wanted the role but it was never offered.
  • Ann-Margret was first choice for the title role but her manager turned it down without letting the actress know. Ann-Margret wrote in her autobiography that she would have wanted the part.
  • The film was shot in 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 while 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 similar characters in Cat Ballou.
  • Imagery from the hanging scene of Jane Fonda was spoofed advocating her execution for treason following her 1972 visit to Hanoi. A brief shot from that scene was 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 Oscar acceptance speech, 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.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cat_Ballou" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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