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Cat Ballou

Cat Ballou(1965)

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)


Catherine "Cat" Ballou (Jane Fonda), a prim young schoolteacher, travels to Wolf City, Wyoming to visit her father (John Marley) after completing a proper Eastern education. When her father is murdered at the hands of the greedy Wolf City Development Corporation, Cat vows revenge. With the help of two charming young misfits (Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman) and drunken over-the-hill gun-for-hire Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin), Cat forms an unlikely band of outlaws. The gang must get its act together quickly in order for Shelleen to face off against the developers' silver-nosed hired killer Tim Strawn (also Lee Marvin, in a dual role).

Director: Elliot Silverstein
Producer: Harold Hecht, Mitch Lindemann (Associate Producer)
Screenplay: Walter Newman, Frank R. Pierson
Based on the novel The Ballad of Cat Ballou by Roy Chanslor
Cinematography: Jack Marta
Editing: Charles Nelson
Music Composer: De Vol
Costume Designer: Bill Thomas
Art Direction: Malcolm Brown
Cast: Jane Fonda (Catherine "Cat" Ballou), Lee Marvin (Kid Shelleen/Tim Strawn), Michael Callan (Clay Boone), Dwayne Hickman (Jed), Nat King Cole (Shouter), Stubby Kaye (Shouter), Tom Nardini (Jackson Two-Bears), John Marley (Frankie Ballou), Reginald Denny (Sir Harry Percival), Jay C. Flippen (Sheriff Cardigan), Arthur Hunnicutt (Butch Cassidy), Bruce Cabot (Sheriff Maledon), Burt Mustin (Accuser), Paul Gilbert (Train Messenger), Robert Phillips (Klem), Charles Wagenheim (James), Duke Hobbie (Homer), Ayllene Gibbons (Hedda), Everett L. Rohrer (Train Engineer), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Train Conductor), Hallene Hill (Honey Girl), Gail Bonney (Mabel Bentley), Joseph Hamilton (Frenchie), Dorothy Claire (Singing Tart), Charles Horvath (Hardcase), Chuck Roberson (Armed Guard), Ted White (Gunslinger), Erik Sorenson (Valet), Ivan L. Middleton (Train Fireman), Carol Veazie (Mrs. Parker), Elizabeth Harrower (1st Lady), Maxine Gates (2nd Lady), Jack Pepper (1st Undertaker), Patrick Campbell (2nd Undertaker).
C-96m. Letterboxed.

Why CAT BALLOU is Essential

While Jane Fonda is perfect as the title character in Cat Ballou, it is Lee Marvin who steals the show in his hilarious dual role as bumbling drunkard Kid Shelleen and silver-nosed villain Tim Strawn. Before this film, Marvin had spent years playing tough guys and heavies in mostly supporting roles. His performance in Cat Ballou surprised and delighted everyone with his heretofore untapped comic abilities. Marvin showed the world that he could play comedy as well as drama, and he was rewarded by winning the Academy Award as Best Actor for his effort. His success in the film opened up a whole new career as a leading man for the 40-year-old Marvin, who enjoyed major stardom and better roles than ever throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Cat Ballou was the film that finally made Jane Fonda a major star. While Lee Marvin may have received most of the accolades for his performance, Fonda holds her own in the title role. While Fonda had starred in a few films already, none had given her the major success she had hoped for. Cat Ballou was the first major box office hit she had ever been in and it catapulted her into a distinguished acting career that continues to this day.

Cat Ballou started out as a low budget B-movie, and while the people involved knew that the film was good, they had no idea that it would go on to become a classic and win Lee Marvin an Oscar®. The film that had cost peanuts to make ended up becoming the seventh most successful film of 1965.

While Cat Ballou was not the first film to parody the Western genre, its success helped revive interest in the comedy Western. It has influenced everything from Blazing Saddles (1974) to Bobby and Peter Farrelly's There's Something About Mary (1998) in which the filmmaker brothers pay homage in their use of a musical Greek chorus (Jonathan Richman), not unlike the roles of Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye in Cat Ballou.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)

ABC made a television pilot for a series based on Cat Ballou starring Lesley Ann Warren as Cat and Jack Elam in the Lee Marvin role. It aired on September 5, 1971, but was not picked up for series development and distribution.

NBC also made a television pilot for a series based on the film. It starred Jo Ann Harris as Cat and Forrest Tucker in the Lee Marvin part. It was also never optioned by the network for a series.

The Farrelly Brothers often cite Cat Ballou as one of their favorite films. They admittedly used the device of the strolling singing troubadours from Cat Ballou in their popular 1998 hit comedy There's Something About Mary.

Jane Fonda would become much more adept at screen comedy as a result of Cat Ballou, bringing crack timing and a sense of innocent bewilderment and an amusing naivety to her roles in Any Wednesday [1966], Barefoot in the Park [1967] and Barbarella [1968].

Despite Lee Marvin's success in a comedy, he would not follow Cat Ballou with any more comedic portrayals for many years. His hard drinking, disheveled miner in the musical romance, Paint Your Wagon [1969], shared similarities with his Tim Strawn role from Cat Ballou, but his dim-light-bulb character in Pocket Money [1972], opposite an equally clueless Paul Newman, was a much more deadpan comedic performance without the slapstick and broad humor of Cat Ballou. He did make one more comedy western in 1976, The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday; it was not a success.

The success of Cat Ballou encouraged other directors to attempt comedy-westerns, some of them successful such as Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles [1974] and the spaghetti Western spoof My Name Is Nobody [1973], but most of them were box office flops such as The Cheyenne Social Club [1970] and Rustlers' Rhapsody [1985].

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)

Cat Ballou was first previewed following a screening of How the West Was Won (1962).

The square dancing sequence near the beginning of the film was shot in almost one take. The complicated sequence was screenwriter Frank Pierson's idea.

Lee Marvin thanked his horse when he won the Academy Award as Best Actor.

Jane Fonda and her husband Roger Vadim rented a house in Malibu that once belonged to actress Merle Oberon to live in while Fonda was shooting Cat Ballou in California.

Co-star Dwayne Hickman took horse riding lessons for several weeks before shooting began on Cat Ballou.

Dwayne Hickman was hit in the eye with a splinter while shooting the scene in which Kid Shelleen challenges Clay to a fight and throws a chair at him. Hickman kept on going with the scene, but had to be patched up afterwards.

Jack Palance reportedly wanted to play the role of Kid Shelleen/Tim Strawn, but he was never considered for it.

Singer Nat King Cole was very sick with lung cancer during the making of Cat Ballou. He died in February 1965, a few months before the film was released and it was his final film appearance.

During the opening credits, the Columbia "Torch Lady" logo changes into a cartoon of Cat Ballou and shoots her guns into the air.

Ann-Margret was the first choice to play Cat Ballou, but she never even knew she had been offered the part until years after the film's release. It turned out that her manager had turned the offer down without ever consulting her. In her 1994 autobiography My Story, Ann-Margret says that she would have loved to have played the role.

Kirk Douglas was first offered the Lee Marvin role, but he turned it down. It is a decision that he regrets today. "In 1965 I wanted to accept the offer to play the leading role in Cat Ballou," he says in his 2007 memoir Let's Face It. "My agent talked me out of it because he thought the part was too small. Lee Marvin played the part and won an Oscar®. Bad decision by my agent."

The producers borrowed period railroad cars used in the film from private collections to give the train sequences a more realistic feel.

Famous Quotes from CAT BALLOU

JACKSON TWO-BEARS (Tom Nardini): He's a murderer, a hired killer. His nose was bit off in a fight.
FRANKIE BALLOU (John Marley): If I was gonna be scared, I'd be scared of the fella who bit it off, not him!

CLAY BOONE (Michael Callan): He did it! (After a drunken Kid Shelleen shoots at a target on the side of a barn) He missed the barn!

JACKSON TWO-BEARS: Kid, Kid, what a time to fall off the wagon. Look at your eyes.
KID SHELLEEN (Lee Marvin): What's wrong with my eyes?
JACKSON TWO-BEARS: Well they're red, bloodshot.
KID SHELLEEN: You ought to see 'em from my side.

CAT (Jane Fonda): Some gang! An Indian ranch hand, a drunken gunfighter, a sex maniac, and an uncle!

KID SHELLEEN: (sniffing) I smell a water hole!

CLAY: I've never seen a man get through a day so fast.

KID SHELLEEN: Let's have a drink for old times' sake.
BUTCH CASSIDY (Arthur Hunnicutt): Old times' sake? That means you got no cash.

FRANKIE BALLOU: Well now, there's a game for a sheriff - liar's poker. We got our unemployed off the street and made Wolf City safe all in one brilliant stroke.

CLAY: We can't hold up the train.
CAT: Why not?
CLAY: Lots of reasons.
CAT: Name 'em.
CLAY: We're rustlers, not train robbers.
CAT: Well, if people didn't try something new, there wouldn't be hardly any progress at all.

KID SHELLEEN: Yeah, it's all over in Dodge. Tombstone, too; Cheyenne, Deadwood, all gone, all dead and gone. Why, the last time I came through Tombstone, the big excitement there was about the new rollerskate rink that they had laid out over the OK Corral. I'll tell you something else, I used to work for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and a Congress of Rough Riders. And I rescued many stagecoach passengers from road agents and drunkard injuns... in the nick of time! Twice a day, three times on Saturday.

FRANKIE BALLOU: You'd like a drink better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stub, wouldn't you?

JED (Dwayne Hickman): (to Cat) Ma'am, I apologize for my disgusting condition and I assure you I will not inflict myself on you any further.

CAT: (looking at her father laid out in a coffin) Why is he smiling like that? My father never smiled like that in his whole life?
UNDERTAKER: Well, he's going to smile like that forever, now. Courtesy of the Wolf City Development Company.

JED: Ma'am, I can understand your objection to rustlin' - a girl with your background and gentle upbringing - but it's the only way we can raise money.
CAT: No it's not.
CLAY: Well, what do you think we ought to do that's fittin' and proper?
CAT: Rob a train.

CAT: You won't make me cry. You'll never make me cry!

CAT: (to the Hole in the Wall Gang) Some gang of cutthroats and murderers. We used to whisper your names when we were kids - scared to say them out loud. How sad - you got old.

CLAY: I think we'll go to St. Louis.
CAT: St. Louis?
CLAY: Yeah, St. Louis! City on the Missouri, railhead of the Santa Fe, jump off for the Oregon Trail - producers of beef, beer, shoes and, ah, good times.

CLAY: (after Jackson hits him) Well, what was that for?
JACKSON: Well, everyone else was doin' it. I got the right to share in the fun without regard to race, creed or color according to the Fourteenth Amendment.

CAT: Sir Harry Percival, I presume.
SIR HARRY PERCIVAL (Reginald Denny): Really, roughing it on the frontier - how delightful!
CAT: (showing him her low-cut dress) Oh, you like our wide open spaces?

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)

Cat Ballou began as a novel by Roy Chanslor called The Ballad of Cat Ballou published in 1956. It was a serious tale of the old west with the tomboyish female protagonist Cat Ballou at its center. Bearing only a marginal resemblance to the film that was ultimately made, The Ballad of Cat Ballou has Cat vowing revenge when both her parents are killed in a stampede started by ranchers of the Cattlemen's Association.

With the intention of making a serious adaptation of the novel, producer Harold Hecht (Marty [1955], Separate Tables [1958]) first approached writer Frank Pierson to pen the screenplay. At the time Pierson was a television writer and was serving as the story editor on the popular TV western Have Gun Will Travel. Hecht believed that Pierson's talent with writing dramatic western stories would be a good fit for the film version of Cat Ballou. It would also mark Pierson's feature film debut as a screenwriter.

Pierson knew that Harold Hecht was looking for the right person to direct Cat Ballou. He immediately thought of his friend Elliot Silverstein, who was a television director working with him at the time on Have Gun Will Travel. Silverstein was hired, and like Pierson, Cat Ballou would also mark his first feature film.

In the midst of numerous script rewrites, according to co-star Michael Callan, "someone" came up with the idea to depart from the original novel's serious tone and make Cat Ballou a comedy. It was an idea that worked brilliantly on the page. Its success as a film would depend on finding just the right cast.

Sultry red-headed Ann-Margret was originally offered the starring role of Cat. According to her 1994 autobiography My Story, however, she didn't even know it at the time. "I was offered Cat Ballou, the western spoof that won Lee Marvin an Oscar®," she writes, "but my manager apparently declined the job without informing me. I suppose he felt it was in my best interests. It was only years later that I learned about the offer."

Producer Hecht next approached Jane Fonda, who was under contract to Columbia at the time, to play Cat. The beautiful young Fonda had been making movies since 1960. While it was clear that she was talented, she had not yet been able to establish herself as a major star.

Jane Fonda was living in France at the time with first husband, director Roger Vadim, when she first read the Cat Ballou script. "The script was unusual, and I wasn't sure whether it was any good or not," she says in her 2005 autobiography My Life So Far. "I'm not sure Lee Marvin knew either. I remember him whispering to me one day during rehearsal that the only reason he and I were in the movie was that 'we're under contract and they can get us cheap.'"

Roger Vadim recalls that Fonda didn't want to do the film and was going to turn it down. After reading the script himself, however, Vadim encouraged her to do it. "I like Cat Ballou," he told her. "The woman is courageous, but tender, modern and funny. It's just right for you at this stage in your career." On his advice, Fonda agreed to star in the film, which would forever change the course of her blossoming career.

For Clay and Jed, the two roguish young outlaws who join Cat's gang, director Elliot Silverstein wanted to cast actors that were not normally associated with gunfighter roles. Elliot cast television actor Michael Callan as Clay and Dwayne Hickman, famous to television audiences as Dobie Gillis, as Jed. John Marley was cast as Cat's crusty father Frankie Ballou, while established entertainers Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole were cast as the film's singing troubadour Greek chorus, billed as the "Shouters".

According to a 2000 interview with Elliot Silverstein, he was under pressure to cast a big name in the crucial double role of Kid Shelleen/Tim Strawn to add some box office power to the low budget production. The role was offered to Kirk Douglas, Jos Ferrer and Burt Lancaster. They all turned it down. Then, Silverstein had an inspired idea. "I pulled out my secret desire," he said, "which was a fellow who had played in a film called The Wild One [1953] and had got off a motorcycle and reeled around for a moment in a kind of scroungy way, and his name was Lee Marvin."

Marvin, who had made a career of playing hard-nosed heavies and villains, was an unlikely choice for a comedy like Cat Ballou. However, when Silverstein sent him the script, he loved it and understood the creative potential of the dual role. In fact, Marvin wanted the role so much that he took a pay cut in order to do it. It would prove to be the best career decision of his life.

Before shooting began, the cast assembled for a read-through at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. "As we began to read the funny and very offbeat script," writes co-star Dwayne Hickman in his 1994 autobiography Forever Dobie: The Many Lives of Dwayne Hickman, "I realized how exciting this movie was going to be...Lee [Marvin] raised overacting to an art form. He would do bits that no other actor would have the nerve to do, and somehow, with his horse face and bigger-than-life character, he could make it work...Everyone was so well cast and so special that by the end of our first read-through the movie was starting to take shape."

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)

In mid-September 1964 the cast and crew of Cat Ballou flew to Colorado to begin shooting. They had to work fast for the location shots since they needed to beat the inevitable Colorado winter weather and finish up before the first snowfall.

The production moved at a brisk pace. "It seemed we'd never do two takes unless the camera broke down," recalls Jane Fonda in her autobiography. "The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. 'Jane,' he said, 'we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don't stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don't have the power we do to say, 'Sh*t, no, we're workin' too hard.' You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.'"

Aside from the grueling pace, the cast had a wonderful time making Cat Ballou. Lee Marvin in particular seemed to relish his dual role as Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn. "Lee was playing this whole thing with a kind of bravado that caused his colleagues on the crew to break up laughing on every take," said director Elliot Silverstein in a 2000 interview. There were times during the shoot, however, when Silverstein was uncertain about the direction that Marvin was taking the character of Kid Shelleen. It was clear that regardless of how Silverstein wanted a scene played, Marvin had his own ideas. Often he would just nod his head at Silverstein's directions and play the scene in the way he saw fit. When producer Harold Hecht noticed how Marvin's comedic performance kept the cast and crew in stitches, he convinced Silverstein that Marvin's instincts were right.

Lee Marvin's larger-than-life personality and fondness for tipping back the bottle made the actor a raucous but irresistible presence on the set. "Working with Lee Marvin was an unbelievable experience," said Dwayne Hickman. "Never have I met such an outrageous personality. Lee loved to drink, and the more he drank, the more outrageous he became. He had a story about everything and everybody. He also had very definite theories on acting and a style that was all his own. Lee figured if a little bit was good, a lot would be so much better. As a result, each take of a scene was bigger than the last." According to Hickman, Marvin sometimes used alcohol to enhance his performance as the drunken Kid Shelleen. For instance, the very first scene that Marvin shot was the one in which everyone meets Kid Shelleen for the first time, and he is falling down drunk. "He rehearsed several times," said Hickman, "and then went behind the barn and took a shot of vodka to steel himself. I ran into him in front of his dressing room where he had just gotten sick. When I asked if he was all right, he said, in typical Lee Marvin fashion, 'Tension, baby...just a little tension.'"

While Marvin's drunken antics kept most of the cast and crew laughing, it didn't make a fan out of Jane Fonda. Fonda, who had the job of playing her character straight while the others got to ham it up, took her role very seriously. Too seriously for Lee Marvin, who according to Dwayne Hickman, was always trying to joke with her and make her lighten up. Hickman recalls that Fonda was "less than enthusiastic about the movie. She wanted to do more serious work and playing straight man to a bunch of crazy characters wasn't her idea of great filmmaking." Marvin's efforts to loosen her up were met with annoyance from Fonda. It didn't help their relationship either that Marvin insulted her French husband Roger Vadim while he was visiting the location set in Colorado. "When he was drunk," said Vadim in his 1986 memoir Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda, "he would tell me that he hated the French. 'But,' he would add, 'I like you because you're half Russian, even though I hate Russians also.'"

Singer Nat King Cole, who was playing one of the singing troubadours, had a nightly singing engagement at a Lake Tahoe nightclub during the making of Cat Ballou. He would commute daily between Lake Tahoe and the set in order to do both. Everyone noticed that Cole was coughing a great deal whenever he was on the set and losing weight, but most figured he was just running himself down with such a grueling schedule. Unbeknownst to them and to Cole himself, he was already very sick with lung cancer. Cole, whom Jane Fonda described as "kind and wonderful," fought through his illness to give a spirited performance in his small but memorable role. The cancer would take his life at the age of 45 in February 1965, just a few months shy of Cat Ballou's release.

When the Colorado location shoot was done, the cast and crew returned to Hollywood to complete filming at the studio. The entire shooting time including the location work took an economical six weeks.

Even though everyone knew that they were making at least a good film, no one had any idea that they were making a classic. "I have to admit," said Jane Fonda, "it wasn't until I saw the final cut of Cat Ballou that I realized we had a hit on our hands. I hadn't been around when they filmed Lee's horse, leaning cross-legged up against the barn in what's become a classic image, or when Lee tries to shoot the side of the barn."

When Cat Ballou was released in the summer of 1965, audiences loved it, and critics everywhere singled out the comedic revelation of Lee Marvin's performance. He and Jane Fonda enjoyed the success that came with appearing in the biggest films of their careers up to that point. Fonda became a major star, and Marvin went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, which gave his middle-aged career a huge boost and kept him working as a leading man for the next twenty years. In his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards ceremony, Marvin gave thanks where thanks was due. "I think half of this," he said, "belongs to a horse somewhere out in the valley."

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)

In Hollywood, the average actor is one hit film away from being a superstar. For both Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda, the box-office smash Cat Ballou (1965) was the hit their careers both needed. Although Marvin had appeared in 34 films and on the hit television series M Squad, and Fonda was the daughter of famed actor Henry Fonda and had several films to her credit, they were not major players in Hollywood. That is, not until Cat Ballou opened.

Although Cat Ballou was categorized as a Western (a Western comedy to be exact), the film was actually a pastiche of popular Western themes. Screenwriters Walter Newman and Frank R. Pierson and film director Elliot Silverstein took familiar motifs such as shootouts, train robberies, posses in pursuit, and frontier romance and exaggerated them, twisted them, and turned them inside out ending up with Cat Ballou. Instead of a strong, fearless, sharpshooter, Cat Ballou's hero is Kid Shelleen (Marvin), an aging drunkard who sits atop an equally drunk horse.

In the title role, Jane Fonda gives a lively but amusing performance as a young woman who returns home to her Wyoming town only to discover that the Wolf City Development Company has been trying to force her father Frankie (John Marley) off his ranch. Cat enlists the help of legendary gunfighter Kid Shelleen to help defend her father from silver-nosed hired gun Tim Strawn (also played by Marvin). Her father is ultimately killed and Cat, with the help of her posse, vows to avenge her father's death.

Although critics gave Cat Ballou mixed reviews, moviegoers saw it in droves, resulting in $20 million in world-wide ticket sales, quite a feat in 1965. The success had a correlative effect on the careers of Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. Although they underwent several challenges that could have hindered the picture's success - the discord between producer Harold Hecht and director Silverstein (It was his second feature film), the rigorous 28-day shooting schedule, Marvin's painful separation from his first wife - the two actors won rave reviews for their performances. After the release of the film, Fonda commanded a then-whopping $300,000 per film. More notably, Marvin won an Academy-Award for his dual-roles, roles that Kirk Douglas allegedly passed up.

Director: Elliot Silverstein
Producer: Harold Hecht
Screenplay: Walter Newman, Frank Pierson (from novel by Roy Chanslor)
Cinematography: Jack A. Marta
Art Direction: Malcolm Brown
Editor: Charles Nelson
Music: Frank De Vol (original), Jerry Livingston (non-original)
Cast: Jane Fonda (Catherine "Cat" Ballou), Lee Marvin (Tim Strawn/Kid Shelleen), Michael Callan (Clay Boone), Dwayne Hickman (Jed), Nat "King" Cole (Shouter), Stubby Kaye (Shouter).
C-97m. Letterboxed.

by Georgelle Cole

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teaser Cat Ballou (1965)


Cat Ballou was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actor (Lee Marvin), Best Editing, Best Original Song ("The Ballad of Cat Ballou"), Best Musical Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Lee Marvin won for Best Actor.

Lee Marvin won the award for Best Actor at the BAFTA Film Awards, and Tom Nardini (Jackson Two-Bears) was nominated for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles.

Cat Ballou won 3 awards at the Berlin International Film Festival: Lee Marvin won the Silver Berlin Bear as Best Actor, Walter Newman and Frank Pierson won a Special Mention for their screenplay, and director Elliot Silverstein won a Youth Film Award Honorable Mention for Best Feature Film Suitable for Young People.

Elliot Silverstein received a nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures from the Directors Guild of America (DGA Awards).

The film was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy (Lee Marvin), Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy (Jane Fonda), Best Original Song ("The Ballad of Cat Ballou") and Most Promising Newcomer Male (Tom Nardini). Lee Marvin won for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

The National Board of Review named Lee Marvin Best Actor for his role in Cat Ballou.

The screenplay for Cat Ballou was nominated for a WGA Award (Writers Guild of America) as the Best Written American Comedy.

Lee Marvin's horse in Cat Ballou, Smoky, won a Craven Award in 1966 for his excellent animal "acting." The Craven Award was named after Richard C. Craven, the first director of the American Humane Association of Hollywood, and is given to animals who demonstrate their skills in supporting roles.

At the end of the 1960s the Los Angeles Times conducted a survey with its readers and Lee Marvin's dual role in Cat Ballou was chosen as their favorite comic performance of the 1960s.

In 2008 the American Film Institute named Cat Ballou number 10 on its list of the 10 Best Westerns of All Time.

Cat Ballou was ranked by the American Film Institute as the 50th Funniest Movie of All Time.

The Critics' Corner: CAT BALLOU

"...a cheerful lampoon of the two-gun horse operas...It is a carefree and clever throwing together of three or four solid Western stereotypes in a farcical frolic that follow-and travesties-the ballad form of Western storytelling made popular in High Noon [1952]...It is fun, broadly played, with Mr. Marvin playing it in the broadest style-so broadly, in fact, that there are moments when it looks as though he is going to spread himself right off the screen."
The New York Times

"Cat Ballou spoofs the Old West, whose adherents take their likker neat, and emerges middlingly successful, sparked by an amusing way-out approach and some sparkling performances...Fonda delivers a lively interpretation as Cat. Lee Marvin doubles in brass, playing the gunman who shoots down her father and the legendary Kid Shelleen, a terror with a gun, whom she earlier called in to protect her father. In latter character, Marvin is the standout of the picture."
- Variety

"As honest-to-gosh westerns go, Cat Ballou is disgraceful. As a shibboleth-shattering spoof, it dumps all the heroic traditions of horse opera into a gag bag, shakes thoroughly, and pulls out one of the year's jolliest surprises...What's best about it is probably Lee Marvin. Dressed in snaky black, with a silver schnozz tied on where his nose used to be...Marvin soberly parodies several hundred western badmen of yore, then surpasses himself as the dime-novel hero, Kid Shelleen."
- Time Magazine

"But it is Marvin, the wooziest gun in the West, around whom director Elliot Silverstein and producer Harold Hecht have fashioned this splendid film, and every time he hitches up his belt, audiences will hold their sides laughing. He may be a peculiar top gun, but he is natural and assured as the top banana of the old frontier."
- Newsweek

"Most of the time it's funny, and some of the time it's sad, but the nice thing about Cat that it isn't always quite sure which...There is so much to enjoy in Cat Ballou, especially the consistently inventive script and Lee Marvin's virtuoso performance, that it seems a little invidious to say that Elliot Silverstein's direction is not always as sure as it might be."
- Sight and Sound

"What distinguishes Cat Ballou is that in this Western to destroy our faith in Westerners, nobody is camping, nobody's tongue-in-cheeking and spitballing around. In the title role Jane Fonda is as sweet and pure and earnest as any schoolmarm turned gang leader and man-killer-and it's not her fault that when she slowly canters away astride her horse the one fleeting rear view director Elliot Silverstein permits us makes Miss Jane in her riding clothes infinitely sexier than Miss Andress in bikini ad infinitum. And Lee Marvin-who runs off with the picture and, if there is justice in the contemporary Far West, an Oscar in his dual role of Tim Straun (sic), the silver-nosed evil gunslinger, and Kid Shelleen, the last alcohol-preserved good gunslinger-doesn't yield by the glitter of an eye...It's satire of the keenest kind, deadpan-delicious."
Judith Crist

"A self-consciously cute parody western...There are occasional good lines and some nice things: Nat King Cole singing "They'll Never Make Her Cry"; Lee Marvin's ritual preparations for a gunfight; Marvin mistaking funeral candles for birthday celebration. But mainly it's full of sort-of-funny and trying-to-be-funny ideas. The director Elliot Silverstein's spoofy tone is ineptitude, coyly disguised."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies
"The film presents such a mixture of comedy styles that the more lumpen slapstick routines, and the cozy musical interludes from Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, may lull you into overlooking some brilliant throwaways. Marvin is consistently brilliant, but the film is patchy."
- TimeOut Film Guide

"Sometimes lively, sometimes somnolent Western spoof which considering the talent involved should have been funnier than it is. The Linking ballad helps."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"Cat Ballou satirizes just about everything and if you blink you may miss a good gag, but it's not overblown like The Hallelujah Trail [1965] or tasteless like There Was a Crooked Man [1970] or anachronistic like Blazing Saddles [1974]; it doesn't strain for laughs - it merely earns them....Marvin is magnificent (and incredibly funny)...And his drunken horse is great, too."
- Brian Garfield, Western Films

"Fonda (so young and with such big hair) is spunky enough to carry the film, but it is Marvin who steals the show in the double role that earned him an Oscar. The other great joy of this film is the music. Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye (as the occidental answer to a Greek chorus) turn up throughout the film to move the story along with ballads in the great western tradition."
- Alison Dalzell, Edinburgh University Film Society

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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