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).
by Georgelle Cole