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Friday, October 12, 2012

Cat Ballou (1965) - Jane Fonda at her Sexiest?

Original Film Poster for Cat Ballou 1965
"Cat Ballou" (1965), directed by Elliot Silverstein, is remembered for Lee Marvin's transformation from stereotyped tough guy (as in "The Killers") to multi-dimensional actor. He won the Academy Award that year, not bad for a guy who saw serious fighting against the Japanese during World War II. For serious Marvin fans, that is reason enough to see this film.
Asian film poster for Cat Ballou
The Japanese (or whoever) got the picture, all right
It's easy to forget, though, that the "Cat Ballou" of the title wasn't Marvin. Instead, it was a quite luscious Jane Fonda. This was pre-"The Shoot Horses, Don't They," which turned her from ingenue to full-fledged "serious actress."
Jane Fonda legs spread holding pistol
So, what is your stance on Quemoy and Matsu, Ms. Fonda?
In those days, Jane was better known as Henry Fonda's little princess than as a serious actress. She had been stereotyped as well, as a kind of ditzy woman. Almost nobody remembers her pre-Cat Ballou films (she had been making them for five years), and if you do, you are probably either a Fonda fan or a real trivia expert. Everybody remembers her stuff from after "Cat Ballou," even though her performance here did not win an Oscar.
Jane Fonda in gunslinger pose Cat Ballou
"Oh, this is so degrading, so insulting - hey, am I showing enough cleavage?"
Jane Fonda hadn't yet made her transformation from rich kid to self-proclaimed Socialist. Thus, as in the following year's "Barbarella," she was not averse to playing up her sexiness in order to further her career. It wasn't until she had achieved acting prominence with "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" and "Klute" that her resentment at her early cheesecake roles bubbled to the surface and she became as intentionally obnoxious to her old fan base as she possibly could.
Jane Fonda holding phallic pistol in Cat Ballou
Yes, that is phallic imagery, in case you were wondering
In my opinion, she has had psychological issues throughout her life, everything being some reaction to what went before. But also in my opinion, she was one of the sexiest women of her time - or any time, for that matter.
Jane Fonda Lee Marvin Cat Ballou 1965
I know, I know, there were some others in the cast besides Jane.....
The plot of "Cat Ballou" is very simple Western, and foreshadows that of the more serious (but with its own unique brand of humor) "True Grit." A wronged young woman seeking revenge for her murdered father and hires a famous gunman. The gunman turns out to be eccentric and hammy. Both films won Oscars for their leading men, and the women were overshadowed. Such is life in Westerns, even comedic ones.
Jane Fonda, Michael Callan in Cat Ballou 1965
Yes, that's what those notches mean
The supporting cast is pretty pedestrian, but Nat "King" Cole makes a rare screen appearance, and Stubby Kaye (of "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" in "Guys and Dolls" fame) is around as well.
Jane Fonda sexy pose Cat Ballou 1965
Jane showing her various skills
Many will want to watch this simply to see Fonda in her prime. There is a scene of her riding away which shows off her best qualities in exquisite detail. I'll let you find that particular scene for yourself, but, believe me, it is worth looking for.
Lee Marvin drunk riding horse Cat Ballou 1965

I recommend this film to all connoisseurs of fine acting and fine women.

Below is the trailer of "Cat Ballou," featuring Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole. Also following it is another video that somebody went to some trouble to compile (I must not be the only Jane fan!) which compiles all of Stubby's and Nat's appearances in the film (which includes a lot of footage of Jane):


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