Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Cat Ballou (1965)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Cat Ballou (1965)

In director Elliot Silverstein's satirical western comedy, it was an adaptation of Roy Chanslor's 1956 serious novel The Ballad of Cat Ballou; the parody western told about the title character hiring a notorious gunman to protect the ranch of her father Frankie Ballou (John Marley) from pressure by developers (the Wolf City Development Corporation - WCDC) to acquire his land and water rights:

  • Columbia Pictures' studio logo was spoofed, when the female torch-bearing lady figure removed her robe and turned into a cartoonish western cowgirl firing her six-guns
Animated Studio Logo
  • the film featured musical interludes from two traveling minstrels (balladeers or troubadours) playing banjos -- the Sunrise Kid (Nat King Cole) and Professor Sam the Shade (Stubby Kaye) who intermittently performed songs and functioned as a 'Greek chorus' to comment upon the action: ("Well now friends. Just lend an ear, for you're now about to hear. The Ballad of Cat Ballou. It's a song that's newly made. And Professor Samuel Shade, and the Sunrise Kid are singing it for you. Cat Ballou-u-u. Cat Ballou-u-u. Cat Ballou-u-u"); the opening credits appeared in the pages of a Police Gazette magazine being read by a bearded old-timer
  • the opening sequence was during preparations for the gallows' hanging-execution of female outlaw Catherine "Cat" Ballou (Jane Fonda), who was jailed in her hometown of Wolf City, WY; Sam and the Sunrise Kid sang: "She killed a man ln Wolf City, Wyoming. Wolf City, Wyoming. Killed a man, it's true. And that is why they're hanging. Hanging Cat Ballou"
  • in flashback, in the year of 1894 after graduating from Sumpqua Normal School, prim and proper schoolteacher Cat Ballou returned home by train, although she was secretly reading a western pulp novel about legendary and notorious outlaw Kid Shelleen ("KID SHELLEEN AND THE MASSACRE OF WHISKEY SLIDE"); enroute, she inadvertently aided the escape of handsome accused cattle rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan) from Sheriff Maledon (Bruce Cabot), when Boone's associate - drunken Uncle Jed (Dwayne Hickman) disguised as a preacher distracted the lawman

"Uncle Jed" (Dwayne Hickman) with Sheriff Maledon (Bruce Cabot)

Escaped Convicted Cattle Rustler Clay Boone (Michael Callan)

Clay in Cat's Train Berth Hiding From Authorities
  • she was determined to help protect her defenseless father Frankie and his young, mild-mannered, sole ranch hand - a Cherokee named Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini), their well water had already been poisoned (by the dumping of manure into it) to run them off; at the ranch when he appeared "outta nowhere," she briefly met the "muscle" employed by a railroad magnate to acquire her father's land - tough and threatening gunman Tim Strawn (Best Actor-winning Lee Marvin in a dual role) dressed in black with a prosthetic nose; he was known as Silvernose due to his tin nose (after his own was bitten off during a fight); in town, Cat realized that the weak-willed, newly-elected Sheriff Cardigan (Jay C. Flippen) was an ineffective law-enforcer and would be of no help; Jackson suggested to Cat that she hire a protective gunman: "They got a gun fighter. You get a gun fighter"
  • at first, she considered hiring convicted cattle rustler and womanizing Clay Boone whom she had initially met in the film's opening during his escape on the train to Wolf City, and Clay's associate "Uncle" Jed; however, Cat became apprehensive when her initial efforts at protecting the family ranch failed; she decided to wrote a letter to reputed fast-draw gunfighter Kid Shelleen (also type-cast actor Lee Marvin spoofing his own macho image) asking to hire for $50 dollars - sight unseen - without knowing that he was a whiskey-soaked, staggering drunkard
  • the scene of Kid Shelleen's drunken arrival by stagecoach was a classic, prefaced by Sam and Sunrise mockingly singing about "the fastest gun you've ever seen" - the dusty, semi-conscious gunman was curled up under the back burlap flap of the stagecoach and fell to the ground where he was greeted by Cat and Jackson, and taken in an open buckboard wagon back to the ranch
  • the Kid demonstrated that he was unable to shoot anything ("He did it! He missed the barn!"), although he was a crack shot if he was inebriated (he begged: "If I had one little nip, you know..."); Kid bragged about the good ol' days when he worked with the Wild West Show: "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 a stagecoach passengers from road agents and drunkard injuns in the nick of time! Twice a day, three times on Saturday"; while shooting at one of his targets, he drew his pistol and his pants fell down; Frankie was unimpressed: "Now I ain't runnin' no dude ranch for misfits and unemployables. You keep him away from me"
  • shortly later at the ranch, Frankie was gunned down outdoors by black-garbed Tim Strawn - who was on horseback at a far distance; after racing after Strawn into town, Cat confronted the hired killer who was sitting on a rocking chair outside the saloon, but she received little support from the corrupt Sheriff to arrest Strawn and bring him to justice; she attempted to shoot Strawn with Clay's revolver, but during a struggle to subdue her, she missed; she vowed to Strawn: "You'll never make me cry!"
  • upon her return home, she discovered that her father's property had been moved out of the house, and the ranch was declared the "Property of Wolf City Development Corp. No Trespassing"; inside, Cat was dismayed to find her father's pine-box coffin with her father smiling and complained: "My father never smiled like that in his whole life!"; undertaker (Frank DeVol) coldly explained: "Well, he'll smile on now, forever, just as you see him. Free gratis, from the Wolf City Development Corporation"; she vowed revenge when threatened to leave before morning: "You tell Wolf City that before I'm through, I'm gonna make sure that Sherman's March to the Sea will look like a bird walk"
  • Cat was invited by Clay to join him and his outlaw gang in their hideout, known as the Hole-in-the-Wall; the ineffectual and drunken Kid Shelleen entered the ranch and noticed Frankie's coffin with candlelabras surrounding it; Kid obliviously began singing "Happy Birthday" before blowing out the candles
  • the next morning as Cat rode off with Clay and the others to the hideout (with Kid lying on a litter pulled by a riderless horse), the troubadours sang about the growing legend of Cat Ballou; at the "Hole-in-the-Wall," when Kid was aroused by the local bar and exclaimed: "I smell a waterhole," he entered and was surprised to find that the legendary Butch Cassidy (Arthur Hunnicutt) was a lowly, humble, and aging saloonkeeper; he attempted (without money) to share a drink with him to salute the old times together: (Cassidy: "For old times' sake? That means you got no cash, nothin' doin'!")
  • in order to raise money, the vengeful Cat suggested that the gang rob a train rather than rustle 50 head of cattle, but she faced considerable pushback: ("We're rustlers, not train robbers"); she argued that it would be more lucrative to rob a train: ("Well, if people didn't try something new, there wouldn't be hardly any progress at all"), since they wouldn't have to pay off workers in the slaughterhouse; Cat became angered when everyone rejected her train robbery idea (borrowed from the Kid's robbery plan written about in Chapter 7 of his dime novel); outside, she began throwing rocks at them, and spitefully began a string of name-calling to persuade them: "Some gang! A horse-ranch Indian, a drunken gunfighter, a sex maniac, and an uncle!...Clay Boone and his gang of chicken rustlers. I'm gonna do it alone!"
  • a comical robbery of the Colorado Southern's combination safe by the gang occurred in the baggage car while Sir Harry Percival (Reginald Denny), the owner of the Wolf City Development Co., was taking a bath in his private railroad car; the locomotive was separated from the passenger cars, as mastermind Cat played the part of a grieving widow in the baggage car with a coffin hiding Clay; the train was met by Jackson and Kid Shelleen before the group made their getaway with the company's payroll of $50,000 dollars cash; they were pursued by a sped-up posse in a slapstick sequence; the ballad singers summarized: "Round and round and round they rode Oh, what an episode!"
  • the gang returned to the "Hole-in-the-Wall," but then realized through Cassidy that the money they had stolen belonged to Sir Harry Percival, and that there would be retaliation against the residents of the "Hole-in-the-Wall" if they remained; Tim Strawn made a brief appearance and threatened Cat to return the stolen money to Sir Harry Percival: ("Sir Harry wants his money back! If you wasn't a girl, I'd split you like a chicken"); Kid assured Cat that he would pursue Strawn for a stand-off
Kid Shelleen's Comeback and Training: "No booze!"
  • to prepare to confront Strawn, the Kid struggled to become sober and clean, and vowed to Jackson "no booze"; he practiced his marksmanship, took a hot bath, shaved and wore a slendering girdle as part of his revived, silver-vested gunfighter outfit (with a silver-buckled holster belt)
  • in town, the Kid confronted Tim Strawn in an upstairs brothel room and shot him dead; then, he returned to the gang and entered the saloon, disguised as the black clad assassin with a silver nose to fool everyone; he revealed to the gang that he and Strawn were twin brothers; they also learned that Sir Percival had assembled an army of at least 50 goons to pursue them
  • Cat posed as a prostitute and visited Sir Percival in his private railroad car; she approached him, enticingly revealing that she was wearing a low-cut dress ("You like our wide open spaces"), and telling him that her name was Trixie; she asked about a nude painting on his ceiling and was told: "Yes, that's a Tintoretto"; suddenly in his master bedroom, she revealed her true identity as the daughter of Frankie Ballou; she demanded, at gunpoint, that he sign a confession that he had hired Strawn to murder her father; when he resisted and they struggled for her Derringer, Sir Percival was shot dead
Vengeful Cat Posing as Trixie - a Prostitute - to Confront and Kill Sir Percival
  • the film returned to the present - with Cat in jail in Wolf City, awaiting her execution by hanging; the townspeople were not sympathetic, since the death of Percival brought economic hardship to the town, as explained by Sheriff Cardigan: ("You can't blame them, can ya? Killin' Sir Harry put the kibosh on the whole slaughterhouse, didn't it? No jobs. No payroll. You took the bread out of half of the mouths of Wolf City. You haven't got a friend in the world")
  • as Cat - wearing a white dress - was about to be hung (with the noose around her neck), preacher-disguised "Uncle" Jed appeared to lead her from the jail; Jackson was also disguised as an undertaker; everyone was also counting on the Kid's help, but they were disappointed when the Kid with bloodshot red eyes was discovered by Jackson in a drunken stupor on his horse (with crossed front legs) leaning and slumped against a brick building wall
  • after Cat's last words: "Let's get on with it," Jed cut the noose rope, and Cat safely dropped through the gallows' trap-door into a wagon (prepared for her coffin); she was caught in the air by Clay, who whisked her into Jackson's horse-drawn hearse before the entire gang rode off, with the Kid firing his pistol and following in a half-horizontal position atop his horse

Cat Ballou Led to the Gallows to Be Hanged

"Let's get on with it!"

The Kid Helping With Cat's Rescue
  • the two singers ended the film with a song about Cat's growing legend: "So she rode away, just where now is a mystery / But Cat rode into history and her legend grew / She was the Queen of the outlaws / Her Highness Cat Ballou / Cat Ballou, Cat Ballou / Well, our story now is through / We'll say farewell to Cat Ballou"

Two Troubadours (Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye)

Cat Ballou Title Credits

Cat Returning Home by Train to Wolf City, WY to Be a Schoolteacher

(l to r): Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini), Frankie Ballou (John Marley), and Cat

Cat's First View of Ominous Hired Gun Tim Strawn

Jackson's Advice to Cat: "They got a gunfighter. You get a gunfighter"

Arrival of Druken Kid Shelleen In Back of Stagecoach - and On the Ground

Completely Inept and Not Worth $50 Dollars

Tim Strawn After Gunning Down Cat's Father Frankie

Cat's Anger and Vow to Seek Revenge For Her Father's Death

Kid Shelleen Blowing Out Frankie's Funeral Candles - Mistaking Them for a Birthday Party Celebration

Cassidy Refusing Free Drinks for Kid Shelleen at the Hole-In-The-Wall Hideout

Cat's Suggestion to Rob a Train Rather Than Rustle Cattle

Sir Harry Percival In His Private Bath Train Car During the Train Robbery

Strawn's Threat to Cat to Return the Stolen Money to Sir Percival ("If you wasn't a girl...")

Cat Jailed and About to be Executed by Hanging For the Murder of Sir Percival

Kid Shelleen Leaning and Drunken on Horse Against Brick Building Wall


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z