While the point of movie night has always been to shine a spotlight on movies that our friends may have missed, I, at least have always made a point of choosing films that will appeal to the broadest crowd. They may be movies I like, but I also make sure that they’re movies that the Peanut Gallery would like to see. Or at least, that they need to see.
So, after more than a few indulgence programs courtesy of my husband, I decided that it was my turn to show something I liked just because I liked it. It was my guilty pleasure and everyone else was just going to have to deal. I’m of course talking about “Cat Ballou,” a frothy Western romp from 1965 starring a Vadim era Jane Fonda, Nat King Cole and Lee “F*****g” Marvin. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since my sister and I watched it as kids with my mom (who has great taste in movies) and I couldn’t wait to hear what the Peanut Gallery had to say about it.
But what to program with it? A western would be good. A western comedy would be even better. But everyone and their monkey had seen “Blazing Saddles” a million times. Ditto “Quigley Down Under” (thank you TBS). And I’m not going anywhere near “Lighting Jack,” I don’t care how good Paul Hogan is. No, for this one we called in the big guns and got a stellar Sinister Sam recommendation: “My Name is Nobody.” It was the perfect program; “Cat Ballou” takes the piss out of American cowboy movies from the ‘40’s & ‘50’s, whereas “My Name is Nobody” is a Spaghetti Western parody. And it stars Henry Fonda!
Once again, because I’m lazy and I wanted to make sure my efforts were appreciated, I deliberately failed to send out the reminder. Seven people still managed to show up, including my sister and a newcomer, Derek. Will was relieved as this meant that he could finally give up the title of newbie, despite my husband trying to find a loophole to stick Will with it permanently.
As soon as things started I felt a wave of relief as people really seemed to be getting into it. Brendan liked the little animated bit at the start where the Columbia mascot whips off her toga and is revealed to be a cartoon version of Jane Fonda. My sister practically vibrated with delight. And everyone was into Nat King Cole.
As with most good comedies, the plot is secondary to the sharp dialogue and lightning quick timing. Basically, good girl Cat (Fonda), having finished her stint at teacher’s college, returns to the family homestead to find her father being hassled by a silver nosed goon (Marvin, in one of two roles he plays in the movie). The goon was employed by the most powerful men in town to scare off Cat’s dad so that a big industrialist can build his factory on Pa Ballou’s land. So Cat enlists the help of a couple of cattle rustlers she met on the train (Clay and Jed, played by Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman respectively) and her hero, the gun fighter Kid Sheleen (Marvin again) to save the family home. Problem is Sheleen’s been hitting the bottle for the last 20 years and Jed and Clay make Cat look like a bad-a*s. But, after Cat’s dad gets murdered, they have to pull it together and help Cat become one of the baddest outlaws in the whole of the West. All while Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye commentate in song.
As predicted, Brendan was the first to comment on the presence of the “Temperance League” outside of Cat’s jail cell. Bob declared his intention to go as “Tin Foil Nose” for Halloween, and my sister sang along with every song, much to everyone’s amusement. Will was enraptured by the big haired and curvaceous Fonda and I felt it necessary to point out that the film would have been made around the time that she was arranging ménage a trois for her then husband, director Roger Vadim (“Barbarella”). By the time she was calling herself Trixie, Brendan was ready to lose it. I offered him some Kleenex and recommended he watch “Klute”.
My husband meanwhile was preoccupied thinking about the Dave Chapelle sketch where Dave, as Nat King Cole, pours champagne all over a woman’s boobs. Suddenly, seeing our hero up on screen, my sister and I lost our senses of humor and railed at my husband. “He’d never do that.” “He was a gentleman, he had to be!” Brendan expressed disappointment at Nat’s lack of involvement in the Square Dance brawl and was confronted with similar disapproval.
About forty minutes in, Nick showed up, just in time for another appearance by the man with the silver nose, which he described as “sweet.” There was some confusion as to who the shorter, rounder minstrel was. Brendan compared him to George Costanza, which again brought about my ire, since I felt Buddy Ebsen was a much more appropriate comparison. I’m pretty sure one person knew who I was talking about.
Brendan also felt the need to point out that the final train scene was very similar to the one at the beginning of the movie. I clarified that the first train scene didn’t culminate in Jane Fonda rolling around on the ground to which Will triumphantly threw his arms up in the air. Brendan conceded that this was in fact a bonus. Bob was confused by the ceremonial girdling of Kid Sheleen (worth the price of admission alone); whereas Nick was in awe of Marvin’s amazing get up.
A couple of twist later and it was all done, leaving time for a small break for Brendan to try to screen “George Lucas in Love.” However, our DVD player doesn’t play VCDs and he was denied yet again.
The evening continues in part two of ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: RIDE ‘EM FILMGURL!>>>