|Key Cast||John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Browne, Bruce Dern|
John Wayne is Both Rancher and Father Figure in “The Cowboys”
In this 1972 Western, John Wayne portrays Wil Anderson, a veteran Montana cattleman who loses his crew right before a long drive to South Dakota to the lure of a Ruby River gold strike. Suddenly empty-handed, and not about to forestall heading to market, Anderson finds himself in the unlikely position of hiring on a band of schoolboys, the only available help, at the suggestion of an old friend, Anse Peterson (famous western actor Slim Pickens).
Anderson enlists his greenhorn crew reluctantly, and sets to teaching them the ropes as quickly as he can. After turning away the services offered by the untrustworthy Asa Watts (Bruce Dern), Wil Anderson rounds out his gang with camp cook and former slave, Jebediah Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Browne), thus finishing the ragtag group. They set out on their 400 mile journey with 1200 cattle into the vast stretches and harshness of the west.
Anderson instructs the boys, which include a natural leader, Slim, and the gifted but volatile Cimarron (played by Robert Carradine and A Martinez, respectively, in early roles), in the mobile schoolhouse of a real, gritty cattle drive. Watts and his unsavory associates, meanwhile, trail the proceedings with malicious intent, offering another kind of education for the youthful cowboys.
With Mark Rydell directing, “The Cowboys” sees John Wayne supplying his long-honed, craggy authenticity in a distinctive role as an improbable father figure, while the rest of the top-shelf cast (which also includes Colleen Dewhurst) add plenty of color.
• “The Cowboys” was controversial when it came out because it was billed as a family film, but had scenes with the youngsters in the movie (ages nine to fifteen) exacting revenge with violence. The movie was given a PG (Parental Guidance) rating and some critics rose to defend the film as fitting in with the norm of a western movie, but the concern of disapproving critics continued. Quite interestingly, it was reported that during the making of “The Cowboys,” John Wayne had suggested to the director, Mark Rydell that he tone down the bloodshed.
• [SPOILER ALERT – CONTAINS DETAILS ABOUT THE MOVIE AND THE ENDING] According to Parish in “The Great Western Pictures,” John Wayne urged director Mark Rydell to do two things differently in “The Cowboys” – 1) Not to kill John Wayne’s character, Wil Anderson and 2) Not have the boys in the movie kill Bruce Dern’s character, Asa Watts. Instead John Wayne suggested that Rydell should have the boys capture Dern, tie him up and take him in for justice. As for killing Wayne’s character before the end of the movie, this was a daring and unusual move because typically a major star of a movie doesn’t die before the end of it. Also, John Wayne hadn’t died on screen since the film “Wake of the Red Witch” in 1948 which was over twenty years before “The Cowboys.” Some John Wayne fans didn’t like the Duke being killed in a movie and actor Bruce Dern reported that he received death threats from people for this.
• “The Cowboys” won the coveted western movie award, The Bronze Wrangler Award, for Best Theatrical Motion Picture in 1972.
Gold fever has struck and all of the cowboys have high-tailed it out of town to strike it rich. This leaves cattleman Wil Anderson (John Wayne) in a bind because he needs men in order to get his cattle to market. His alternative? Youngsters!
Watch “The Cowboys” in Blu-ray and enjoy this John Wayne classic with the best picture and audio quality available for home viewing.
This Blu-ray comes with the following bonus features:
• Commentary by the Director of “The Cowboys” Mark Rydell
• The Cowboys, Together Again Cast/Director Reunion Featurette
• Vintage Featurette The Breaking Of Boys And The Making Of Men
• Theatrical Trailer
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The Cowboys Movie
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