Monte Walsh (1970)

Monte Walsh (1970)

“This is one month’s pay. We were up there all winter. Plus ten dollars for the two wolves.”

A trio of cowboys (Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, and Mitch Ryan) try to find work during increasingly difficult times.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cowboys
  • Jack Palance Films
  • Jeanne Moreau Films
  • Lee Marvin Films
  • Unemployment
  • Westerns

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this wonderful, unusual western is basically a “death song to the American cowboy”. There are many moments of genuine humor, pathos, and realism; the dirt on these cowboys’ faces and gloves isn’t wiped off. There are many memorable scenes: the cowhands bonding together to get their beloved (but stinky) cook clean, and his gleeful retaliation afterwards; a grizzled cowboy carefully removing his dentures before participating in a bar room brawl; the wordless interaction between Marvin and Jeanne Moreau as she successfully distracts him from smoking the cigarette he’s just rolled. You’re guaranteed to get caught up in the lives of these men as they negotiate a new existence in the midst of rapid economic and social change.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Jeanne Moreau as Marvin’s hopeful prostitute-girlfriend
  • Lee Marvin’s subtle performance
  • Jack Palance as a smiling cowboy
  • A gritty look at life for cowboys in the late 1800s

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.


One thought on “Monte Walsh (1970)

  1. I wouldn’t consider this a must, even if I feel there’s much to admire in it. It’s often interesting to see someone in the film industry take on a position in which they don’t normally sit: in this case, it’s DP William Fraker coming out from behind the camera to simply direct – which he has done simply. Fraker has given ‘MW’ a very natural, generally relaxed quality, suitable for what is essentially a character study.

    I like the fact that the leads all turn in rather subtle (and fine) performances. And the patchwork aspect of the script (esp. the specifics of what the men do as individuals when the cowboy way is endangered) does seem to come together ultimately. I admit, though, to feeling a bit antsy even if I wasn’t particularly bored.

    I must say I found the very long sequence involving Marvin’s attempts to tame a wild horse unnervingly graphic – actually unpleasant to watch.

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