(1965)4Michael BetzoldCat Ballou is a marvelous spoof of Westerns, a precursor to the likes of Blazing Saddles, Wild Wild West and other send-ups of the genre. Lee Marvin won an Academy Award -- a rare nod for a comedy performance -- for his roles as a drunken gunman and his evil twin. Jane Fonda plays the 1900s-era schoolmarm Catherine Ballou with sass and vinegar; it's among her best work. What really sets the film apart is the hilarious running ballad which ties together the narrative, using Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye as a cowpoke Greek chorus. The film's score and the song "The Ballad of Cat Ballou" were both Oscar-nominated, as was the screenplay adaptation by Walter Newman and Frank R. Pierson. Though there are dull stretches, this is a one-of-a-kind comic classic, thanks to the sure hand of director Eliot Silverstein.