The Cowboys (1972)

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    Photo with the courtesy of Gorch

    Plot Summary
    When his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields, rancher Wil Andersen is forced to take on a collection of young boys
    as his drivers in order to get his herd to market in time to avoid financial disaster.
    The boys learn to do a man's job under Andersen's tutelage, however, neither Andersen nor the boys know that a gang of cattle thieves is stalking them.
    Summary written by Jim Beaver

    Full Cast
    John Wayne .... Wil Andersen
    Roscoe Lee Browne .... Jedediah Nightlinger
    Bruce Dern .... Asa Watts (segment "Long Hair")
    Colleen Dewhurst .... Mrs. Kate Collingwood
    Alfred Barker Jr. .... Clyde 'Singing Fats' Potter
    Nicolas Beauvy .... Dan/Four Eyes
    Steve Benedict .... Steve
    Robert Carradine .... Charles 'Slim' Honeycutt
    Norman Howell .... Cowboy #1 (Weedy) (as Norman Howell Jr.)
    Stephen R. Hudis .... Charlie Schwartz (as Stephen Hudis)
    Sean Kelly .... Stuttering Bob Wilson
    A Martinez .... Cimarron
    Clay O'Brien .... Hardy Fimps
    Sam O'Brien .... Jimmy Phillips
    Mike Pyeatt .... Homer Weems
    Slim Pickens .... Anse Petersen
    Lonny Chapman .... Preacher
    Charles Tyner .... Mr. Jenkins
    Sarah Cunningham .... Annie Andersen
    Allyn Ann McLerie .... Ellen Price
    Maggie Costain .... Phoebe
    Matt Clark .... Smiley
    Jerry Gatlin .... Howard
    Walter Scott .... Okay
    Richard Farnsworth .... Henry Williams
    Wallace Brooks .... Red Tucker
    Charise Cullin .... Elizabeth
    Collette Poeppel .... Rosemary
    Norman Howell Sr. .... Jim's father
    Rita Hudis .... Charlie's mother
    Margaret Kelly .... Stuttering Bob's mother
    Larry Randles .... Ben
    Larry Finley .... Jake
    Jim Burk .... Pete
    Fred Brookfield .... Rustler
    Tap Canutt .... Rustler
    Chuck Courtney .... Rustler
    Gary Epper .... Rustler
    Tony Epper .... Rustler
    Kent Hays .... Rustler
    J.R. Randall .... Rustler
    Henry Wills .... Rustler
    Joe Yrigoyen .... Rustler

    Writing Credits
    William Dale Jennings (novel)
    Irving Ravetch (screenplay) &
    Harriet Frank Jr. (screenplay) and
    William Dale Jennings (screenplay)

    Original Music
    John Williams

    Robert Surtees (director of photography)

    Floyd Baze .... stunt double (uncredited)
    Fred Brookfield .... stunts (uncredited)
    Jim Burk .... stunts (uncredited)
    Tap Canutt .... stunts (uncredited)
    Bill Catching .... stunts (uncredited)
    Chuck Courtney .... stunts (uncredited)
    Gary Epper .... stunts (uncredited)
    Tony Epper .... stunts (uncredited)
    Jerry Gatlin .... stunts (uncredited)
    Kent Hays .... stunts (uncredited)
    Robert 'Buzz' Henry .... stunts (uncredited)
    Walt La Rue .... stunts (uncredited)
    Glenn Randall Jr. .... stunts (uncredited)
    J.R. Randall .... stunts (uncredited)
    Larry Randles .... stunts (uncredited)
    Chuck Roberson .... stunt double: John Wayne (uncredited)
    Chuck Roberson .... stunts (uncredited)
    Walter Scott .... stunts (uncredited)
    Casey Tibbs .... stunts (uncredited)
    Buddy Van Horn .... stunts (uncredited)
    Henry Wills .... stunts (uncredited)
    Walter Wyatt .... stunts (uncredited)
    Joe Yrigoyen .... stunts (uncredited)

    Mark Rydell originally sought George C. Scott for the role of Wil Andersen because he despised John Wayne's views on the Vietnam War and other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. Ironically, some critics in 1972 believed that the way in which Wayne's character drafts the children out of school was a pro-war allegory for Vietnam.

    John Wayne actually pleaded with the director Mark Rydell to allow him to play Wil Anderson.

    Roscoe Lee Browne was urged by his friends not to work with the right-wing John Wayne. He ignored them and the two actors refrained from discussing politics during filming.

    Richard Farnsworth plays a member of Asa Watts's gang, one of the first roles in which his face is actually seen on screen. Farnsworth had been a stuntman and extra since the 1930s.

    The film debut of Robert Carradine.

    The poem read in the school, starting 'Hail to thee blithe spirit/ Bird thou never wert/ ...', is 'To A Skylark' by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    SPOILER: Shortly after the film's release, Bruce Dern received death threats for his character killing John Wayne by shooting him in the back.

    SPOILER: When John Wayne informed Bruce Dern that Dern's character would shoot Wayne's, he told Dern that audiences would hate him for it. Dern responded by saying, "Yeah, but they'll sure love me in Berkeley."

    * Revealing mistakes: After burying Charlie Schwartz, he walks by in the next scene on his horse while Cimmaron and Mr. Anderson talk.

    * Factual errors: On the DVD special features, images of Sarah Cunningham (as Annie Anderson) are used in the "Cast & Crew" information for Colleen Dewhurst.

    * Revealing mistakes: When Mr. Anderson is tying up Crazy Alice for the cowboys to ride, the horse changes from a dark-maned horse to one with a lighter brown mane.

    * Revealing mistakes: When Mr. Anderson is branding the calf during roundup, he only touches the iron to the calf once even though the brand on other livestock clearly shows two distinct O's. Before he brands the calf, one can clearly see that the iron is a single O.

    * Revealing mistakes: It appears that the Double O ranch has two different brands. During roundup and later in the film, the cattle wear a brand of two distinct O's separated by about 12 inches. In the scene before they start the drive, one of the horses appears to have a brand consisting of two Os connected horizontally. This brand should be the same as the brand the cattle wear. In addition, the connected Os might be called a lazy 8.

    * Continuity: In the scene where Anderson sends one of the boys back to find Mr. Nightlinger, Anderson is riding a pale Appaloosa. He rides ahead to talk to another boy, but is now riding a red sorrel.

    * Continuity: In the schoolroom, John Wayne wipes the blackboard with his right jacket sleeve. When he leaves the schoolroom, there is no chalk on his sleeve.

    * Plot holes: When Mr. Andersen is in the school, he puts a mark for Belle Fouche, SD on the board. He states his ranch is here, 400 miles away, and he draws a line headed NW of Belle Fouche. This would place him about Lewistown, MT. It is doubtful that Mr. Andersen would travel 400 miles to Belle Fouche, when Bozeman and Billings are both much closer, and in dire need of beef. The first big herd of cattle didn't come to MT until after the war (1866) so there was no way that they would have taken them east to send them further east.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Bonanza Creek Ranch - 15 Bonanza Creek Lane, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
    Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway - 1193 Fremont County Road 3A, Canon City, Colorado, USA
    Castle Rock, Colorado, USA
    Chama, New Mexico, USA
    Eaves Movie Ranch - 105 Rancho Alegre Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
    Galisteo, New Mexico, USA
    Laramie Street, Warner Brothers Burbank Studios - 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA
    Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA
    San Cristobal Ranch - 90 San Cristobal Ranch Road, Lamy, New Mexico, USA
    Stages 12,18 & 19 Warner Brothers Burbank Studios - 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California

    Watch this Trailer



    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 6 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The Cowboys is a 1972 Western motion picture starring Duke,
    Roscoe Lee Browne, Slim Pickens, A Martinez
    and Bruce Dern.
    Robert Carradine makes his film debut with fellow child actor Stephen R. Hudis.
    It was filmed at various locations in New Mexico, Colorado
    and at Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California.
    Based on the novel by William Dale Jennings, the screenplay
    was written by Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank, Jr., and Jennings, and directed by Mark Rydell

    Not a great film, but not a bad one either.
    Generally accepted by our members, has being probably the most violent
    of all Duke's films.This apart it would have made a good family film.
    One of few, were Duke gets killed, boo, hoo!!

    Duke now familiar in his mature person role, without love stories,
    he was looking more convincing than ever.
    Now filling the father image role, to perfection, he was looking comfortable,
    in these later films.

    Bruce Dern, was just brilliant as 'Long Hair', and became the most hated man in the world!
    and Roscoe, was fantastic as Jebadiah.
    With fine performances, from Coleen,and all the boys,
    particularly Clay O'Brien, who later went on to star in Cahill

    It made for a very enjoyable film.
    Besides the film opening to poor attendances,
    reviews were favourable,

    Rex Reed, of The New York Daily News wrote,


    All the forces that have made John Wayne a dominant ,personality
    as well as a major screen prescence, seem to combine in an unusual way,
    providing him with the best role of his career.

    Old Dusty britches can act

    User Review

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 6 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • On The Cutting Room Floor

    Shots of Duke. taking a fall off 'Crazy' Alice

    Duke and A. Martinez, while checking the trail ahead,
    encounter a bear.
    The bear was not in the final print!

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • The Cowboys is a brilliant movie a rights of passage movie with Duke as the boss leading a band of teenage cowboys on their first cattle trail.
    It is significantly different from his usual releases around this period but is better for it.
    It is a violent movie with a sad ending in that Bruce Dern kills the John Wayne character.

    When I first saw this movie I remember it being a longer film with the boys swearing more and being definitely more brutal. I don’t know whether it has been sanitised or re edited by the studio to allow it to be screened on TV.

    The DVD print matches what is currently seen on TV. I know Colleen Dewhurst and the girls had a bigger role in the movie which was cut before went to the cinema.

    John Wayne felt so bad that most of Colleen scenes were cut that he promised her another role in a later film which turned out to be Mc Q.

    Another gripe is the DVD print of this movie. Most DVD prints cause no complaints as they originate from good masters or have been cleaned up before release. This film I thought looked grainy and some wear was evident. Also, there are no extras such as a promo or documentary available.

    I would hope that a special edition will be released at some point in the future.

  • Hi DukePilgrim,
    I've bought my DVD copy in Finland and there is some documantary "The Breaking of Boys and the Making of man" with the trailer.

  • Hi,
    I have this documentary, and it's very interesting.
    Good shots of Duke, being interviewed.
    It also explains, that half the 'Cowboys' were from
    western, wrangling, type families
    and the other half were actors, brought up in the city.
    The two groups, had to teach other, the respective skills.
    Good interviews with the director.
    Overall a documentary worth seeing.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi Mike,
    It is not as good as I expected. But anyway I'm glad that I have this disc. I have heard that 1 zone discs are always better.

  • Hi Senta

    Yes, hopefully at some point there may be a remastered version released or at least one that looks better. I will hold on to mine until then.

    Apparently, Fort Apache when first released on DVD was really awful. Even the video was better in terms of quality. I have it as of part of the boxed set of John Ford/John Wayne films and whilst it is okay it not that great.

    On another note I have a bootleg copy of Stagecoach which came from Far East which is better quality than the official release in this set.

    It would be interesting to have a thread reviewing quality of DVDs and what extras come with them.


  • Mrs.Anderson says to Wil,just before they leave on the drive,"I'll think about you."
    Wil says,"You do and you won't sleep."
    I work the graveyard shift and a lot of nights before I leave for work,my wife and I have this conversation.It always makes her smile.

  • Quote

    Originally posted by ethanedwards@Jan 26 2006, 02:12 AM
    Memorable Quotes  
    Jebediah Nightlinger: I regret trifling with married women, I'm thoroughly ashamed at cheating at cards, I deplore my occasional departures from the truth. Forgive me for taking your name in vain, my Saturday drunkenness, my Sunday Sloth. Above all, forgive me for the men I've killed in anger, and those I am about to...



    One of our favorite memorable quotes from this movie, along with "We're burnin' daylight!"


    Originally posted by ethanedwards+Jan 26 2006, 02:15 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(ethanedwards @ Jan 26 2006, 02:15 AM)</div>

    I agree with most of your assessment of the film, except for folks considering it the most violent. Not looking for any kind of argument here, but I think Big Jake wins out for that dubious distinction. However, the despicable way in which Long Hair kills John Wayne's character (shooting him in the back) definitely takes first place for worst way in which Duke's character died in any movie, and is very upsetting to watch for some.

    <!--QuoteBegin-DukePilgrim@Jan 26 2006, 04:24 AM
    The Cowboys is a brilliant movie a rights of passage movie with Duke as the boss leading a band of teenage cowboys on their first cattle trail.


    I haven't seen this movie for awhile, but if memory serves me correctly, many of the boys were very young, maybe 11 or 12, with few teenagers in the bunch. They were definitely boys, which is one of the things that lends to the poignancy of the film.

    Deep Discount DVD carries both the movie by itself, as well as part of the John Wayne Signature Collection. Either way, the documentary you describe above is included.

    Amazon also has the individual DVD, with the documentary.

    Chester :newyear:

  • I noticed are selling a new version of The Cowboys.

    Has anybody got a copy and are there any more details on the deleted scene that is included?

    John Wayne has brawled bare-knuckled, gunned down desperadoes, fought jungle wars and piloted the skies. But 'The Cowboys' gives him one of his juiciest roles as a leather-tough rancher who, deserted by his regular help, hires eleven greenhorn schoolboys for a cattle drive across 400 treacherous miles.

    When the dust settles, Wayne gives one of his best performances. In The Cowboys, Rex Reed wrote, "All the forces that have made him a dominant personality as well as a major screen presence seem to combine. Old Dusty Britches can act." Co-starring the equally memorable Roscoe Lee Browne, Colleen Dewhurst and Bruce Dern, 'The Cowboys' is exciting proof.

    This version, never before released in the UK, includes a previously deleted scene.

  • Hi Keith

    HMV gives this synopis

    This version, never before released in the UK, includes the previously cut scene where Wayne is shot in the stomach.

    Running time of my existing DVD is 128 minutes

    IMDB Database give 131 minutes yet this version says 133 minutes which is 5 minutes more than original release.

    It is also same cover as USA Region 1 release.

    I wonder is print and sound better?


  • Mike thanks,
    Yes it appears, most documentation lists 128 mins,
    although, my old VHS version is 121 mins.
    So if the deleted scene, is as you say,
    it means we all have to suffer Duke dying for 5 minutes longer!!
    Oh dear, I don't know whether, we'll be able to stand that!!!!

    Best Wishes,

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi Keith

    Reading the reviews of the Region 1 version I think some of the extra minutes are made up a collage of trailers.



    DVD Features:
    Region 1
    Snap Case
    Dual Layer
    Dolby Digital Surround - English
    Dolby Mono - French
    Additional Release Material:
    13 Theatrical Trailers of John Wayne Movies From the 30s Through the 70s
    Interactive Features:
    Interactive Menus
    Scene Access
    Text/Photo Galleries:
    Production Notes

    "Dusty Trails." That's what the digital transfer of "The Cowboys" looks like. Delivered in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, the transfer is a mess. It's grainy, the colors are muted and somber, and there are compression artifacts around every bend. I was so disappointed. At first I tried to pretend that the picture wasn't so bad, but it just got more irritating as the film continued. Some scenes look like they were shot through gauze, while others just fall apart. The blacks are an embarrassment, almost dissolving to dark gray in some scenes. John Wayne's corduroy jacket causes strobing during one early scene. The colors are dreary. The blue skies are washed out, the flesh tones look pale, and the earth tones seem lifeless. It looks like the original negative wasn't in the best condition. The images look sharper once the disc switches over to the second layer, but it's still not acceptable. It's watch-able, but it's not nearly up to the high standards one comes to expect from Warner Home Video DVD.

    "The Cowboys" DVD features a newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in English and a French language mono soundtrack. The 5.1 Soundtrack is okay but no overly expressive. The rear speakers are under utilized, and only come alive with the occasional strain of John William's score or some low level ambient noise. The dialogue mix is strong, but the sound range isn't dynamic enough to discuss. I wasn't expecting much from the soundtrack, so I was pleased with the results.

    Closed Captions in English and subtitles in French.

    First and foremost, let me say that I love coming attraction trailers. I'd probably buy this DVD just for the thirteen theatrical trailers included that cover John Wayne's career at Warner Brothers. Aside from the original "The Cowboys" trailer, you get "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "Rio Bravo," "Stagecoach," "Blood Alley," "The Green Berets," "The Searchers" and many more. It's a John Wayne coming attraction film festival, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The DVD also features a behind-the-scenes documentary "The Breaking of Boys and the Making of Men." It's a short yet fascinating exploration of the process director Mark Rydell used to turn actors into cowboys and cowboys into actors. I especially liked the scene where Rydell lets one of the actors know he has gotten the part. It's a real, honest moment. There's also a brief history lesson on the cowboy, his place in history and film, plus star and crew production notes and bios, and handsome main and scene access menus. A nice package of extras for a DVD that isn't a "special edition."

  • Mike, I agree,
    This is always a problem,
    It's difficult to know, if they're listing the total running time of the DVD
    or the movie running time!!
    However, it seems before this new release, the official view,as we said,
    is a movie time of, 128 mins,

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi Keith

    I think it may be a slightly longer version but still hasnt been remastered properly.

    I think I'll wait for a while until Play247 drop their price to the £8.00 mark.

    I've noticed they tend to do that after a few months.

    I see The Conqueor and Jet Pilot are there at £5.99!! B)


  • Hi DukePilgrim.

    I may be wrong, but I don't think this is a new release at all. I think it has been around a couple of years. I couldn't see any date of release anywhere, but has had a "The Cowboys" DVD available for a long time. For some reason this hasn't been available at Amazon or other stores.

    Popol Vuh

  • Hi Popol

    It is a different release from my original DVD from but it not a new release. I think it based on the Region 1 release which has the same artwork.

    The only difference is the slightly longer running time which I think is the collage of 13 trailers plus this extra scene.

    It's a shame they have not remastered the picture or got it from a better source. It a bit steep to pay £14.99 for essentially the same movie.

    As I have said before in previous posts I was disappointed with film in terms of picture quality especially when projected as it looks washed out and has signs of wear. I would be keen to rebuy if it was enhanced.

    The only reason I would buy (if price is reduced) is in the hope that it will be better than the copy I have now plus the extra scene and trailers.

    Sometimes the transfer to PAL format is morse successful than NSTC transfer.

    I really think if film companies are going to repackage they should at least give the fans something extra for rebuying the same title

    They have done that with a number of JW Paramount movies recently which are now available in widescreen instead of academy format but are essentially the same.