Delmer Daves’ restored Western, an epic cattle-drive with tough Glenn Ford teaching tenderfoot Jack Lemmon the ropes on the trail to self-knowledge.
Completing the trio of under-stated Westerns Delmer Daves made at Columbia starring Glenn Ford (the others were 3:10 to Yuma and Jubal), Cowboy is based on 19th-century Irish-American adventurer Frank Harris’s unreliable memoir, My Reminiscences as a Cowboy (Harris also wrote a notoriously explicit, if fanciful, account of his sexual exploits, My Life and Loves), in which tenderfoot Frank (Jack Lemmon) serves a tough apprenticeship on a 2,000-mile cattle drive led by take-no-prisoners Ford. In characteristic Daves style, sweeping majestic landscapes and nervous, thousand-head cattle herds lend a realistic milieu to the atmospheric tale of a young man who ‘learns not only a trade and a way of life but also gains insight and self-knowledge’ (Edward Buscombe in The BFI Companion to the Western). Full justice is done to Charles Lawton Jr’s spectacular colour cinematography in this 4K digital restoration by chief conservationist Grover Crisp at Sony Columbia.
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