“The Cowboys” is a classic John Wayne film although it was made in the later part of his career. John Wayne plays cattle man Will Anderson. He needs to get his beef across the 400 plus miles to market but there are no available men to work the cattle. He decides, out of necessity, to recruit 11 young boys from the local school.
This movie appeals to the young boy in all of us because I am sure a great many of us had dreams of being a Cowboy when we were kids. I know I used to dream about it as I sat in the back seat looking out at the grazing cattle on our drives to visit my Grandmother. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a real live cowboy riding out from the wooded places at the edge of those great, green, Texas pastures. I even loved the smell of cow patties as we pulled up to the gate at my Great Aunt Billie’s ranch in Peoria, TX. You see your young fantasy come to life when you watch this movie.
These 11 boys show up at Mr. Anderson’s ranch raring to go on this great adventure despite the fact that they have no experience nor do they have any idea of what they are in for. It is an amusing visual to see the younger of the boys wearing pistols (which they can barely lift) dangling from holsters which seem to droop down to their knees.
Once the journey begins the kids start to realize just how tough being a Cowboy can be. They experience the perils of crossing a swollen river, long sleepless nights on the lonesome dusty trail and following the orders of the tough as nails trail boss. They also learn about death as during a stampede they lose one of the young boys who is unable to climb to safety.
Then one night things take an awful twist as the youngster on night watch is accosted and threatened by cattle rustlers. The leader of the rustlers is played by Bruce Dern who always seemed to have a knack for playing a menacing outlaw. He smiles and acts friendly until he has gained the trust of his intended victim. He sees the fact that these are all children and knows he can scare them into keeping his intentions a secret from Mr. Anderson under penalty of death.
John Wayne’s latter films took on a more tragic tone and his character would end up being killed or dying. That is the case in “The Cowboys” as eventually a confrontation between Mr. Anderson and the rustlers ensues resulting in the death of Mr. Anderson. The boys had come to feel a sense of great respect for Mr. Anderson and they vow to take the cattle back from the rustlers and complete the drive.
I highly recommend seeing this film if you get the chance as it will bring back those old dreams of being a cowboy.
This movie is available on DVD in Widescreen format.