The Ballad of Josie
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Starring Doris Day, The Ballad of Josie is a rousing western-comedy about a feisty widow who is determined to make a better life for herself and her young son. Independent and unwilling to fall into another submissive relationship, Josie decides to raise sheep, despite that her little town of Arapaho is in the middle of cattle country. Defying tradition, she purchases herds of sheep, renovates a dilapidated ranch on her property, dons a pair of pants, and challenges the resistance of enraged cattle ranchers. With all her pluck and courage, amidst fights, gunfire and an all-out riot, Josie organizes the ladies of Arapaho to come to her aid, even against their own cattle-owning husbands!
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Top Customer Reviews
What was unusual about that? Generally a Doris Day film packed the movie house and less than two years earlier I had been one of over a thousand people howling with laughter at Miss Day's hit comedy, "The Glass Bottom Boat".
"The Ballad of Josie" is not a bad movie although it might have worked better under one of it's working titles, "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch".
The cinematography is beautiful and expansive and the color is rich. The cast all try their best to make something out of a screenplay that is rather uninspiring at best.
Directed by Andrew McLaglen, the son of noted actor Victor McLaglen, Andrew had directed the hugely popular comedy-western "McLintock" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. One wishes that "Josie" was half as much fun. It's especially surprising that "Josie" was a Universal Pictures release since Universal had made more than 100 million dollars from half a dozen Doris Day successes. "Josie" seems as though it might have been made for the studio's burgeoning television division.
The story of a frontier widow with a young son who decides to take up the raising of sheep in cattle country is not especially original and much of the plot is telegraphed well in advance resulting in few surprises along the way.
That being said, Doris Day gives a lively and spirited performance and does not waver, despite a most unattractive wig on her head, in giving the role of Josie Minick the same consummate professionalism she lent to some of her best pictures. The comedy moments are rare but she makes the most of them and she brings spunk and fire to the part of a woman who is not going to be a mere fixture. You root for her and want her to succeed.
Miss Day and co-star Peter Graves have great on-screen chemistry. He's sexy and so is she, filling out a pair of jeans (designed by Jean Louis) that a woman half her age would envy. You genuinely like the pair and they are at all times believable, raising their scenes together or apart to something above-average.
The supporting cast is wonderful from George Kennedy to Andy Devine and even David Hartman who fifteen years later as host of "Good Morning America" interviewed Miss Day during a week-long segment honoring her.
If the film did not star Doris Day, you'd watch it, enjoy it for what it is and not have higher expectations. Because it stars a legendary actress and star who has and continues to dazzle and delight, you will come away slightly disappointed but never bored. Watching it today you'll be entertained but in it's time the expectation associated with a "Doris Day film" rendered it a failure to critics and audiences accustomed to something else.
An interesting side-note: When NBC broadcast "The Ballad of Josie" on their Monday Night at the Movies in the fall of 1969, it became the highest rated Doris Day film ever shown on network television with a viewing audiences exceeding 40 million.
Fans of Doris Day will be grateful for the opportunity to own her 37th motion picture and others will find it a painless and pleasant couple of hours.
Doris is Josie Minick, who we meet battling off her ner' do well hubby with a pool cue in the first five minutes of the movie. So he's dead, and the men of the town have to decide whether to convict Josie of manslaughter or give her the bounty that was out on her loser husband. She's right purty, so they acquit her and hand over the bounty, but how's a woman in the old west to earn a living? After her gorgeous neighbor Jason Meredith (Graves), inadvertently gives her the idea, she takes up sheep ranching. Except this stretch of Wyoming is cattle country, and the men don't like the idea of her ranching in general, and one of them (a menacing Kennedy) is willing to resort to violence. And while Jason Meredith may not think ranching is for women, he ain't about to see Josie bullied, and so a stand-off begins that escalates into a state-wide gender war with the whole future of Wyoming at stake.
The movie is nicely filmed, very sixties cinematography, and the pace brisk and light. The surprise is the strength of the dialogue (a weary man sighs that women are "prisoners of their juices") and the chemistry between Graves and Doris. Another reviewer describes him as sexy, and is he ever, also moral, just and considerate, even if unconscious that his views on women need updating ("You think of women as a species of idiot" Doris upbraids him.). Sparks definitely fly, and the pair are great fun to watch. I would argue that Doris Day had a strange talent for romantic chemistry, when you think how many strong on-screen romances she pulled off with a great variety of actors (Rock Hudson, Stephen Boyd, Cary Grant, Rod Taylor, John Raitt, and Gordon MacRae, to name but a sample). Day and Graves make this film a film worth seeing.
So, to conclude: 4.5 stars if you a big Doris Day fan, 3.5 if you are not, and a must for Peter Graves devotees (as I just discovered I am). His performance is subtle, but just so good. Watch the scene early in the film when he tells Doris how he lost his previous love and why, and then notice his tiny, perfect reaction much later when Doris tells him she doesn't care about her barn, she cares about him. Good acting.
Not everybody's cup of tea, perhaps, but if you're intrigued:
When her abusive husband is killed falling down a flight of stairs whilst trying to have his way with her, Josie Minick (Doris Day) decides to create a better life for herself and young son Luther (Teddy Quinn). Owning a small parcel of land on the outskirts of town, she establishes a sheep farm...and comes under the wrath of neighbors who are all long-time cow farmers. Josie ("a pretty girl, a sturdy girl, made of solid timber", as the theme song goes), will need all her pluck and courage to achieve her dream...and not start an all-out Range War in the process!
It's a fun movie. Doris Day looks lovely in her Jean Louis costumes and beautiful upswept 'top-knot' hairstyle. If anything is wrong with the movie, it's probably just a fraction too long. Day's co-stars include Peter Graves, George Kennedy, Audrey Christie and Andy Devine.
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