“The Cowboys” is a 1972 release starring John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Brown and Bruce Dern. Mark Rydell directed the movie, which was based on the novel by William Dale Jennings.
We watch as Wil Anderson (John Wayne), who loses all of his hands to gold fever, hires on a bunch of teenage boys for a 60-day cattle drive, where they are pursued by Asa “Long Hair” Watts (Bruce Dern) and his gang of thieves and murderers. The boys and Wil help each other grow up, and there are some surprises along the way.
John Wayne does a fantastic job, and Roscoe Lee Brown has an innate dignity that the role needed and he brought to it. Bruce Dern is once again fun to watch as pure, sadistic, evil, and the kids seem to grow throughout the film. Robert Carradine makes his film debut, and A Martinez is terrific as Cimarron, another of the “boys.” The story, the acting and the cinematography are all top-notch. And there’s plenty of beautiful shots of horses and cattle, filmed at various locations in Colorado and New Mexico. Slim Pickens is in the movie early on and, as always, is fun to watch. I’ve always loved his voice and cadence, so when he and Wayne (with his unique way of speaking) are on screen together, it’s a treat.
The movie overall is thoroughly entertaining and well worth watching — probably more than once.