The setting of this film is in late 1876. Wil and Kate Andersen are raising cattle on their ranch and they are expecting their regular cook and drivers to come to help Wil take the cattle to market. There is a gold strike and all the men plus the cook have gone to try their hand at panning gold. Wil really needs to sell these cattle to pay his bills for the year. Wil doesn’t have any choice but to go to the local school and hire boys to help him with the cattle. Since the cook didn’t show this time, there is a new man and Wil likes having the same crew every year.
There was a lot of criticism for the last scenes in this movie. The ending isn’t a typical John Wayne ending. Wayne also played a father figure in the films Goodbye Mr. Chips and Sands of Iwo Jima. He stated about this film that, “no actor in his right mind would try to match the antics of eleven kids on screen.” He also said that it became, “the greatest experience of my life.” The boys are trying hard to do this job like men and Wil is treating them like men. 3 ½* (I liked this movie)
134 min, Adventure directed by Mark Rydell with John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Brown, Bruce Dern, Colleen Dewhurst, Alfred Baker, Jr., Nicolas Beauvy, Steve Benedict, Robert Carradine, Norman Howell, Stephen R. Udis, Sean Kelly, A Martinez, Clay and Sam O’Brien, Mike Pyeatt, Slim Pickens.
Note: Imdb 7.4 out of 10, 75% critic 88% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2 ½*, Amazon 4.8* out of 5* with 765 reviews.
Special Note: Filmed in Canon City, Durango, Castle Rock, Pagosa Springs, Colorado; Chama, Galisteo, Lamy and Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sonoita, Elgin and Hereford, Arizona; Burbank, California. John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Browne had political and social differences of opinion but they shared a love of poetry. The two refrained from any political discussions during filming. Mark Rydell originally wanted George C. Scott for the role of Wil Anderson. George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst were married. Several of the boys’ parents are their real-life parents. This is the first film for Robert Carradine. Richard Farnsworth formerly was a stuntman and extra. This is his first role to show his face. There is another film with the same title released in 2015. In 1974, Warner Bros. developed The Cowboys as a television series for ABC starring Jim David, Diana Douglas and Moses Gunn. David Dortort produced this series and also Bonanza, The High Chaparral and The Restless Gun.