Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1980): Lamony Johnson’s Charming Western Comedy Starring Burt Lancaster and Amanda Plummer

Directed with verve by Lamont Johnson, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, is an original Western comedy about two spunky adolescent girls in the late nineteenth century.

The two young women are infatuated with the outlaw heroes they had read about in Ned Buntline’s stories and ran off to join them

But when they get there, they find the demoralized remnants of the Doolin-Dalton gang, led by the aging Bill Doolin (Burt Lancaster). Doolin tries to inspire them to live up to the legends created by Buntline, and they decide to rejuvenate the famed but fading gang.

Amanda Plummer (daughter of Christopher Plummer), in an impressive film debut, plays tomboyish young woman from the East who hitchhikes West in search of the desperado heroes she’s read about in Ned Buntline’s dime novels of the period.

The mature cast is excellent, including Rod Steiger, as the U.S. Marshall who chases Doolin, and especially Burt Lancaster, as the aging but charismatic outlaw boss, who functions as their surrogate father.

The film’s title suggests the juvenile nature of this kind of fiction.  Director Lamont Johnson gives his cheery and cheerful mock Western the right light touch that every fable needs.