Cowboy (1958): Jack Lemmon’s Only Western, Starring Glenn Ford

The only Western that Jack Lemmon had made, Cowboy was directed by Delmer Daves and nominated for the Best Editing Oscar.

Frank Harris’ memoir was the source of this psychological “adult” western.  Jack Lemmon plays Harris, a city desk clerk in a frontier hotel.

Harboring romantic vision of the West, Harris asks Tom Reece (Glenn Ford) to take him along on Reece’s next cattle drive.  Harris’ idealized notions of the West are soon dispelled, though he becomes accustomed to the rough-and-tumble life on the trail and to the  male camaraderie.

In the film’s most famous scene, a group of cowboys plant a rattlesnake in one of their comrade’s blankets as a joke.  Their regretful but oddly detached reaction when the bitten man dies was greeted with suspicion by viewers.

Brian Donlevy is excellent as Doc Bender, an aging gunfighter.  The only female in the cast is Anna Kasfi(then better known as Brando’s former wife) as Maria Vidal.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Film Editing: William A. Lyon and Al Clark

Oscar Context:

The winner was Adrienne Fazan for “Gigi.”



Running time: 92 Minutes.

Directed by Delmer Daves.

Written by Edmund H. North, Dalton Trumbo.

Released: March 26, 1958 Wide

DVD: May 14, 2002