Just so we're clear, sporting one of John Wayne's finest performances, with Bruce Dern at his most vilest, a haunting score by John Williams, and some stunning cinematography courtesy of Robert Surtees, all combining for a rousing good time, owning the DVD of Mark Rydell's The Cowboys is worth it for the movie all by itself and all the bonus features are just gravy. Still, the bonus materials provided on Warner Bros.' Deluxe Edition are pretty damned cool. Included is a vintage featurette shot during the filming back in 1971 that focuses on breaking in the young cast members.
For his cowboys -- stress on the boys, the savvy Rydell split them down the middle, with half having an acting background, the other already firm in the fine art of ranching and rodeos. They gelled perfectly.
The second major bonus feature is a cast reunion with Dern, A. Martinez (Cimarron), Stephen Hudis (Charlie), and Norman Howell (Weedy) joining Rydell for a roundtable discussion on the movie and its major players, Wayne, Dern, and Roscoe Lee Browne. (Browne and Robert Carradine contribute via taped interviews.) And here, I encountered the biggest laugh I've had in a long time when the director related a story about having dinner with the Duke:
"Walk into a restaurant with John Wayne in Santa Fe was like walking in with Lincoln or something. He signed everybody's autograph; he went over and met everyone's grandmothers; he was the sweetest guy. And then he walked to the bathroom ... He comes back and the side of his pants is soaking wet. And I said What happened?And he says, It always happens to me all the time. Some guy is standing next to me [at the adjoining urinal, sees me, turns, startled, and still firing, and excitedly says] You're John Wayne!"
That happened to him all the time? Seriously?! Meaning there are untold numbers of people out there who can proudly claim to have [accidentally] peed on John Wayne. Again: Seriously? And that, my friends, is just too hilarious to contemplate any further.
The Cowboys (1972) Sanford Productions-Warner Bros. / P: Mark Rydell / AP: Tim Zinnemann / D: Mark Rydell / W: Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank Jr., William Dale Jennings (Novel) / C: Robert Surtees / E: Neil Travis / S: John Wayne, Roscoe Lee Browne, Bruce Dern, Robert Carradine, A. Martinez