Director Maggie Greenwald constructed the screenplay for The Ballad of Little Jo from a number of stories of women in the Old West. Rather than accept the common portrayal of women as having been essentially a schoolmarm or saloon girl, Greenwald’s research showed that a large number of women found that passing themselves off as men was the best disguise. Even if the disguise was only minimally that of a man, so long as a woman could ride, rope and run a ranch, then it would be generally accepted that she was a man.
This is the premise for the film. Ex-model Suzy Amis (who went on to star in The Usual Suspects ), stars as a wealthy woman from the east who has been cast out from her family after giving birth to an illegitimate child. Travelling out to the Gold Rush, Amis realizes that a woman will always be a figure for sexual harassment, especially after she shares a ride with peddler Rene Auberjonois, who attempts to rape her. So she buys men’s clothes, cuts her hair, scars her face, speaks with a gruff voice and adopts the name of Jo Monaghan.
Her portrayal of a man is sufficiently good to convince the citizens of Ruby City, where she settles that she is male, although womanising Ian McKellan expresses doubts about her sexuality and her neighbour Bo Hopkins may have his own ideas but keeps them to himself. Amis lives a life of isolation until she witnesses a Chinese emigrant David Chung being beaten up, and, after McKellan encourages her, she intervenes in the fight and hires Chung as a workman cook. Chung soon realizes that Jo Monaghan is not all that he seems and a love affair begins between the two, the twist in the relationship being that she is the one who goes out to earn money while he stays at home cooking and cleaning.
In many ways, The Ballad of Little Jo follows on directly from Clint Eastwood’s masterly Unforgiven , which cast out many of the myths of the Old West and Mario Van Peebles’ Posse which brought the black cowboy back into the history off the west. Using the story of Josephine Montague, Greenwald re-examines the role of women and some of the smaller racial minorities.
USA | 121 minutes | 1993
Director: Maggie Greenwald
Script: Maggie Greenwald,
Suzy Amis as Josephine ‘Jo’ Monaghan
Bo Hopkins as Frank Badger
Ian McKellen as Percy Corcoran
David Chung as Tinman Wong
Heather Graham as Mary Addie
Rene Auberjonois as Streight Hollander
Carrie Snodgress as Ruth Badger
Anthony Heald as Henry Grey
Melissa Leo as Beatrice Grey
Sam Robards as Jasper Hill
Tom Bower as Lyle Hogg
and this just in
The Jack Benny Program: The Bobby Darin Show (CBS 28 Jan 1964)
The Bobby Darin Show: With the movie studio still working on the Jack Benny biography movie, Jack insists on playing...
Father Knows Best: Big Sister (S4EP14 NBC 8 Jan 1958)
Big Sister: Betty is assigned to be Kitten’s counselor at summer camp, but after she throws her authoritative weight around...
McHale’s Navy: Carpenter in Command (S2EP33 ABC 28 Apr 1964)
Carpenter in Command: In temporary command of the base, while Binghamton recovers from a broken leg, and drunk with power,...
Hunter: Girl On the Beach (S4EP16 NBC 16 Feb 2018)
Girl On the Beach: Hunter looks after Captain Devane to make sure he doesn’t do anything extreme after his ex-wife...
Hunter: Naked Justice Part 2 (S4EP15 NBC 9 Feb 1988)
Naked Justice (2): In his investigation of the death of a famous movie actress, Hunter follows a contract killer into...
The Rockford Files: The Man Who Saw the Alligators (S5EP17 Cozi TV Sat 22 Dec 2018)
The Man Who Saw the Alligators: A former hitman, who was captured and sentenced to prison by Rockford’s efforts, will...
Hunter: Naked Justice Part One (S4EP14 NBC 2 Feb 1988)
Naked Justice (1): Detectives Hunter and McCall are assigned to investigate the mysterious death of a famous movie star; they...
The Doctor Blake Mysteries: All She Leaves Behind (S5EP4 PBS Sun 16 Dec 2018)
All She Leaves Behind: When a controversial writer is found dead and her sister is found unconscious from a suspected...
House of Bamboo (TCF 1955, Robert Ryan, Robert Stack)
Gritty yet subtle crime drama set gorgeously in and around postwar Tokyo, and directed with psychological complexity by Sam Fuller....
Waist Deep (2006, Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good)
In action thriller Waist Deep, ex-convict (Tyrese Gibson) gets tangled up with a gang after his car is hijacked with...
I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009, Tyler Perry, Taraji P. Henson)
In Tyler Perry’s comedy drama I Can Do Bad All By Myself, when Madea catches sixteen-year-old Jennifer and her two...