Ballad of Little Jo

The Ballad of Little Jo

Director: Maggie Greenwald

Cast: Maggie Greenwald, Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen

     
 

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The Ballad of Little Jo is based on a true story -- several true stories, in fact. Suzy Amis plays demure young Josephine Monagan, who in 1866 is run out of her home town after bearing an illegitimate child. Fleeing westward, Josephine is terrified by stories of how treacherous the frontier can be for a woman alone. As a result, upon arriving in the muddy burg…  See more details below

Overview

The Ballad of Little Jo is based on a true story -- several true stories, in fact. Suzy Amis plays demure young Josephine Monagan, who in 1866 is run out of her home town after bearing an illegitimate child. Fleeing westward, Josephine is terrified by stories of how treacherous the frontier can be for a woman alone. As a result, upon arriving in the muddy burg of Ruby City, she disguises herself as a man, going so far as to scar her face to suggest that she's been in a few scrapes. In this guise, "Little Jo" does just fine by herself for nearly 30 years! Almost as good as Suzy Amis is Bo Hopkins as gunslinger Frank Badger, Little Jo's best buddy (if only he knew....) Written and directed by Maggie Greenwald, The Ballad of Little Jo does a marvelous job conveying the people and places of its period; and, unlike Bad Girls (which was released around the same time), we aren't bludgeoned to death by feminist revisionism. Unfortunately ignored when it went out to theatres in the fall of 1993, The Ballad of Little Jo has fared rather better on video.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
Turning the feminist point of view askew, this film offers the premise that the only way a woman could prosper in the frontier West with any dignity was to disguise herself as a man. The fact is, given the constrictions on women at the time, this was likely the only means of prospering for a woman anywhere in America. But Little Jo, née Josephine Monaghan, has a better chance of concealing her identity on the underpopulated frontier, which also was democratically open to an entrepreneur with some talent and determination. Jo learns how to be a sheepherder from Frank Badger (Bo Hopkins), and then turns the tables on him by saving up enough to buy her own spread and flock. They manage to coexist as neighbors, if not outright pals, for the rest of her life. But her secret is discovered rather quickly by another outcast, a Chinese veteran of railroad work (David Chung), who becomes, in turn, her domestic servant and then her lover. Concealing both her identity and the affair almost overwhelms Jo, and the film is distressingly vague on the resolution of the couple's relationship. Another subplot involving a cattle baron trying to buy Jo's land is similarly unresolved. What the film is best at portraying is the isolation and terrible loneliness of life on the frontier. Writer/director Maggie Greenwald's next film, Songcatcher, also dealt with a woman venturing into a isolated culture where she wasn't welcome; in that story, the protagonist made few accommodations. In a rare lead performance, Suzy Amis is persuasive, but because of her character's understandable reticence, the real life of this party is Bo Hopkins' Frank, a man who's sure that Little Jo is some kind of peculiar fellow but is at the same time remarkably tolerant of him.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/02/2003
UPC:
0794043636820
Original Release:
1993
Rating:
R
Source:
New Line Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Letterbox]
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Time:
2:02:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Widescreen version of the film; 5.1 surround sound; DTS surround sound; Stereo surround sound; English subtitles and closed captions; Theatrical trailer; DVD-ROM enabled*

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Suzy Amis Little Jo Monaghan
Bo Hopkins Frank Badger
Ian McKellen Percy Corcoran
David Chung Tinman Wong
Carrie Snodgress Ruth Badger
René Auberjonois Streight Hollander
Heather Graham Mary Addie
Jeffery Passero Actor
Olinda Turturro Elvira
Anthony Heald Mr. Henry Grey
Melissa Leo Mrs. Grey
Sam Robards Jasper Hill
Jeffrey Andrews Sam
Cathy Haase Mrs. Addie
Michael Ruud Russian Father
Troy A. Smith Soldier #1
Robert Erickson Wilkins
Sean Murphy Young Henry Grey
Karen Johnson Farmwife
Tracy Mayfield John
Jim Dunkin Mr. Brown
Tom Bower Lyle (uncredited)
Ruth Maleczech Shop Keeper

Technical Credits
Maggie Greenwald Director,Screenwriter
Barry Bernardi Producer
Fred Berner Producer
Felipe Borrero Musical Direction/Supervision
Claudia Brown Costumes/Costume Designer
Stephanie Carroll Set Decoration/Design
Ira Deutchman Executive Producer
Cas Donovan Asst. Director
Mark Friedberg Production Designer
Brenda Goodman Producer
Jim Halty Stunts
David Mansfield Score Composer
Declan Quinn Cinematographer
Keith Reamer Editor
John Sloss Executive Producer
Ginger Tougas Art Director
Lisa Zimble Asst. Director

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles/Vagrant
2. Sold for a Day's Pay
3. Dressing Unlawfully
4. "Jo Monaghan, Sir"
5. A Job and a Bed
6. The Trouble With Women
7. Percy's Gone Crazy
8. Never Enough Company
9. "Homestead...Guide"
10. On-the-Job Training
11. Winter's End, Mary's Wedding
12. "You're a Female and a Whore"
13. Becoming Neighbor
14. An Affordable Cook
15. Two's a Crowd
16. Tinman and Josephine
17. Sears and Mysteries
18. Nosy Badger at the House
19. Death Encroaching
20. "Come on Back, Little Fella"
21. Sold, Not Sold
22. Election-Day Killings
23. The Later Years
24. "He Was a Woman"
25. A Decent Photograph
26. End Credits

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