Marvin is the Full Monte
Monte (Lee Marvin) and his friend Chet (Jack Palance) have been cowboys all their life, riding from one place to another picking up work here and their then spending the fruits of their labours on women and drink. But now they face a changing West as ranchers are going out of business and big city firms are buying up the land left behind and those who can't find work are forced to take matters in to their own desperate hands. When Chet decides to settle down and become a store man it forces Monte to think long and hard about his future whether to try and keep going on or settle down with saloon girl Martine Bernard (Jeanne Moreau).
As is so often the case I came to watch "Monte Walsh" ass about face as I saw the 2003 remake with Tom Selleck and Keith Carradine before seeing this 1970 version with Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. But the good thing is that it doesn't matter as even when you have watched the remake first the original still stands up well despite in truth being another movie from the late 60s/ early 70s which focused not on the West but the changing face of the West and how it affected those who only knew one way of life.
But before we get to the changing face of the West bit we get some stereotypical aspects from an early scene with Lee Marvin as Monte wanting to head to the saloon as soon as he got paid to the ribbing of cowboys as they work together on Cal Brennan's ranch. It is light hearted good fun from a smelly cook being given a dunking by the men to the cook getting his own back with a stomach churning meal. It is laid back fun, the sort of thing which isn't original but puts a smile on the faces of those who enjoyed these westerns as children.
But there is of course the changing face of the West side of the movie from ranchers going out business, train tracks running through the open range as well as job shortages for those who only know how to be cowboys. It is again stereotypical of the era and of course makes it a movie tinged with sadness as we watch how for some cowboys they couldn't change. But the reason why it works is not because of the story but in the cast as the likes of Lee Marvin and Jack Palance had paid their dues in westerns over the years so taking on the roles of aging cowboys in the changing West was completely believable.
What this all boils down to is that "Monte Walsh" is an entertaining western from 1970 telling a familiar story for the era but doing a good job of telling it. It is down to the casting through out which makes it work as every single actor convinces that they have lived the life of a cowboy and are not facing an end to their way of living.