Cast & Crew
As the McCaslins' first automobile, a new 1905 yellow Winton Flyer, arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi, 11-year-old Lucius McCaslin is the most excited of all the family. Boon Hogganbeck, a loyal but irrepressible hired hand, is given the position of "official driver." The elder McCaslins--Maury, the father, and Boss, the grandfather--are called away to a funeral in St. Louis. They leave Lucius in the care of old Aunt Callie, but Boon's influence takes over. He persuades Lucius to lie so that both of them can take the car for a pleasure trip to Memphis. As they reach the countryside, Ned, a Negro who as a baby was found in the McCaslin backyard, pops up from his hiding place in the back seat. The three travel to Memphis, 80 miles and nearly 24 hours away. At their destination, Ned goes his own way while Boon takes Lucius to Miss Reba's "boardinghouse for women." Boon finds his favorite of Miss Reba's women, Corrie, and discovers that she wants to change her ways and get married. Corrie's nephew, Otis, sleeps with Lucius that night, and when Otis calls his aunt a whore, Lucius defends her honor and receives a knife wound for his effort. Ned arrives the next morning and boasts of a trade he has made--the car for a racehorse named Lightning. To soothe Boon's temper, Ned explains that the car is the prize in a race between Lightning and another horse, Coppermine. At a makeshift track, Lightning proves to be anything but swift until Ned unwittingly opens a sardine sandwich in the horse's presence. Lightning demolishes his stall and later breaks the track's speed record. Sheriff Butch Lovemaiden's racial slurs against Ned lead Boon to defend his friend violently. The group is jailed, but Corrie comes to the rescue, returning to her old profession for the sheriff. Boon, incensed, blackens her eye and cuts her mouth. Disappointed by Boon, Lucius threatens to go home instead of riding Lightning, but after he sees the prized car arrive at the track, he changes his mind. The race is close, but at the last moment, Coppermine jumps the rail and crosses the finish line ahead of Lightning. Because of the infraction, the race is rerun and Lightning easily wins. After the race, Boss arrives to escort the trio, the horse, and the car back to Jefferson. At home, Maury is stern with Lucius. As he prepares the razor strap for punishment, Boss intervenes, prevents the whipping, and tells Lucius that he must accept the consequences of his wrongdoing. Somewhat heartened by his grandfather's advice, Lucius is made even happier when he hears that Boon and Corrie will marry--and will name their first child after him.
Allyn Ann Mclerie
Ella Mae Brown
Florence St. Peter
Harriet Frank Jr.
A. Paul Pollard
Jack N. Reddish
Robert E. Relyea
Theadora Van Runkle
Best Supporting Actor
The story, set in 1905, centers around a wealthy rural Mississippi family, the McCaslins, and their prized possession, a brand new, bright yellow Winton Flyer automobile, the first car owned by anyone in the community. While the family patriarch is away, the Winton is spirited off for a carefree road trip by hired hand Boon Hogganbeck (McQueen), grandson Lucius, and alleged distant cousin Ned, a mixed-race young man found on the property as a child and taken into the family. The trio take the car to Memphis, where the young Lucius has some wild adventures with his adult companions and learns important lessons about racism and vice but also about honor, redemption and love.
Although boldly working against type, McQueen was nervous about The Reivers's prospects for his career. "So now I'm gonna play a hayseed," he told a friend. "After this I'll probably never work again." Always insecure about his career, the star worried that the role might not appeal to his fan base, but he was convinced that, as an actor of loftier ambitions, he should take chances and stretch outside his comfort zone of action film roles. At least he had the assurance of being behind the wheel of a car onscreen again, which had worked well for him in his previous picture, the blockbuster hit Bullitt (1968). So, accompanied by his friend, martial arts star Bruce Lee, he headed off to the filming location (Carrollton, Mississippi) with a high sense of anticipation.
The good vibe didn't last long for the always moody and volatile McQueen. He quickly found himself at odds with director Mark Rydell, a former actor who had once dated McQueen's wife Neile, a fact the fiercely competitive star could not overlook (especially when there was a reputed rivalry between them over a female on the set). The two first clashed openly over McQueen's stock car racing at the local speedway which was in flagrant violation of his contract. The animosity was heightened when McQueen demanded to see the rushes, judged Rydell's work to be "lousy" (using a few other unprintable words), and demanded the director be replaced. When the producers refused, McQueen withdrew from work, and a group of executives (including some from his own company, Solar) had to fly to Mississippi to cajole the star back to the set. When he finally returned, another loud angry volley of words ensued between him and the director. Unhappy with the working situation, McQueen consoled himself with the favors of female fans who pursued him by the scores even in remote Carrollton. Rydell swore never to work with him again, and kept his word.
Although not a major commercial success like his earlier projects, The Reivers did respectable enough box office and earned two Academy Award nominations. Composer John Williams received the second of (to-date) 45 nominations of his career for music scoring. He would go on to win five Oscars®: Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982), and Schindler's List (1993). Rupert Crosse earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as cousin Ned, although it didn't significantly advance his film career. The promising, talented actor did television work for the next few years. His old friend Jack Nicholson wanted to cast him in a role in The Last Detail (1973), but by the time of production, Crosse was seriously ill with the cancer that would soon take his life at the age of 45.
McQueen's performance in The Reivers wasn't entirely overlooked. He received a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, and a supporting actor nod went to Mitch Vogel, the actor who played young Lucius. The film also received a Writers Guild of America nomination in the category of Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium for screenwriters Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch. The husband and wife team had by this time established themselves as Faulkner experts, having done the screenplays for the Faulkner-based The Long, Hot Summer (1958) and The Sound and the Fury (1959).
The Reivers also features Juano Hernandez, the distinguished Puerto Rican actor of African descent who appeared in an earlier Faulkner adaptation, Intruder in the Dust (1949).
Director: Mark Rydell
Producers: Irving Ravetch, Robert E. Relyea, Rick Rosenberg
Screenplay: Harriet Frank, Jr., Irving Ravetch, based on the novel by William Faulkner
Cinematography: Richard Moore
Editing: Thomas Stanford
Production Design: Charles Bailey, Joel Schiller
Original Music: John Williams
Cast: Steve McQueen (Boon Hogganbeck), Sharon Farrell (Corrie), Ruth White (Miss Reba), Will Geer (Boss McCaslin), Mitch Vogel (Lucius), Rupert Crosse (Ned).
by Rob Nixon
The Reivers on DVD
Not having seen this since I was younger than its hero, and remembering little of it, I wasn't sure what to expect. After 20 minutes I was convinced the movie was nothing more than a well-meaning failure, what with the overripe Burgess-Meredith-read narration, John Williams' typically hyperactive score, a sometimes irritating performance from freckle-faced redheaded lead Mitch Vogel (who, in 1969 child-acting terms, is a sort of milquetoast Bonaduce) and a gregarious style that isn't just different from McQueen's customary minimalism, it's also at odds with it. I was ready to rationalize The Reivers with a simple explanation: no doubt, McQueen made this piece of fluff so that his kids, who were about Lucius's age, could enjoy one of his movies.
That probably really is the reason McQueen made the picture. But it need not be a rationalization. Because once the more jarring elements of The Reivers sink in (there's also clumsy character introduction by director Mark Rydell and the screenwriting team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr.) and the story gets going, this turns into a fine coming-of-age road movie. (The title refers to an old slang term for "thieves.")
Lucius is the grandson of "Boss" (Will Geer), the imperious landowner who seems to run, if not own, all of little Jefferson, Mississippi. The 11-year-old leads a sheltered life in this quaint backwater, but that starts to change once "Boss" takes delivery on the town's first automobile, a plush yellow Winton Flyer. The car becomes an obsession for the two, as one character calls them, "unwashed and unrepentant" foundlings the family long-ago took in: Boon (McQueen) who, apparently, is some sort of family handyman and Ned (Rupert Crosse), a black man who is always anxious to remind Lucius's dad (Lonny Chapman) that they have a great-grandfather in common. When Lucius's parents and "Boss" have to go out of town for a funeral, Boon not only doesn't garage the car as "Boss" instructs, he also convinces Lucius to tell the housekeepers he's supposed to stay at a relative's and join him on a road trip to Memphis. Neither realizes that Ned is hiding under a blanket in the back seat, until they're all out of Jefferson.
The trio's misadventures en route to Memphis and in the city make up the bulk of the tale, and the movie hits its stride here, for a number of reasons. Its corny streak - this is the sort of movie where people regularly toss their hats to the ground in disgust - thins. After the gesticulating and slapstick of the early scenes, Boon becomes a more comfortable fit for McQueen (though McQueen as a carefree fellow is a stretch). And the impression that The Reivers is an egregiously misguided, whitewashed portrait of the Jim Crow south subsides, because that early impression occurs for one valid reason: we're looking at the world through the eyes of the boy. He doesn't notice anything unseemly in his hometown, but in Memphis and beyond, Lucius starts to see the way of the world, just as Boon had told him.
Boon wasn't embellishing, because he knows their destination in Memphis is a whorehouse, where he wants to visit Corrie (Sharon Farrell of It's Alive, who bears a striking resemblance to Kelly Preston). Lucius gets a big crush on Corrie, only to be heartbroken to learn what goes on in the house where she works. Similarly, the boy sees the racism Ned suffers when a swaggering sheriff (Clifton James) preys upon the interracial traveling party. Later, when Corrie has to sleep with the sheriff to get Boon, Ned and the prostitutes out of jail, and Boon slugs her for doing so, Lucius gets to see the hurt of sexism.
But the boy's coming of age is not dished out only in big, issue-oriented doses. Some of the more memorable scenes in The Reivers are its quiet moments, like when Lucius spends the night at the farm of Ned's uncle (Juano Hernandez, in one of his last roles) and becomes spooked by the country sounds of birds and animals that the old-timer has to identify to calm him. Other similar moments come when Boon gingerly explains what goes on in the brothel to the boy, and when "Boss" talks to Lucius about the trip out of town after his lying has been exposed and it's time for punishment. It's scenes like that that make The Reivers a good coming-of-age movie, because, even if the action can seem harsh for a 10- or 12-year-old viewer, the characters in the movie talk about the injustices and school Lucius about the challenges of adult life.
And in between all that there's a horse race in which Lucius gets to mount up, and carry the hopes of Boon and Ned with him. The sheer adventure of the race will please kids, while the lessons will probably seep in later. Although The Reivers is hardly top-shelf material as a McQueen movie, it is an excellent way to introduce younger viewers to this star from the past, before moving on to more iconic vehicles like The Magnificent Seven or Bullitt. The Reivers is also memorable for featuring an endearing comic performance from Crosse (John Cassevetes's Shadows). Like his memorable guest shot on The Monkees, Crosse's performance here is a chance to see the underutilized actor at his best.
For more information about The Reivers, visit Paramount Home Entertainment. To order The Reivers, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Sherman
The Reivers on DVD
Sometimes you have to say goodbye to the things you know and hello to the things you don't!- Boon Hoggenbeck
Actor Charles Aidman was originally cast to play the role of Maury, but Lonny Chapman replaced him when Aidman was called in by CBS temporarily to replace Ross Martin on "The Wild, Wild West" (1965).
John Williams's first film score.
Filmed in Carrollton, Mississippi.
Released in United States Winter December 1969
Released in United States Winter December 1969