Cast & Crew
Walter Buckman owns a successful cattle ranch in Montana, where cowboys Ross Bodine and Frank Post work. When a horse goes wild and tramples its rider, Ross and Frank are directed to bring the body into town, and along the way they discuss the uncertainties of life and their fear of dying with nothing to their name. After Ross, who is fifty years old, mentions his plan to settle down in Mexico, the young Frank jokingly suggests they rob a bank in order to finance a ranch there. At the saloon in town, after drinking to the dead man, the two cowboys start an altercation with their rivals, sheep rancher Hansen and his men. The fistfight is finally ended when the bartender, Dave, knocks out Ross and Frank, after which the other customers deposit the cowboys in their wagon and point the horses back to the ranch. The next morning, Walt informs them that they owe Dave the costs to rebuild the saloon, which will come out of their monthly pay. Walt then visits Hansen in the town jail, declaring that if one more sheep grazes on Buckman land, he will kill Hansen. After locating the sheriff, Bill Jackson, in Maybell Tucker's brothel, Walt instructs him to release Hansen, noting "If there's a war, let's get it over with." Meanwhile, Frank convinces Ross to rob the bank that night, and when Walt's sons Paul and John see the men riding toward town, they decide to follow them after dinner, assuming they are visiting Maybell's newest girl. At dinner, John mentions Maybell, spurring Walt to berate him for disrespecting their mother Nell and later to rebuke Nell for being too soft on her boys. Meanwhile, Ross and Frank have entered the home of banker Joe Billings, and while Ross brings him to town on Frank's horse to open the bank, Frank stays to guard his wife Sada and her mother. Despite Frank's childlike delight in the Billings' dog and her pups, Sada condemns him. In town, Ross ties the horses up outside Maybell's, then sends Joe to the bank while he waits at the saloon. When Joe does not return quickly, Ross goes to the bank, where Joe waits for him with his gun drawn. Unflappable, Ross notes that Frank is sure to kill Sada if he does not return, and Joe reluctantly puts the gun down. Meanwhile, Paul and John have reached town and, spotting Ross and Frank's horses outside Maybell's, search the brothel for their employees, but Maybell asserts that she has not seen them. Outside, they see Ross and Joe leaving and question them, and when Ross swears that Frank is at Maybell's, a furious John returns to the brothel and shoots his gun into the air, demanding to know why she has lied. In the ensuing melee, Ross and Joe slip back to the Billingses', where they find Frank outside shooting at a cougar. The animal attacks, killing one of the horses and the dog, before Ross is able to shoot it. As Sada, weeping, collects the puppies, the other horse flees, so Ross takes the Billingses' only horse and shows an exultant Frank their $36,000 payload. Before leaving, however, Ross leaves $3,000 with Joe and Sada to cover the Buckman ranchhands' pay. Although Joe tries to hand it back, Ross insists he keep it. After the cowboys ride off, Sada coldly informs Joe that they will keep the money without mentioning it to the sheriff. Ross and Frank head toward Mexico, planning to stop at the nearest way station to buy a mule. When they stop to rest, Ross notices that Frank is holding one of the unweaned puppies in his jacket. Meanwhile, Ross's horse returns to the ranch, prompting Walt to ride into town, where he finds Joe and the sheriff discussing the robbery. Although Bill believes Ross and Frank are already too far away to pursue, Walt directs his sons to join the posse and track the men down, declaring that no employees of his will ever again break the law. The next morning, Ross and Frank arrive at the ranch of Ben, an old acquaintance of Ross's who sells mules. Frank demands milk for his pup, and when Ben offers his cat, who has new kittens, Frank is shocked to see the cat suckle the dog. Ben demands the dog in payment for the mule, and although Frank is reluctant to relinquish his pet, Ross urges him to agree. Soon after, the posse loses the trail and turns back, but John persists, with Paul unenthusiastically accompanying him. Some time later, Ross spots a herd of wild broncos and insists on catching one, despite Frank's warning that they are in a hurry. With great skill, Ross manages to catch a horse and break it, and as Frank watches, he dances with glee in the snow. They soon reach the nearest town, Benson, where Ross wins the draw to see who will enter the town to buy supplies, but soon relents and invites the sulking Frank to join him. They luxuriate in a bath and purchase women's favors and supplies, and while Frank decides to play a game of poker, Ross relaxes with a friendly prostitute. Frank is winning a heated game when his arrogance frustrates a rival player, who pulls out a pistol and shoots him in the leg. Hearing the answering shots, Ross rushes to the saloon and helps Frank shoot his way out. Unwilling to risk seeing a doctor, Frank asserts that they must leave town. Meanwhile, Walt spots Hansen's sheep on his land and approaches the rancher and his men, guns drawn. In the ensuing shootout, both Walt and Hansen are killed. When John and Paul reach Tucson, the sheriff there, notified of the shootout by Bill, informs them of their father's death, which strengthens John's resolve to carry out Walt's last demand. At camp that night, Ross digs the bullet out of Frank's leg, causing the younger man to pass out. The next day, the Tucson sheriff counsels the brothers to turn back, but John, feeling increasingly ill, refuses. Paul tells the sheriff that he does not agree with his brother but hopes to keep him alive. By the following night Frank's wound has become infected, but when Ross suggests they return to Benson, Frank wagers that they will come across a closer town. Ross tries to cauterize the wound, but the infection rages, and soon Frank is so weak Ross must convey him on a stretcher behind the horse. Frank asks Ross to tell him more about Mexico, so Ross spins a tale about the beauty and bounty that await them. The next day, Ross informs Frank that he considered him clownish at first, but soon grew to love him and respect him as a fine cowboy. By the end of his speech, he tenderly covers Frank's already dead body with a blanket. Ross continues on alone, but is soon spotted by Paul and John. Paul shoots Ross's horse, and when the cowboy drops to the ground, John shoots him. Disgusted, Paul approaches Ross and apologizes, then rides off alone and John, barely able to breathe, attempts to collect Ross's dead body as his prize.
Joe Don Baker
Charles [h.] Gray
Patrick Sullivan Burke
Robert R. Benton
John F. Burnett
George W. Davis
Lorin B. Salob
Harry W. Tetrick
Tag line for Wild Rovers
Blake Edwards returned to his roots for Wild Rovers (1971), a tale about two would-be bank robbers; one, an aging cowboy, the other, a naive tenderfoot. Edwards had started his acting career with a role in the 1942 Western Ten Gentlemen From West Point, then broke into writing and producing at Allied Artists in 1948 and 1949 with a pair of low-budget oaters, Panhandle and Stampede. In addition, Wild Rovers gave him the chance to work with William Holden, something he had wanted to do for years. The two had met in the '40s, when both were working at Columbia Pictures, but had not become friends until 1964, when they were briefly attached to The Americanization of Emily (both would drop out before filming).
Edwards was coming off the biggest failure of his career, the expensive musical flop Darling Lili (1970), when he went to MGM for this picture about dealing with age and changing times. He was so personally involved in the film that it marked the first time in his career that he wrote an original screenplay without a collaborator. Following the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, buddy pictures and westerns were considered surefire box office. With Holden's recent success in The Wild Bunch (1969), the film seemed like a solid investment. But Edwards wasn't interested in directing a conventional western. His film focused more on the friendship between Holden's aging cowhand, Ross Bodine, and a young innocent, Frank Post, played by rising star Ryan O'Neal, who had just finished Love Story (1970). Feeling they've accomplished little with their lives, the two decide to rob a bank, then have to escape a posse relentlessly led by the sons (Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker) of their former boss (Karl Malden). Their voyage takes them through scenes of changing times in the West as they fall prey to a series of accidents that had critics calling the picture the first existentialist Western.
During production, the two stars forged a close relationship, particularly after they decided to drive together from Arizona to Utah during location shooting. O'Neal was fascinated with the older actor and begged for stories about his career, his working methods and his life. For his part, Holden took a liking to the young actor and, according to Edwards' wife, Julie Andrews, "held out his hand and gave the picture to Ryan." When O'Neal won an Oscar® nomination for Love Story during shooting, Holden even convinced him to attend the Academy Awards® as a show of respect for the actors who had voted for him.
Unfortunately, Edwards' thoughtful, slow-moving film wasn't quite what studio executives had expected. Although he considered it his best work ever, the studio cut 24 minutes out of the film before its release, a move that left him understandably bitter. And though Holden got strong notices, most of the reviewers complained that the film departed too much from genre formulas. As a result, Wild Rovers was one of the year's biggest box-office disappointments, contributing further to Edwards' career slump. He wouldn't bounce back until the mid-'70s, when he re-united with Peter Sellers for a series of sequels to their original The Pink Panther. Yet the very characteristics that alienated critics and audiences initially, led to the birth of a Wild Rovers cult. In more recent years, fans have come to treasure the film for its thoughtful pace and focus on the growing relationship between Holden and O'Neal, elements that were strengthened when Edwards produced a 136-minute directors cut years later (TCM will be showing this version). Surprisingly, the film also developed a core of gay fans who read a romantic subtext into the relationship and even used one of the film's strongest images -- O'Neal with his arms around Holden's waist as they share a horse -- on posters for gay rights rallies.
Producer: Blake Edwards, Ken Wales
Director: Blake Edwards
Screenplay: Blake Edwards
Cinematography: Philip Lathrop
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Addison Hehr
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Principal Cast: William Holden (Ross Bodine), Ryan O'Neal (Frank Post), Karl Malden (Walter Buckman), Tom Skerritt (John Buckman), Joe Don Baker (Paul Buckman), James Olson (Joe Billings), Leora Dana (Nell Buckman), Moses Gunn (Ben), Victor French (Sheriff), Rachel Roberts (Maybell).
C-136m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
According to press notes, interiors were shot at the M-G-M Studios and extensive location shooting took place in Moab and Monument Valley, UT and in Arizona at Nogales, Tucson, Sedona and Flagstaff. A modern source adds the following actors to the cast: Barbara Baldavin, Phyllis Douglas, Michael Haynes, Gloria Hill, Jayne McIntyre and Beatriz Monteil.
As noted in Filmfacts, writer-director Blake Edwards' original cut of Wild Rovers ran for 130 minutes. After a negative reaction at sneak previews, however, M-G-M cut twenty-four minutes of the film, including the scenes in which "Ross Bodine" gives some of the stolen money back to the "Billingses" and a slow-motion sequence in which "Walter Buckman" dies. The studio also added to the end of the film, after "Frank Post's" death, a recurrence of the sequence in which Post dances in the snow while Ross breaks the bronco. The original, longer version was the print viewed. As noted in modern sources, Edwards had considered Wild Rovers his best film, but disapproved of the shorter, released version.
On June 15, 1971, Daily Variety reported that, despite M-G-M's assumption that the film would earn an R rating, it was rated GP. After the film's release, a June 25, 1971 Daily Variety article stated that the studio would withdraw its original advertising campaign, featuring an image of Ryan O'Neal and William Holden riding a horse, with O'Neal's arms around Holden. According to the article, the ads had engendered "insider wisecracks" about a possible homosexual relationship between the characters, and would be replaced by images of the stars standing separately, holding guns.
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States May 21, 1989
Released in United States 1971
Released in United States May 21, 1989 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) May 21, 1989.)