Comes a Horseman (1978)

PG | 118 mins | Western | 25 October 1978

Director:

Alan J. Pakula

Cinematographer:

Gordon Willis

Editor:

Marion Rothman

Production Designer:

George Jenkins
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HISTORY

       Referring to the film by its working title, Comes A Horseman Wild And Free, an 11 Feb 1976 Var article stated that producing team Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler recently signed an exclusive multi-picture contract with United Artists Corp. (UA) and the picture was scheduled to be one of the first of three films developed under the new pact.
       Although Var reported that the production was planned for Oct 1976, principal photography did not begin until 1 Jun 1977 in Canon City, CO, as stated in a 25 Jul 1977 Box news item. As noted in an 8 Jun 1977 DV brief, the film marked the feature film debut of Mark Harmon, who was known at the time for being an All-American UCLA football quarterback and television actor. Actress Valerie Perrine was initially considered for the lead female role as mentioned in the 11 Feb 1976 Var article, but the part ultimately went to Jane Fonda.
       On 23 Aug 1977, DV reported that stuntman Jim Sheppard, stand-in for actor Jason Robards, died on set in Westcliffe, CO, on 18 Aug 1977, while filming a stunt that required him to be “dragged by a horse through a wooden gate.”
       Although the film was initially scheduled for a summer 1978 release, the editing was not expected to be completed in time so the opening was pushed to Oct 1978, according to a 17 Feb 1978 HR article. With an estimated $10 to $12 million budget, the picture was scheduled to open nationally 25 Oct 1978, as mentioned in 26 Jul 1978 ... More Less

       Referring to the film by its working title, Comes A Horseman Wild And Free, an 11 Feb 1976 Var article stated that producing team Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler recently signed an exclusive multi-picture contract with United Artists Corp. (UA) and the picture was scheduled to be one of the first of three films developed under the new pact.
       Although Var reported that the production was planned for Oct 1976, principal photography did not begin until 1 Jun 1977 in Canon City, CO, as stated in a 25 Jul 1977 Box news item. As noted in an 8 Jun 1977 DV brief, the film marked the feature film debut of Mark Harmon, who was known at the time for being an All-American UCLA football quarterback and television actor. Actress Valerie Perrine was initially considered for the lead female role as mentioned in the 11 Feb 1976 Var article, but the part ultimately went to Jane Fonda.
       On 23 Aug 1977, DV reported that stuntman Jim Sheppard, stand-in for actor Jason Robards, died on set in Westcliffe, CO, on 18 Aug 1977, while filming a stunt that required him to be “dragged by a horse through a wooden gate.”
       Although the film was initially scheduled for a summer 1978 release, the editing was not expected to be completed in time so the opening was pushed to Oct 1978, according to a 17 Feb 1978 HR article. With an estimated $10 to $12 million budget, the picture was scheduled to open nationally 25 Oct 1978, as mentioned in 26 Jul 1978 and 16 Aug 1978 Var articles. A 30 Aug 1979 HR report stated that Comes A Horseman earned $15 million at the box office during its initial U.S. release.
       Richard Farnsworth was nominated in the category Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 1979 Academy Awards.

      The film’s end credits include the following written statement: “Our thanks to the Forest Service for allowing us to film in the Coconino National Forest.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Jul 1977.
---
Box Office
15 Jan 1979.
---
Daily Variety
8 Jun 1977.
---
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1977.
---
Daily Variety
30 Mar 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1978
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1979
p. 1, 4.
LAHExam
10 Jun 1977.
---
LAHExam
12 Jul 1977.
---
Los Angeles
Dec 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Oct 1978
p. 35.
New York Times
2 Nov 1978
p. 13.
Variety
11 Feb 1976.
---
Variety
1 Dec 1976
p. 6.
Variety
23 Mar 1977
p. 4, 32.
Variety
4 May 1977.
---
Variety
9 Nov 1977.
---
Variety
21 Jun 1978
p. 3, 40.
Variety
12 Jul 1978
p. 23.
Variety
26 Jul 1978
p. 3, 38.
Variety
16 Aug 1978
p. 5, 38.
Variety
11 Oct 1978
p. 50.
Women's Wear Daily
28 Feb 1977
p. 4.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Robert Chartoff-Irwin Winkler Production
An Alan J. Pakula Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
D.G.A. trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Sketch artist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop master
Leadman
Swing gang
Const coord
Const foreman
Prop foreman
Greensman
Paint foreman
Painter
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Ladies' cost
Miss Fonda's dresser
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
Orch
Scoring mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Prod sd
Boom op
Cable man
Cable man
Re-rec sd
Re-rec sd
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff asst
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Transportation co-capt
Projection services
Craft service
Dir's asst
Dir's asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prods' asst
Auditor
Extra casting
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Wrangler boss
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Comes A Horseman Wild And Free
Release Date:
25 October 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 25 October 1978
New York opening: week of 2 November 1978
Production Date:
began 1 June 1977 in Canon City, CO
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
21 November 1978
Copyright Number:
PA34364
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses
lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
118
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Aging cattle rancher, Jacob “J. W.” Ewing, buries his son, a soldier who died overseas during World War II. Rival rancher Ella Connors attends the funeral out of respect but there is tension between her and Ewing. Days later, Ewing berates Ella for selling some of her land to war veterans Frank and Billy Joe Meynert. He commends her for holding onto her ranch thus far, but warns she will be out of business within a year. He suggests that Ella marry him, give him her land and bare him the heir he has always wanted, but Ella refuses. Back at the Ewing’s ranch, family friend Neil Atkinson suggests drilling for oil but Ewing declines as he believes he will own Ella’s land within a year. With her help, he plans to rebuild the cattle ranching industry in the area. At dusk, Frank and Billy Joe camp out on their newly-acquired land, when one of Ewing’s men, Emil Kroegh, harasses them from afar and starts shooting. As Kroegh confirms they are dead, Frank grabs the man and stabs him in the stomach. The next day, Ella’s ranch hand, Dodger, finds them and brings injured Frank to Ella’s house. When Dodger informs Ella that Billy Joe is dead, she realizes Ewing was behind the attack. Feeling guilty for putting the two men in the middle of her feud with Ewing, Ella tends to Frank’s injuries. The next day, Ella updates Frank on the situation. She regrets selling Frank the land and suggests that he leave town. As Frank recuperates, Ella and Dodger discuss the state of ... +


Aging cattle rancher, Jacob “J. W.” Ewing, buries his son, a soldier who died overseas during World War II. Rival rancher Ella Connors attends the funeral out of respect but there is tension between her and Ewing. Days later, Ewing berates Ella for selling some of her land to war veterans Frank and Billy Joe Meynert. He commends her for holding onto her ranch thus far, but warns she will be out of business within a year. He suggests that Ella marry him, give him her land and bare him the heir he has always wanted, but Ella refuses. Back at the Ewing’s ranch, family friend Neil Atkinson suggests drilling for oil but Ewing declines as he believes he will own Ella’s land within a year. With her help, he plans to rebuild the cattle ranching industry in the area. At dusk, Frank and Billy Joe camp out on their newly-acquired land, when one of Ewing’s men, Emil Kroegh, harasses them from afar and starts shooting. As Kroegh confirms they are dead, Frank grabs the man and stabs him in the stomach. The next day, Ella’s ranch hand, Dodger, finds them and brings injured Frank to Ella’s house. When Dodger informs Ella that Billy Joe is dead, she realizes Ewing was behind the attack. Feeling guilty for putting the two men in the middle of her feud with Ewing, Ella tends to Frank’s injuries. The next day, Ella updates Frank on the situation. She regrets selling Frank the land and suggests that he leave town. As Frank recuperates, Ella and Dodger discuss the state of their cattle business. They keep losing money and their cattle are aging. Ella tells Dodger she will understand if he wants to move on, but he promises to stay. A few days later, Ewing visits Frank with the sheriff, informing Frank that he was behind the shooting. Ewing says he will not press charges against Frank for killing Kroegh if Frank sells his land and leaves town, but Frank rips up the check. When Frank is well enough to leave, he convinces Ella to let him stay and work on her ranch. One day, Ella and Frank catch Ewing moving his cattle across Frank’s land and confront him. Ewing offers to pay Frank passage fees, but Ella warns Frank not to trust Ewing. As the men negotiate, Ella creates a stampede of cattle by charging toward them with her horse and shotgun. Although Frank helps Ewing herd his cattle, he warns Ewing not to trespass on his land again. Later, Frank berates Ella for not letting him handle his own business and Dodger suggests that Ewing is trying to sabotage their partnership. Later, Dodger catches up with Frank at a local bar and explains that Ella’s father, Tom Connors, raised Ella like a son and there have been tensions between the Ewing and Connors families for years. Frank fights with two of Ewing’s men, Ralph Cole and Julie Blocker, over the death of their friend Kroegh. Later, Ella rounds up Frank’s cattle as an apology and Frank encourages her to become his official business partner. Ella reluctantly agrees to try the partnership. Sometime later, Neil Atkinson, banker Virgil Hoverton and George Bascomb, a geologist with ATKO Oil Company, visit Ella, believing there is oil on her land. They want permission to test for oil and offer her a portion of the profits but Ella refuses. Later, Atkinson updates Ewing, who is happy Ella turned them down because he still believes she will sell her land to him. Atkinson informs Ewing that Ella’s business has improved since partnering with Frank and reminds the rancher that his father lent Ewing a lot of money in the past; Ewing never paid back the elder Atkinson. He informs Ewing that he will proceed with oil testing on his land, and if Ewing refuses to cooperate he will seize his ranch to repay the debt. Days later, Dodger’s horse is scared by oil testing explosions and throws him, causing Dodger to die. After burying their friend, Ella confesses to Frank she had an affair with Ewing when she was younger. She believes Ewing seduced her to seek revenge against her father, who won a court case against Ewing over their land. Ella believes that news of their relationship destroyed her father. Later, Bascomb tells Atkinson and Ewing that Ella has oil on her property. Although they need Ella’s permission to drill, they could drill diagonally on Ewing’s land into Ella’s property. Atkinson announces his plan to take over Ewing’s land to protect his oil drilling business, but he offers to allow Ewing to continue cattle ranching. Furious about losing control of his empire, Ewing instructs Cole and Blocker to sabotage Ella and Frank’s cattle business. One evening during a thunderstorm, the cattle pen breaks open and the herd stampedes; Frank and Ella rush into the storm and successfully round up the herd. Later, Frank and Ella begin a romantic relationship, much to Ewing’s displeasure. At the end of the season, Frank and Ella negotiate a good deal to sell all of their cattle and make enough money to pay off their debts. When the local paper reports that Neil Atkinson died in an airplane accident, banker Virgil Hoverton visits Ewing and informs him the bank still plans to foreclose his land. Ewing orders Cole and Blocker to kill Virgil, then confronts Ella inside her house to give her one more chance to sell him her land. Ella says he will have to kill her before she sells. As Ewing guides Ella to Hoverton’s dead body hanging in her closet, Frank unexpectedly returns home, but Ewing knocks him unconscious and throws him into the closet with a bound and gagged Ella and a dead Hoverton. Ewing pours gasoline through the house and sets it on fire; Frank, however, comes to in time to untie Ella. They escape by jumping out the window as Ewing and his men approach. A gunfight ensues, and Frank kills Cole, Blocker and Ewing. Frank and Ella watch her house burn. Sometime later, Frank and Ella return to the ranch with fresh lumber to start rebuilding. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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