Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981)

PG | 98 mins | Western, Comedy | 24 April 1981

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HISTORY

End credits begin with title cards explaining the fate of several characters: “The gang scattered and went in different directions,” “Cattle Annie and Little Britches served two years in a reformatory in Massachusetts,” “Annie grew up and led a rich full life in Kansas City,” “Jenny went to New York and worked as a domestic and a social worker,” “Bill Tilghman went to Hollywood and became a movie director," and “Bill Doolin married a Minister’s daughter and was killed on his way home from church.” End credits also include the following statement: “Filmed on Location in Durango, Mexico.”
       In 1915, the real Bill Tilghman wrote, directed and appeared in the film Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaw (see entry).
       An article in the 21 Jun 1981 LAHExam reported that producer Rupert Hitzig, of King-Hitzig Productions, developed Cattle Annie and Little Britches by commissioning Robert Ward to write a novel based on the real adventures of the two frontier teenagers. After William Morrow published the novel, Ward wrote several screenplay drafts. An article in the 23 Jul 1981 Rolling Stone stated that Ward showed Hitzig a photograph of the real life teenagers and, “with Hitzig’s support,” Ward wrote the novel and the screenplay. However, in the 20 Aug 1981 Rolling Stone, Ward wrote a letter to the editor rebutting several of the article’s claims. Ward noted that he wrote the screenplay in 1973-1974 while teaching at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. Ward’s movie agent, Karen Hitzig, gave his script to her husband, Rupert Hitzig, who optioned it for one year ... More Less

End credits begin with title cards explaining the fate of several characters: “The gang scattered and went in different directions,” “Cattle Annie and Little Britches served two years in a reformatory in Massachusetts,” “Annie grew up and led a rich full life in Kansas City,” “Jenny went to New York and worked as a domestic and a social worker,” “Bill Tilghman went to Hollywood and became a movie director," and “Bill Doolin married a Minister’s daughter and was killed on his way home from church.” End credits also include the following statement: “Filmed on Location in Durango, Mexico.”
       In 1915, the real Bill Tilghman wrote, directed and appeared in the film Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaw (see entry).
       An article in the 21 Jun 1981 LAHExam reported that producer Rupert Hitzig, of King-Hitzig Productions, developed Cattle Annie and Little Britches by commissioning Robert Ward to write a novel based on the real adventures of the two frontier teenagers. After William Morrow published the novel, Ward wrote several screenplay drafts. An article in the 23 Jul 1981 Rolling Stone stated that Ward showed Hitzig a photograph of the real life teenagers and, “with Hitzig’s support,” Ward wrote the novel and the screenplay. However, in the 20 Aug 1981 Rolling Stone, Ward wrote a letter to the editor rebutting several of the article’s claims. Ward noted that he wrote the screenplay in 1973-1974 while teaching at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. Ward’s movie agent, Karen Hitzig, gave his script to her husband, Rupert Hitzig, who optioned it for one year for $15,000. Ward revised the script several times during the next two years, with Hitzig paying to renew the option. While working on the first draft of the script, Ward simultaneously wrote the novel. He finished the book in 1975 and it was published by William Morrow. Ward stated the book was not a novelization of the film, but was “a work of fiction, distinct from the script.” He also noted that the film’s credits include: “From the novel by Robert Ward.” The Rolling Stone article also reported that Hitzig, screenwriter David Eyre, and the film’s director Lamont Johnson rewrote the script before and during principal photography, but only Ward and Eyre received onscreen writing credits.
       The 21 Jun 1981 LAHExam reported that a draft of Ward’s script attracted the attention of actor John Wayne, and Hitzig waited a year for the actor, but frail health made it impossible for Wayne to take the role, and Burt Lancaster was later cast as Bill Doolin.
       An article in the 8 Dec 1976 Var reported that King-Hitzig Productions had a co-production deal with Gamma III Productions to finance the film, which would be filmed in Canada. However, according to the 6 Dec 1978 Var, Hemdale Film Group’s list of projects included King-Hitzig Productions’ Cattle Annie and Little Britches, which had “been around since 1976” and was now fully financed. The 14 Jun 1979 DV noted that Hemdale Leisure Corporation would handle foreign sales, but no domestic distribution deal had been made.
       The 23 Jul 1981 Rolling Stone reported the film was budgeted at $5.1 million, and the 21 Jun 1981 LAHExam noted that Hemdale Film Group and the United Artists Theater Chain were the primary sources of financing. Additionally, pre-sales were made to Home Box Office (HBO) and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
       Production notes in AMPAS library files reported that locations in Durango, Mexico, included Calle Howard, a complete Old West town built on a ranch. The villages of Chupaderos, Canyon Delgardo and Los Organos provided “scenic backgrounds,” and other locations included the dry lake bed of Miguel Hidalgo, the wooded region of Vista Diablo, and the waterfall and deep pool at El Saltito. The production also filmed at La Jova, a western set built on John Wayne’s 17,000 acre ranch. As noted in the 14 Jun 1979 DV, after Wayne’s death on 11 Jun 1979, the Mexican crew took a moment of silence to pay tribute to the actor who had filmed fifteen movies in Mexico. An item in the 7 Jun 1979 DV reported that during principal photography in Durango, a Mexican government crew filmed a twenty-minute television documentary about Cattle Annie and Little Britches. Another item in the 14 Jun 1979 DV announced the completion of principal photography.
       As noted in the 21 Jun 1981 LAHExam, a major distributor was interested in picking up the film during production, but the filmmakers chose to wait until the film was completed, then planned to accept the best offer. Later, Hitzig admitted they should have accepted the first offer. Major studios and a few independent distributors were not sure how to classify the film, and an item in the 18 Sep 1981 LAT noted that studios struggled with the question of how to market Westerns, which do not perform predictably. The LAHExam article reported that Universal Studios picked up the film for domestic distribution, but waited a year before releasing the film. The Rolling Stone article added that the film opened in the Southwestern U.S. Universal’s distribution vice president, Ben Cammack, stated business was disappointing and Universal would “play off” the film in theaters where it was already booked. The 18 Sep 1981 LAT reported that the film’s pre-sales to HBO and CBS were conditional upon the film’s release by a major studio and, according to the film’s director, Universal released the movie in just enough theaters and cities to meet contractual obligations.
       Cattle Annie and Little Britches marked the feature film debuts of actress Amanda Plummer and actor Steven Ford, the son of former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford. An item in the 9 May 1979 Var also noted it was the feature film acting debut of rodeo rider Ken Call.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 May 1979.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1979.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 1979.
---
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1981
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1981
p. 3.
LAHExam
21 Jun 1981
Section E, pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1981
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1981.
---
New York Times
15 May 1981
p. 8.
Rolling Stone
23 Jul 1981
p. 31.
Rolling Stone
20 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
8 Dec 1976.
---
Variety
6 Dec 1978.
---
Variety
9 May 1979.
---
Variety
29 Apr 1981
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Hemdale and Cattle Annie Films Inc. Present
A King - Hitzig Production
Produced for Monday Films
A Lamont Johnson Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Supv ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus by, for Half Breed Inc.
Mus by, for Half Breed Inc.
Addl mus comp and cond by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opt
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hair
Hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod accountant
Scr supv
Prod coord
Asst to prod
Wrangler
Asst accountant
Wrangler
Generator op
Driver
Driver
Unit doctor
Transportation capt
Durango, Mexico contact
Prod secy
Unit pub
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stuntman
Stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Cattle Annie and Little Britches by Robert Ward (New York, 1978).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Cattle Annie," by Tom Slocum, Sanh Berti, Dehl Franke Berti, vocals by Mary McCaslin, Jim Ringer, Tom Slocum and Beverly Spaulding.
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 April 1981
Premiere Information:
Southwestern U.S. opening: 24 April 1981
New York opening: 15 May 1981
Los Angeles opening: 11 September 1981
Production Date:
ended June 1979 in Durango, Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Hemdale Leisure Corporation & Cattle Annie Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
30 September 1981
Copyright Number:
PA116303
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the late nineteenth century, the Doolin-Dalton gang robs a train, but discovers that one train car contains pigs, another coffins, and the third holds passengers who carry nothing of value. Two stowaways, Annie and Jenny, watch as Bill Doolin genially discusses the situation with the conductor before his men leave with a pig and a bag of baseball equipment. The girls are discovered and the older one, Annie, declares they are working their way to California. The conductor allows the girls to ride to the next town of Guthrie, where Annie and Jenny find work washing dishes in a restaurant. However, when Annie scalds her hands and Jenny accidentally breaks a few dishes, the owner threatens to withhold their pay, but Annie demands her money. When he refuses, the girls smash plates and Annie threatens him with a cleaver before they leave. The girls stroll through town, shocking people by smoking cigarettes. Annie notices “Bittercreek” Newcomb, a half-breed member of the Doolin-Dalton gang, ride into town. Bill Doolin and the rest of his men soon follow. Doolin asks local boys to watch the road in and out of town, then the gang visits Corey, a local merchant. The two girls peek through a window until “Little Dick” Raidler sneaks behind and carries them inside. Annie yells at Dick and, when Jenny calms her friend, Doolin calls her “Little Britches,” because she wears boy’s pants instead of a dress like Annie. Jenny is excited when Doolin asks Corey to serve the girls root beer and candy, but Annie insists they will drink whiskey like the men. ... +


In the late nineteenth century, the Doolin-Dalton gang robs a train, but discovers that one train car contains pigs, another coffins, and the third holds passengers who carry nothing of value. Two stowaways, Annie and Jenny, watch as Bill Doolin genially discusses the situation with the conductor before his men leave with a pig and a bag of baseball equipment. The girls are discovered and the older one, Annie, declares they are working their way to California. The conductor allows the girls to ride to the next town of Guthrie, where Annie and Jenny find work washing dishes in a restaurant. However, when Annie scalds her hands and Jenny accidentally breaks a few dishes, the owner threatens to withhold their pay, but Annie demands her money. When he refuses, the girls smash plates and Annie threatens him with a cleaver before they leave. The girls stroll through town, shocking people by smoking cigarettes. Annie notices “Bittercreek” Newcomb, a half-breed member of the Doolin-Dalton gang, ride into town. Bill Doolin and the rest of his men soon follow. Doolin asks local boys to watch the road in and out of town, then the gang visits Corey, a local merchant. The two girls peek through a window until “Little Dick” Raidler sneaks behind and carries them inside. Annie yells at Dick and, when Jenny calms her friend, Doolin calls her “Little Britches,” because she wears boy’s pants instead of a dress like Annie. Jenny is excited when Doolin asks Corey to serve the girls root beer and candy, but Annie insists they will drink whiskey like the men. She downs her glass in one shot, but Jenny spits out her first sip. Annie asks for a cigarette and is delighted when Newcomb lights it for her. Annie declares that she and Jenny have read about the gang’s adventures in dime novels, and Doolin wonders what the author could know about them. When they receive news of men approaching town, the gang leaves. United States Marshall Bill Tighlman and his men arrive and announce their pursuit of Doolin. No one offers information, but the girls watch as Tighlman pulls Corey aside for a private meeting. Later, the girls leave town, but their horse is lame, and the girls walk beside him until the horse collapses. As they sit at the horse’s side, buzzards fly overhead and Annie takes out her pistol, threatening to shoot the birds. Annie remains certain Doolin’s gang will take them in, and admits that she plans to lose her virginity with Bittercreek Newcomb. Jenny makes Annie promise that she will not leave her alone, and as they struggle to get the horse back on its feet, Newcomb finds them. The gang is surprised when Newcomb returns with the girls, but Annie is feisty and convinces Doolin to let them stay. The next morning, everyone plays baseball with the stolen equipment. Afterward, as everyone bathes in a stream, Annie follows Newcomb to a nearby waterfall. Doolin decides they will rob a bank in Empire City. It is a long ride, and when they spend the night in a small town, Annie sleeps with Newcomb. In the morning, she sees Tighlman and his men arrive. Newcomb tells her to hide as he races outside, and a gunfight ensues between the officers and the outlaws. Annie confronts a sheriff with her pistol, and shoots as he runs away. Jenny rushes to her friend’s side and informs her that they are surrounded by Tighlman’s men. Annie races to a corral and opens the gate, releasing cattle, which fill the street. After Tighlman and his men retreat, Doolin compliments Annie for saving them, and wonders how Tighlman learned the gang’s whereabouts. The lame horse lies on the street, almost dead. Dalton offers to shoot it for her, but Annie insists she must do it. When the gang reaches their next hideout, Doolin devises a plan. They will mislead Tighlman by spreading word of plans to rob a train carrying a mine payroll. However, they will dress in their best clothing, stroll into Empire City, and rob the bank. Doolin sends Little Dick to visit Corey for supplies and bonnets for the girls. The girls wait with the horses, while several members of the gang stroll into the bank and rob it. However, the teller does not have sacks to hold the cash. Doolin orders Roger Capps, another bank employee, to take off his pants, then ties the ends and fills the pants with cash. The girls arrive with the horses, and the gang leaves the bank; but Tighlman, who never believed the train robbery story, steps into the street and orders them to stop. Tighlman’s men take positions around the bank, and a gunfight ensues. As gang member, George, is killed, the others race back into the bank. Doolin realizes Capps is one of Tighlman’s men and, using him as a hostage, the gang escapes. Later, Doolin lets Capps go, and the man warns them not to return to their hideout because Tighlman knows its location. As the gang rides, Doolin decides to give money to the girls so they can go their own way and be safe. However, he laughs upon discovering that the pant leg came undone and the money fell out. When they stop to camp, Jenny brings Doolin coffee and reveals the gang is talking of breaking up, although she will follow him to the end. They join the others and Dalton admits he is thinking of returning to politics in California. Doolin decides to vacation at a nearby hot springs, but promises to return. As he rides off, Doolin meets Corey on the road, but refuses to share his travel plans. As Doolin soaks in the hot springs, he is ambushed by Tighlman and his men, who arrest the outlaw, and jail him in Empire City. The gang is upset to learn of Doolin’s capture, but the men plan to leave the area. Annie is furious with them, and the two girls decide to rescue Doolin themselves. In town, they capture a paperboy and Annie dresses in his clothes. The girls deliver newspapers to the jail, then pull a gun on the sheriff and demand he free Doolin. The jailer unlocks the cell door, but Tighlman is hiding beneath the blanket on the jail cell cot as officers turn weapons on the girls. Doolin is brought out, and claims Tighlman is an honest man, who promised that if the girls were captured, he would guarantee a good deal for them. At that moment, the jail wall explodes as the other gang members arrive to rescue Doolin and the girls. They escape, with Tighlman and his men in pursuit. The outlaws ride through a canyon and up a hill. The girls trail behind, and as they reach the pass, Annie falls off her horse and Jenny stops to help her friend. Doolin watches from the hill, realizes the girls will be fine, and orders his men to blow up the pass before Tighlman’s men can enter. Doolin shouts encouragement to Annie and Jenny as they are arrested by Tighlman, and the girls wave goodbye to the outlaw gang. Annie and Jenny are sent to a reformatory in Massachusetts for two years. Later, Annie moves to Kansas City, Missouri, while Jenny resides in New York City. The gang disbands. Doolin marries a minister’s daughter and is killed on his way home from church. Tighlman moves to Hollywood, California, and becomes a movie director. +

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

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