The Reivers (1969)

107 mins | Comedy-drama | 25 December 1969

Director:

Mark Rydell

Producer:

Irving Ravetch

Cinematographer:

Richard Moore

Editor:

Thomas Stanford

Production Designers:

Charles Bailey, Joel Schiller

Production Companies:

Duo Productions, Solar Productions, Inc., Cinema Center Films
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HISTORY

The film’s narrator, actor Burgess Meredith, is the aged voice of “Lucius McCaslin,” the boy at the center of the story. He begins: “There is no crime which a boy of eleven had not envisaged long ago. His only innocence is, he may not yet be old enough to desire the fruits of it, which is not innocence but appetite; his ignorance is, he does not know how to commit it, which is not ignorance but size.”
       The 19 Jul 1967 Var announced that former Columbia Pictures executive Arthur Kramer formed an independent production company the previous week and signed husband-and-wife team Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. to write the screenplay for William Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, a 1962 Pulitzer Prize winner. The couple had already written scripts for two other Faulkner works: The Long Hot Summer (1958, see entry) and The Sound and the Fury (1959, see entry). Kramer took the project to CBS Theatrical Films, a new feature film-producing subsidiary of the Columbia Broadcasting System, the 15 Jan 1968 DV noted. CBS Theatrical Films had earlier announced in the 25 Oct 1967 LAT that it planned to make twenty-two movies at a combined estimated budget of $60 million. Four months later, the 28 Feb 1968 DV reported that the company had a $20.5-million investment “in negatives, prints and advertising in five pix” scheduled to be finished or in production by July 1968. One of them was The Reivers, starring Steve McQueen. With his participation in the film, McQueen’s company, Solar Productions, Inc., became a co-producer. Columbia's Arthur Kramer died ... More Less

The film’s narrator, actor Burgess Meredith, is the aged voice of “Lucius McCaslin,” the boy at the center of the story. He begins: “There is no crime which a boy of eleven had not envisaged long ago. His only innocence is, he may not yet be old enough to desire the fruits of it, which is not innocence but appetite; his ignorance is, he does not know how to commit it, which is not ignorance but size.”
       The 19 Jul 1967 Var announced that former Columbia Pictures executive Arthur Kramer formed an independent production company the previous week and signed husband-and-wife team Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. to write the screenplay for William Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, a 1962 Pulitzer Prize winner. The couple had already written scripts for two other Faulkner works: The Long Hot Summer (1958, see entry) and The Sound and the Fury (1959, see entry). Kramer took the project to CBS Theatrical Films, a new feature film-producing subsidiary of the Columbia Broadcasting System, the 15 Jan 1968 DV noted. CBS Theatrical Films had earlier announced in the 25 Oct 1967 LAT that it planned to make twenty-two movies at a combined estimated budget of $60 million. Four months later, the 28 Feb 1968 DV reported that the company had a $20.5-million investment “in negatives, prints and advertising in five pix” scheduled to be finished or in production by July 1968. One of them was The Reivers, starring Steve McQueen. With his participation in the film, McQueen’s company, Solar Productions, Inc., became a co-producer. Columbia's Arthur Kramer died six months before filming began, according to his obituary in the 28 Mar 1968 DV.
       The 3 Jul 1968 and 26 Sep 1968 editions of DV reported that producer-screenwriter Irving Ravetch, executive producer Robert Relyea (from McQueen’s Solar Productions), and director Mark Rydell were in Memphis, TN, and Carrollton, MS, scouting locations. An item in the 4 Oct 1968 DV noted that principal photography began 30 Sep 1968 in the Carrollton area, where most of the film was shot. The 1 Nov 1968 DV claimed, tongue-in-cheek, that on the previous day Carrollton had “the largest per capita acting population in the country” because 150 of the town’s 500 residents were working as extras. From Carrollton, production moved to the larger town of Greenwood, MS, in the next county, as illustrated by a promotional advertisement for actress Sara Taft in the 8 Nov 1968 DV. An advertisement in the 8 Nov 1968 DV stated that Mississippi filming was “completed” and the production was returning to CBS’s Studio Center in Studio City, CA.
       Filming came to a halt “for a short period of time” when twelve-year-old costar Mitch Vogel fell from a horse and broke his shoulder, the 29 Nov 1968 DV reported. According to the 1 Jan 1969 Var, shooting would resume six weeks later, on either 6 Jan or 13 Jan 1969. When the production returned to California later in the month to film a crucial horse race scene at the Disney Ranch in Newhall, CA, a “two-month barrage of rain” created further delays, as noted in the 28 Jan 1969 DV and a film review in the 1 Jan 1970 LAT. The track became a shallow “lake,” and helicopters were used “to fan the water” and evaporate it. An item in the 25 May 1969 LAT mentioned that after lengthy delays, director Mark Rydell finally got around to matching a six-year-old jet black quarter horse with another six-year-old sprinter that had already been filmed on Eastern race tracks. McQueen by then had moved on to another project, but was present at the film’s final scene as “just an excited spectator.” The racing strip was finally dry “after much effort to make it safe for both riders and horses,” who were cheered on by a crowd of extras in 1905 costumes. Rydell and cinematographer Richard Moore used four Panavision cameras “strategically placed around the track.” Originally budgeted at $4 million, The Reivers finished at a cost of over $5 million.
       The vintage yellow automobile at the center of the story was a 1905 Winton Flyer, built by “antique car buff” and professional customizer Von Dutch, whose real name was Kenneth Howard.
       The 8 Jul 1968 LAT hinted that the black television comedian Flip Wilson would make his film debut as “Ned McCaslin” in The Reivers, if his busy schedule permitted, but the role was ultimately taken by Rupert Crosse. According to items in the 31 May 1969 LAT and 25 Jun 1969 Var, Lalo Schrifrin was set to compose and conduct the film’s score, and Marilyn and Alan Bergman would add lyrics to Schrifin’s theme melody, but the three were not ultimately involved in the film’s soundtrack.
       Items in the 6 Aug 1969 Var and 12 Nov 1969 DV reported that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) threatened The Reivers with an X-rating until the producers trimmed a couple of lines and a small segment of a bordello scene. The film was granted an “M” for “Suggested for Mature Audiences,” a ranking instituted by the MPAA in 1968 and revised a year later to GP (General audiences, Parental guidance), which would be inverted in 1971 to PG.
       The Reivers was previewed for the American Film Institute’s faculty and students on 5 Dec 1969, according to that day’s DV. It opened nationally on Christmas Day 1969. Long before filming was completed, full-page advertisements ran in both trade magazines and newspapers, including the 8 Nov 1968 DV and 27 Oct 1968 LAT, to explain the word “reivers” (Scottish in origin) to American audiences. The headline, “A Reiver is a rascal,” led to a description of the lead character, Steve McQueen’s “Boon Hogganbeck,” as “a scoundrel,” “a louse” who “steals, gambles, and cheats….You’ll love him.”
       Reviews were generally positive. The 26 Nov 1968 Var called The Reivers “a nice bawdy film, sort of Walt Disney with an M rating,” and focused attention on “the vivid presence” of “the golden 1905 Winton Flyer, the type of machine that in its day lured men and boys to abandon responsibilities and trusts, and take off in the pursuit of the illusion of romance and adventure.” The 21 Dec 1969 LAT found it “an enjoyable movie indeed,” which “triggers a powerful nostalgia.” The 26 Dec 1969 NYT felt the screenwriters did a “decent adaption” from Faulkner’s novel, unlike their earlier “ransack[ing]” of two other Faulkner works, but felt that casting Steve McQueen gave the Boon Hogganbeck character “an inappropriate cool and class and shift[ed] the film’s attention from its nominal protagonist, young Lucius.”
       The Reivers did well at the box office. A month after its opening, a chart in the 27 Jan 1970 Var put its gross at nearly $1.5 million.
       The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Music (Original Score—for a motion picture [not a musical]—John Williams; and Actor in a Supporting Role—Rupert Crosse. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1968
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1968
p 1.
Daily Variety
28 Mar 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Sep 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1968
p. 10.
Daily Variety
1 Nov 1968
p. 28.
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1968
p. 14.
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1968
p. 20.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1969
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jul 1968
Section F, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
27 Oct 1968
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1969
Section O, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
31 May 1969
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
28 Nov 1969
Section E, p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1969
Section B, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1970
Section E, p. 1.
New York Times
27 Oct 1968
Section D, p. 11.
New York Times
26 Dec 1969
p. 42.
Variety
19 Jul 1967
p. 11.
Variety
14 Aug 1968
p. 14.
Variety
26 Nov 1968
p. 14.
Variety
1 Jan 1969
p. 22.
Variety
25 Jun 1969
p. 7.
Variety
6 Aug 1969
p. 5.
Variety
27 Jan 1970
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Irving Ravetch-Arthur Kramer Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Elec gaffer
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
COSTUMES
Men's cost
Women's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp
SOUND
Sd mix
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial dir
Scr supv
Scr supv
Prop master
Prop master
Cinema Center Films pub dir
Loc auditor
Unit pub
Transportation capt
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Reivers, a Reminiscence by William Faulkner (New York, 1962).
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 December 1969
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 December 1969
Production Date:
began 30 September 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Duo Productions
Copyright Date:
17 November 1969
Copyright Number:
LP39331
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
107
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22302
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As the McCaslins' first automobile, a new 1905 yellow Winton Flyer, arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi, eleven-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, Missouri. 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, Tennessee. 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, eighty miles and nearly twenty-four 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 ... +


As the McCaslins' first automobile, a new 1905 yellow Winton Flyer, arrives in Jefferson, Mississippi, eleven-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, Missouri. 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, Tennessee. 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, eighty miles and nearly twenty-four 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. +

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

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