The Ballad of Billie Blue (1972)

G | 107 mins | Drama | 1972

Director:

Kent Osborne

Cinematographer:

Ralph Waldo

Editor:

Renn Reynolds

Production Designer:

Cecil Brissette

Production Company:

Basic Empire Productions
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HISTORY

The print viewed was a 1989 video release, which bore the title Jailbreakin . Some modern sources also list an alternate title of Star-Crossed Roads . The film ends with the words "The Beginning," after which the credits roll over a sequence showing "Billie Blue" in his happier, younger days. Many of the onscreen crew credits were illegible in the viewed print. Although a Jun 1971 HR news item stated that Marty Weiss would edit the film, only Renn Reynolds is credited onscreen. Although several songs, in addition to the title song, were performed in the film, their titles have not been determined.
       As noted on the MPAA website, The Ballad of Billie Blue was rated GP in 1971 but re-edited in 1972, when it received a G rating. The 28 Feb 1972 HR review lists the film's running time as 107 minutes, and a Box release chart from 4 Mar 1974, which listed the film as being in distribution at that time through Gateway Films, noted a 90-minute running time. The viewed video release ran only 78 minutes, and it has not been determined when the various cuts in the film's running time were made. Although a 24 Feb 1972 HR news item reported that The Ballad of Billie Blue had been playing that month in Grand Rapids, MI, no other 1972 screenings have been verified, and it is possible that the picture did not open in other areas until May 1973, as indicated on the 1974 Box release chart, which listed the distributor as Gateway Films.
       An Apr ... More Less

The print viewed was a 1989 video release, which bore the title Jailbreakin . Some modern sources also list an alternate title of Star-Crossed Roads . The film ends with the words "The Beginning," after which the credits roll over a sequence showing "Billie Blue" in his happier, younger days. Many of the onscreen crew credits were illegible in the viewed print. Although a Jun 1971 HR news item stated that Marty Weiss would edit the film, only Renn Reynolds is credited onscreen. Although several songs, in addition to the title song, were performed in the film, their titles have not been determined.
       As noted on the MPAA website, The Ballad of Billie Blue was rated GP in 1971 but re-edited in 1972, when it received a G rating. The 28 Feb 1972 HR review lists the film's running time as 107 minutes, and a Box release chart from 4 Mar 1974, which listed the film as being in distribution at that time through Gateway Films, noted a 90-minute running time. The viewed video release ran only 78 minutes, and it has not been determined when the various cuts in the film's running time were made. Although a 24 Feb 1972 HR news item reported that The Ballad of Billie Blue had been playing that month in Grand Rapids, MI, no other 1972 screenings have been verified, and it is possible that the picture did not open in other areas until May 1973, as indicated on the 1974 Box release chart, which listed the distributor as Gateway Films.
       An Apr 1971 DV news item announced that Basic Empire Productions had been formed to make family-oriented films and television programs and would begin production with The Ballad of Billie Blue . According to Apr and May 1971 news items, the film was shot partially on location in Colusa County, CA and in Northern California. Both Jason Ledger and Renny Roker were nominated for NAACP Image Awards based on their appearance in the picture. Modern sources add Johnny Green to the cast.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Mar 1974.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 1972.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Exec in charge of prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story & scr
Orig story & scr
Orig story & scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
Titles and opticals
SOURCES
SONGS
"Ballad of Billie Blue" and other songs, words and music by Richard Wess.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Jailbreakin
Release Date:
1972
Premiere Information:
Grand Rapids, MI opening: February 1972
Production Date:
3 May--mid June 1971
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Duration(in mins):
107
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After a long tour capped off by a performance before an adoring crowd, country-and-western singing idol Billie Blue informs his wife May and manager Carlton Jacobs that he is too exhausted to attend the massive party in his honor. May stalks off in a petulant rage with Carl, but Billie’s best friend Al and his publicist, Reba Stone, take him to a bar for a quiet celebration. There, however, Billie continues his recent predilection for drinking too much, and when tabloid reporter Harvey Trip photographs him without prior permission, Billie punches him. Trip vows to print the picture with an article about Billie’s drinking, after which Billie demands that Al supply him with tranquilizers. Reba later visits Trip and his publisher, Mr. Oliver, to plead that they temper their article by stating that Billie has been under extreme pressure, but Trip is eager to tarnish Billie’s reputation as a simple country boy and instead demands exclusive access to him in exchange for allowing Reba to review everything he writes. With no options, Billie agrees to the deal, then takes his young daughter Cathy to the park. There, she asks him why he and May are constantly fighting, and he breaks down in tears. He immediately leaves for another grueling tour, during which he habitually disappoints his fans by appearing drunk and ruining his performances. One night, a drunken Billie and Al steal a piglet from a local farm and release it during the post-concert party inside their hotel room, causing an uproar. The hotel manager complains but they get him drunk, and after a long night of drinking, Billie enters his room to discover May with Carl. Billie attacks ... +


After a long tour capped off by a performance before an adoring crowd, country-and-western singing idol Billie Blue informs his wife May and manager Carlton Jacobs that he is too exhausted to attend the massive party in his honor. May stalks off in a petulant rage with Carl, but Billie’s best friend Al and his publicist, Reba Stone, take him to a bar for a quiet celebration. There, however, Billie continues his recent predilection for drinking too much, and when tabloid reporter Harvey Trip photographs him without prior permission, Billie punches him. Trip vows to print the picture with an article about Billie’s drinking, after which Billie demands that Al supply him with tranquilizers. Reba later visits Trip and his publisher, Mr. Oliver, to plead that they temper their article by stating that Billie has been under extreme pressure, but Trip is eager to tarnish Billie’s reputation as a simple country boy and instead demands exclusive access to him in exchange for allowing Reba to review everything he writes. With no options, Billie agrees to the deal, then takes his young daughter Cathy to the park. There, she asks him why he and May are constantly fighting, and he breaks down in tears. He immediately leaves for another grueling tour, during which he habitually disappoints his fans by appearing drunk and ruining his performances. One night, a drunken Billie and Al steal a piglet from a local farm and release it during the post-concert party inside their hotel room, causing an uproar. The hotel manager complains but they get him drunk, and after a long night of drinking, Billie enters his room to discover May with Carl. Billie attacks his manager and the two tussle until May, attempting to break up the fight, smashes a bottle over Carl’s head. As Carl sinks to the ground, dead, Al, Reba and Trip run in, and May screams out that Billie is a murderer. Trip writes the story of Carl’s death, for which Billie is sentenced to three years at hard labor, but afterward proclaims to Oliver that he believes Billie is covering for May. When Trip refuses to continue covering the story, Oliver fires him. While May flees town after agreeing to leave Cathy with Billie’s parents in exchange for unlimited access to his money, Al and Reba visit Billie in jail and sob over his fate. At the labor camp, Billie is chained to Justin, a hot-headed criminal who has served ten years of a twenty-year sentence and yearns to escape to see his girl friend. One day, a preacher named Bob arrives at the camp and announces to the men that he is offering no-cost life insurance: God’s plan for their life. Justin taunts the preacher, who disregards the danger to himself by approaching Justin and handing him a Bible, calling it a tool for his spiritual freedom. Justin attacks, but Billie subdues him and Bob restrains the guard from disciplining him. That night, Billie plays the guitar and sings, partly to ease the prisoners’ boredom and partly to mask the sounds of Justin, who is sawing at his chains with a shiv. When Justin finally succeeds in breaking the chain, Billie warns him not to leave but Justin bids him a warm goodbye. Minutes after Justin climbs through the window, however, Billie cringes in his bunk as shots are fired outside. At Justin’s funeral, Bob reads from the Bible about salvation, then comforts Billie, for whom he has arranged permission to attend. At Bob’s urging, Billie, confused and depressed, prays for guidance. Soon after, Al visits and informs Billie that he wants to manage a small band and have Billie join them once he is released on parole. Just then, Trip arrives, now a reporter on a legitimate newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. He hopes to help Billie by writing the real story of the murder, but Billie, still in love with May, declines. Al and Billie bid Trip goodbye, impressed with teh reporter's attempt to redeem his prior life. Soon, Billie is released, and when Al picks him up at the jail, he immediately declares his intention to find May. Al is forced to admit that she is working at a brothel in Louisville, having spent all Billie’s money. At his parents’ home, he is welcomed tearfully by Cathy and Reba. That night, he sings a new song about Jesus, then walks with Reba, who confesses her love for him. He kisses her but informs her that he must find May before he can move on. Trip brings him to May’s brothel, where Billie urges her to reconcile, but she caustically rejects him. When he persists, she breaks down, screaming that she is no good and Cathy is better off without her, then chases him out of the room with a lamp. As he flees down the staircase, May falls to her death. Reba comes to the funeral to support Billie, but after the service he tells her he must be alone. Walking down the street, he hears a choir singing in a nearby church, and mounts the stairs. At the top, the sight of the lighted cross causes him to break down in tears. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.