The Frisco Kid (1979)

PG | 122 mins | Comedy, Western | 1979

Director:

Robert Aldrich

Producer:

Mace Neufeld

Cinematographer:

Robert B. Hauser

Production Designer:

Terence Marsh

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures
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HISTORY

No Knife, the original title, tested poorly with theater-goers, so Warner Bros. Inc. changed the title to The Frisco Kid, as described in a 20 Jul 1979 NYT article. The same studio made the feature, Frisco Kid (1935, see entry), also set during the mid-nineteenth century, but otherwise unrelated to the 1979 production.
       In a syndicated interview published in the 11 Mar 1979 Killeen Daily Herald, producer Mace Neufeld stated that he optioned the property in 1971, but no Hollywood studio was interested in a story about a rabbi. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Warner Bros. finally approved the project in Nov 1977, which Neufeld attributed to a change in attitude about the subject matter rather than a particular casting choice or script rewrite.
       As he described in a 24 Dec 1978 LAT article, actor Gene Wilder turned down the starring role of “Avram Belinski” twice. After reading a revised second draft in 1977, he accepted and worked closely with writers Michael Elias and Frank Shaw to polish subsequent drafts. According to 21 Sep and 10 Oct 1978 DV news items, John Wayne was interested in playing “Tommy Lillard,” but eventually declined the part. During development, the pairing of Dustin Hoffman as Avram and Jack Nicholson as Tommy was also considered, according to a 21 Dec 1978 DV column.
       Paul Lawrence Smith and Sidney Miller were announced as part of the cast in HR briefs dated 15 Nov 1978 and 22 Jan 1979, but neither actor is listed in onscreen ... More Less

No Knife, the original title, tested poorly with theater-goers, so Warner Bros. Inc. changed the title to The Frisco Kid, as described in a 20 Jul 1979 NYT article. The same studio made the feature, Frisco Kid (1935, see entry), also set during the mid-nineteenth century, but otherwise unrelated to the 1979 production.
       In a syndicated interview published in the 11 Mar 1979 Killeen Daily Herald, producer Mace Neufeld stated that he optioned the property in 1971, but no Hollywood studio was interested in a story about a rabbi. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Warner Bros. finally approved the project in Nov 1977, which Neufeld attributed to a change in attitude about the subject matter rather than a particular casting choice or script rewrite.
       As he described in a 24 Dec 1978 LAT article, actor Gene Wilder turned down the starring role of “Avram Belinski” twice. After reading a revised second draft in 1977, he accepted and worked closely with writers Michael Elias and Frank Shaw to polish subsequent drafts. According to 21 Sep and 10 Oct 1978 DV news items, John Wayne was interested in playing “Tommy Lillard,” but eventually declined the part. During development, the pairing of Dustin Hoffman as Avram and Jack Nicholson as Tommy was also considered, according to a 21 Dec 1978 DV column.
       Paul Lawrence Smith and Sidney Miller were announced as part of the cast in HR briefs dated 15 Nov 1978 and 22 Jan 1979, but neither actor is listed in onscreen credits.
       A 4 Oct 1978 Var brief reported that Robert Aldrich replaced Dick Richards as director during the final weeks before shooting. A Sep 1979 article in Films and Filming mentioned that Wilder was also approached about directing, but turned down the opportunity.
       Following a rehearsal period, principal photography began 30 Oct 1978 in Greeley, CO, as stated in production notes. After ten days, the filmmakers moved to AZ near the town of Nogales and the San Rafael Valley, where the Native American sequences were shot, as well as the cliff-jumping stunt. Additional sites in AZ included Tucson, Saguaro National Monument and Texas Canyon. The production also visited El Capitan Beach north of Santa Barbara, CA, and Lake Tahoe, NV. Cast and crew relocated to Los Angeles, CA, in early Dec 1978 and utilized four soundstages at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and the backlot of The Burbank Studios. A 24 Jan 1979 studio press release announced that location filming finished three days early in Jenner, CA. The shooting schedule totaled sixty-one days. According to a statement by producer Neufeld in a 30 Jan 1979 HR article, production costs amounted to $10 million.
       Although the overall film garnered poor to mixed reviews, Wilder’s performance received widespread praise, and several reviews, such as the 5 Jul 1979 HR and the 4 Jul 1979 Var, pointed out that the charming, new Western hero was his best film role to date. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1978.
---
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1978.
---
Daily Variety
21 Dec 1978.
---
Films and Filming
Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 1979.
---
Killeen Daily Herald
11 Mar 1979
p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 1978
Calendar, p. 45.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jul 1979
p. 1.
New York Times
6 Jul 1979
p. 14.
New York Times
20 Jul 1979
Section C, p. 6.
Variety
4 Oct 1978.
---
Variety
4 Jul 1979
p. 24.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Co-starring:
[And]
Steffen Zacharias
Eda Reiss Merin
Rabbis:
Tommy Lillard
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mace Neufeld Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam tech
Cam tech
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Key grip
2d company grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Elec best boy
Elec best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Standby painter
Greensman
Greensman, const
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop man
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Cost foreperson
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus ed
Orig chant
SOUND
Looping ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd mixer
Boom man
Cable man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff foreman
Main titles
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Secy to dir
Secy to prod
Prod secy
Scr supv
Dial supv
Loc auditor
Crafts service man
Playback op
Ramrod
Wrangler
AHA representative
Unit pub
Prod services and equipment provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
No-Knife
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 6 July 1979
Los Angeles opening: 20 July 1979
Production Date:
30 October 1978 -- January 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 August 1979
Copyright Number:
PA50010
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Cameras by Arriflex
Duration(in mins):
122
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25646
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a Polish yeshiva in 1850, recent rabbinical graduate, Avram Belinski, is chosen to lead a new congregation in San Francisco, California. Arriving at the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Avram arranges a wagon ride to San Francisco with brothers Matt and Darryl Diggs, but the innocent newcomer becomes a victim of their swindle. Along with henchman, Mr. Jones, the brothers cheat Avram into paying $50 to “buy back” their horse and wagon, then steal his remaining $200 and abandon him along a deserted road. Stranded in the middle of Pennsylvania in his underwear, Avram begins walking and collects his belongings that the crooks have thrown out the wagon, including the sacred Torah wrapped in velvet. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Samuel Bender, a leader of the Jewish community, is enthusiastic as he reads a letter to the anxious congregation, stating that the new rabbi is on the way and eagerly anticipates meeting Bender’s eldest daughter, Sarah Mindl, who has been promised as Avram’s wife. However, Sarah makes it clear that she is already interested in Julius Rosensheine. Back in Pennsylvania, Avram initially mistakes Amish farmers, with their hats and clothing, as Hasidic Jews. Nonetheless, the Amish help Avram recover from his journey and give him enough money for a train ticket to Ohio. In observance of the Jewish Sabbath, Avram disembarks from the train at sunset on Friday and resumes walking. Along the way, he works on the railroad and earns enough money to buy a horse. One day, while struggling to spear fish in a river, Avram encounters bank robber Tommy Lillard, who easily catches several trout. ... +


At a Polish yeshiva in 1850, recent rabbinical graduate, Avram Belinski, is chosen to lead a new congregation in San Francisco, California. Arriving at the port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Avram arranges a wagon ride to San Francisco with brothers Matt and Darryl Diggs, but the innocent newcomer becomes a victim of their swindle. Along with henchman, Mr. Jones, the brothers cheat Avram into paying $50 to “buy back” their horse and wagon, then steal his remaining $200 and abandon him along a deserted road. Stranded in the middle of Pennsylvania in his underwear, Avram begins walking and collects his belongings that the crooks have thrown out the wagon, including the sacred Torah wrapped in velvet. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Samuel Bender, a leader of the Jewish community, is enthusiastic as he reads a letter to the anxious congregation, stating that the new rabbi is on the way and eagerly anticipates meeting Bender’s eldest daughter, Sarah Mindl, who has been promised as Avram’s wife. However, Sarah makes it clear that she is already interested in Julius Rosensheine. Back in Pennsylvania, Avram initially mistakes Amish farmers, with their hats and clothing, as Hasidic Jews. Nonetheless, the Amish help Avram recover from his journey and give him enough money for a train ticket to Ohio. In observance of the Jewish Sabbath, Avram disembarks from the train at sunset on Friday and resumes walking. Along the way, he works on the railroad and earns enough money to buy a horse. One day, while struggling to spear fish in a river, Avram encounters bank robber Tommy Lillard, who easily catches several trout. After sharing a campsite, the tough, but kind-hearted, outlaw realizes that the rabbi, who has no food, money or sense of direction, will never reach San Francisco on his own and tells Avram to follow him. Weeks later, after surviving a daredevil leap into a river and a winter crossing through snow-covered mountains, the duo arrive at small Western town. There, Tommy robs the local bank and leaves the unsuspecting Avram waiting outside. As they gallop out of town amid gunfire, the rabbi is furious with Tommy for involving him in a criminal act, but their argument is interrupted by the need to escape from the hanging posse on their trail. Despite Avram’s insistence that he will not ride his horse on the Sabbath, they manage to evade their pursuers. However, just as Avram and Tommy relax again, they are captured and tied to stakes by a tribe of Native Americans. As Avram chants in Yiddish and reveals his devotion to the Torah, Chief Gray Cloud wonders if he is a holy man who can make rain. After the rabbi passes a test of bravery over fire, the chief releases him, along with Tommy. That night, the travelers are guests at the tribe’s rainmaking ceremony. When thunder and lightning occur, the chief thinks Avram is responsible for the good fortune. Later, at a saloon, Avram encounters the Diggs brothers and Mr. Jones at the gambling table. After he asks them to give back the stolen $200, a bar fight ensues. With his sharpshooting skills, Tommy appears just in time to rescue Avram and forces the men to return the money. Soon, the duo reach the California coast, and Tommy prepares to say goodbye and join the gold rush, but Avram convinces his “best friend” to accompany him instead to San Francisco and attend his wedding to Sarah Mindl. After taking a swim in the ocean, Tommy and Avram are ambushed on the beach by the Diggs and Mr. Jones. During the gunfight, Tommy is wounded in the shoulder, but manages to kill Jones and injure Matt, who retreats into the woods. While rescuing his beloved Torah once again, Avram grabs a gun nearby and aims at Darryl, who is reaching for a loaded pistol. As Tommy screams for Avram to pull the trigger, the rabbi hesitates before shooting Darryl dead. At their camp that night, Avram is reflective, realizing that he can no longer be a rabbi after killing a man. When they arrive in San Francisco, Avram leaves the Torah on the front porch of the Bender residence. The younger daughter, Rosalie, discovers him at the doorstep, and Avram is immediately entranced by her. He pretends to be a Texas cowboy who was asked to deliver the Torah by a rabbi friend and then quickly says goodbye. Later during dinner at a saloon, Tommy tries to convince his dispirited friend that the shooting on the beach was self-defense and that Avram is still worthy of being a rabbi. At that moment, Rosalie enters the saloon, along with the rest of the Bender family and members of the Jewish community. After some initial confusion, Avram stands up and admits that he is the new rabbi. Mr. Bender is dismayed by his cowboy appearance, but as soon as Avram dons his real clothing, the Jewish congregation cheers. A party inside the saloon begins, and Avram and Rosalie share a romantic dance. Meanwhile, Tommy is knocked unconscious outside by Matt Diggs who survived the gunfight on the beach and has returned to avenge his brother’s killing. Matt enters the saloon and demands that the rabbi fight him in a fair duel. In front of the Jewish community, Avram appears courageous as he refuses to draw his gun. Instead, he tricks Matt and disarms him. When Tommy recovers, he aims a gun at the crook and discourages him from retrieving his pistol. Showing leadership as rabbi, Avram orders the humiliated Matt to leave San Francisco and asks the crowd to escort him out of town. Later, at Avram and Rosalie’s wedding, Tommy attends as the best man. +

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

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