Billy Two Hats (1974)

PG | 99 mins | Western | 13 March 1974

Director:

Ted Kotcheff

Writer:

Alan Sharp

Cinematographer:

Brian West

Editor:

Thom Noble

Production Designer:

Anthony Pratt

Production Company:

Algonquin Films
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HISTORY

According to studio publicity material from AMPAS library production files, Billy Two Hats was filmed in Israel at locations including the set of a Western town built near Tel Aviv, the ancient copper mines of King Solomon and the countryside surrounding Eilat. A 17 Oct 1972 Var news item stated that the Western town was called “Sarcoville” and the desert between Ashkelon and Beer-Sheba represented a Nevada homestead. In publicity material, producer Norman Jewison noted that Israel was “the present world’s last frontier” and that the location was appropriate to the film because Westerns are “today’s vision of yesterday, simplistic fantasies to soften contemporary complexities.”
       As reported in the film’s Var review on 7 Nov 1973, Billy Two Hats was the first Western to be shot in Israel. A 24 Oct 1972 HR news item reported that shooting started 15 Oct 1972 at the Sarco Western International Village (“Sarcoville”). The final notice of filming in HR production charts was 2 Feb 1973. According to Var on 17 Oct 1972, the “village,” a 250-yard street, was constructed by the Chicago-based company Sarco Westerns International Ltd. and was designed by Fernando Carrere and built by Harry Arbour, who worked on the bridge for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, see entry). Representatives of Sarco told Var that their costs were a quarter of what they would have been with an American crew.
       On 30 Aug 1972, Var noted that the Israeli locations sparked antagonism with American film unions, who identified the film as ...

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According to studio publicity material from AMPAS library production files, Billy Two Hats was filmed in Israel at locations including the set of a Western town built near Tel Aviv, the ancient copper mines of King Solomon and the countryside surrounding Eilat. A 17 Oct 1972 Var news item stated that the Western town was called “Sarcoville” and the desert between Ashkelon and Beer-Sheba represented a Nevada homestead. In publicity material, producer Norman Jewison noted that Israel was “the present world’s last frontier” and that the location was appropriate to the film because Westerns are “today’s vision of yesterday, simplistic fantasies to soften contemporary complexities.”
       As reported in the film’s Var review on 7 Nov 1973, Billy Two Hats was the first Western to be shot in Israel. A 24 Oct 1972 HR news item reported that shooting started 15 Oct 1972 at the Sarco Western International Village (“Sarcoville”). The final notice of filming in HR production charts was 2 Feb 1973. According to Var on 17 Oct 1972, the “village,” a 250-yard street, was constructed by the Chicago-based company Sarco Westerns International Ltd. and was designed by Fernando Carrere and built by Harry Arbour, who worked on the bridge for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, see entry). Representatives of Sarco told Var that their costs were a quarter of what they would have been with an American crew.
       On 30 Aug 1972, Var noted that the Israeli locations sparked antagonism with American film unions, who identified the film as a “runaway” production. As described in the news item, there had been increasing concern among unions that Hollywood studios were filming abroad to exploit inexpensive labor and, in effect, undermining the livelihood of American workers. The unions’ objection to Israeli locations was compounded because the film was a Western. According to a union leader, it was not necessary to move the production to Israel because the film’s sites were representative of places on American soil.
       Jewison decided Israeli locations would be fitting for Billy Two Hats, a property that he had owned for several years and was eager to put into production, while he was in the country directing and producing Jesus Christ Superstar (1973, see entry), as stated in a 25 Feb 1973 LAT article. Jewison also saw financial advantages to producing two films simultaneously. Announcing Jewison’s plan to shoot Billy Two Hats in Israel, a 6 Aug 1972 NYT news item noted that the Israeli government subsidized twenty percent of the film and financed the construction of “Sarcoville” in its strategy to promote future productions.
       While working as associate producer for Jesus Christ Superstar, Peter Palmer was delegated by Jewison to take on the role of producer for Billy Two Hats. Jewison’s friend and fellow Canadian, Ted Kotcheff, was brought on to direct the film because of his proclivity for shooting on location in natural settings, according to LAT.
       A union representative told Var that his associates did not object to Jewison filming Jesus Christ Superstar in Israel because the story was set there and, unlike Billy Two Hats, the locations were necessary for the picture’s authenticity. Kotcheff mentioned to LAT that he appreciated the opportunity to film Billy Two Hats in Israel but he was not pleased with his foreign crew and noted that they “don’t know the meaning of the word ‘Hurry.’” According to Var on 17 Oct 1972, fifty percent of the production unit was Israeli.
       Although writer Alan Sharp was a native of Scotland and had experienced the American West only through watching movies, as noted in LAT, he was able to sell Billy Two Hats, his first script, to Hollywood six years before the film went into production and had since become one of the most successful Western screenwriters. A DV news item, however, reported that Jewison contracted Sharpe to write the screenplay for Billy Two Hats on 1 Mar 1972.
       As stated in HR on 11 Aug 1972, the film was the first to be produced by Jewison and Palmer’s London-based company Algonquin Films. Var reported on 17 Oct 1972 that the film’s budget was projected at $1.1 million.
       A 5 Sep 1972 HR news item announced that actor Ben Johnson was signed to the production, but he is not credited in the film.
       According to T.V. Guide on 8 Apr 1978, Billy Two Hats was renamed The Lady and the Outlaw when it aired on television because it had been a “flop” in theaters.


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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Feb 1974
p. 4662
Daily Variety
1 Mar 1972
---
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1973
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1972
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 1972
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1972
p. 12
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1972
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1973
p. 13
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1974
p. 3, 8
LAHExam
15 Mar 1974
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Feb 1973
p. 22
Los Angeles Times
13 Mar 1974
---
New York Times
6 Aug 1972
---
T.V. Guide
8 Apr 1978
p. 12, 16
Variety
30 Aug 1972
---
Variety
17 Oct 1972
---
Variety
7 Nov 1973
p. 19
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Norman Jewison-Patrick Palmer Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
1st asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Dubbing ed
Dubbing ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward master
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Continuity
Prod accountant
Prod secy
Unit pub
Horsemaster
Shooting facilities furnished by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Lady and the Outlaw
Release Date:
13 March 1974
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 13 Mar 1974
Production Date:
Mid-Oct 1972--early Feb 1973 in Israel
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
United Artists Corp.
15 November 1973
LP43310
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
De Luxe
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, Israel, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27425
SYNOPSIS

At dawn, a stranger rides into a Western town and identifies three outlaws from their “Reward” posters in Sheriff Gifford’s office. Soon after, a young Native American man, Billy, waves to his Scottish companion, Deans, through the window of a modest hotel room and the sheriff accosts him at gunpoint. When he aims at Deans, Billy thwarts the shot and a gunfight ensues, leaving another partner in an adjacent hotel room dead. Deans escapes on his horse and Gifford poses for a photograph with the dead outlaw. Later, Gifford leads Billy, handcuffed, through the desert on horseback and tells the boy that Deans is in Mexico, squandering the $420 they stole at the cost of a man’s life. In a ghost town, Gifford meets Copeland “Cope,” who looks at the photograph of the dead outlaw and congratulates his friend, noting that townspeople remember such events on election days. The men deprecatingly call Billy a “breed” but allow him access to the town’s water pump. That evening after dinner, Cope admits that he has a “breed” son, but the boy was banished to his mother’s reservation. Cope reflects on his past as a successful buffalo hunter and Gifford notices a long-range hunting rifle hanging on the wall. Meanwhile, Deans plans to rescue his young friend. The next morning, Deans pads the hooves of his horse and rides undetected to the ghost town. After shooting Gifford in the shoulder, Dean orders Cope to release Billy from his handcuffs. As Cope tends to Gifford’s wound, Deans demands provisions and breaks the men’s rifles. Gifford vows to recapture the boy, but ...

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At dawn, a stranger rides into a Western town and identifies three outlaws from their “Reward” posters in Sheriff Gifford’s office. Soon after, a young Native American man, Billy, waves to his Scottish companion, Deans, through the window of a modest hotel room and the sheriff accosts him at gunpoint. When he aims at Deans, Billy thwarts the shot and a gunfight ensues, leaving another partner in an adjacent hotel room dead. Deans escapes on his horse and Gifford poses for a photograph with the dead outlaw. Later, Gifford leads Billy, handcuffed, through the desert on horseback and tells the boy that Deans is in Mexico, squandering the $420 they stole at the cost of a man’s life. In a ghost town, Gifford meets Copeland “Cope,” who looks at the photograph of the dead outlaw and congratulates his friend, noting that townspeople remember such events on election days. The men deprecatingly call Billy a “breed” but allow him access to the town’s water pump. That evening after dinner, Cope admits that he has a “breed” son, but the boy was banished to his mother’s reservation. Cope reflects on his past as a successful buffalo hunter and Gifford notices a long-range hunting rifle hanging on the wall. Meanwhile, Deans plans to rescue his young friend. The next morning, Deans pads the hooves of his horse and rides undetected to the ghost town. After shooting Gifford in the shoulder, Dean orders Cope to release Billy from his handcuffs. As Cope tends to Gifford’s wound, Deans demands provisions and breaks the men’s rifles. Gifford vows to recapture the boy, but Deans tells the sheriff that Billy is innocent. The boy only tended to the outlaws’ horses during the bank robbery. Deans confesses that he shot a bystander in the heist, but argues it was not his intention to kill the man. As Deans and Billy ride into the distance, Gifford reminds Cope about his buffalo hunting rifle and Cope fires at the men, hitting Deans in the leg and injuring his horse. Cope reloads while Billy helps Deans onto his horse and tells him to run toward the hills. Ducking under the second shot, Billy retrieves the provisions from Deans’s saddle. Later, Billy tells Deans about Cope’s rifle and despite Deans’s wound, the two men continue on their journey. Exhausted, Deans offers Billy $420 in gold from the heist, claiming that the boy has a better chance of getting away because he did not kill anyone and is uninjured. However, Billy is offended by the gesture. He assumes that Deans believes him to be dishonorable and runs away from camp. Back at Cope’s outpost, Gifford wonders what motivated Deans to return for Billy since he already had the stolen money. He can’t understand why a man would have such strong feelings about a “breed” and reminds Cope that he gave his own “breed” son away. Billy returns to Deans with a homespun Indian travoy to carry his friend. Meanwhile, Gifford and Cope set out to find the outlaws. Deans and Billy run into a renegade band of Apaches, but Billy drives them away. Later, they find a homestead and Deans agrees to pay the husband, Spencer, $100 to take him to a town where he can hire a wagon. When Spencer’s stuttering wife, Esther, begs to join them, he slaps her and Deans suggests that Billy stay behind. That night, Deans tells Billy about the Bible and refers to a passage in Ecclesiates as his reason for rescuing his friend, saying that two people working together are always more successful than one man alone. Deans promises to teach Billy how to read. Out on a desert trail, Cope expresses doubt that they will find the outlaws and Gifford leaves him behind. When Spencer and Deans leave the homestead, Billy keeps watch for Gifford and soon befriends Esther. Meanwhile, Spencer tells Deans that he purchased Esther for $100. The men are ambushed by the renegade Apaches. They hide underneath the overturned wagon and when night falls, Spencer runs for help. As Deans waits the following day, the wagon is hit by an avalanche of rocks. Deans is safe, but is accosted by one of the Apaches, and he aims his gun through the floor of the wagon to kill the Indian. Hearing the sound of another landslide, Deans sees Spencer’s dead body falling down the mountain and realizes the Apaches have him surrounded. Back at the homestead, Esther seduces Billy. As they lie in bed, Billy tells her that his name is “Two Hats.” His white father, whom he never knew, owned two hats, one for special occasions and one for average days, and this impressed his Native American mother. Esther asks Billy to take her away with him. In the morning, Gifford breaks into the homestead and discovers the couple. When he knocks Billy to the floor and accuses him of rape, Esther is unable to overcome her stutter to defend him. Gifford ties Billy to his horse and rides away with Esther. As they come upon Spencer’s overturned wagon, the Apaches are scared off. Billy begs Gifford to give Deans water, and when the sheriff calls the boy a rapist, Esther regains her voice and says that she instigated their union. Gifford is outraged by the affection between Deans and Billy and aims his gun to kill the wounded outlaw. Before Gifford can fire, however, Billy shoots him in the back. A moment later, Deans dies, too. While the bodies of Gifford and Spencer burn with the wagon, Billy explains to Esther that he is bringing Deans with them. Later, he leaves Deans’s body in the branches of a bare tree that overlooks the desert. Despite Billy’s warning to Esther that life with him will not be easy, she joins him as he rides away.

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

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