Bronco Billy (1980)

PG | 117 mins | Comedy | 11 June 1980

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HISTORY

A 13 Aug 1979 HR news item announced that Warner Bros., Inc. was producing the picture and principal photography was scheduled to begin Oct 1979 with Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke cast in starring roles. Although a 1 Oct 1979 DV news item stated that Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions was producing the film, HR noted that Eastwood’s partner of ten years, Robert Daley, and his company, Robert Daley Productions, was taking over for Malpaso. An 8 Jun 1980 LAT article explained that the partners formed Robert Daley Productions because Malpaso was entangled in pending legal disputes surrounding Eastwood’s divorce from Maggie Johnson. Bronco Billy was set to be the company’s first theatrical production, but Robert Daley Productions is not credited in the film.
       According to DV, filming began 1 Oct 1979 with an eight to ten week shooting schedule in Boise, ID. A 12 Nov 1979 DV news item announced that the principal photography had finished thirteen days ahead of schedule and $750,000 short of its $5 million budget. A two-day shoot in a New York City penthouse was scheduled for Dec 1979 to complete the production. Actor Geoffrey Lewis told DV that Eastwood’s efficiency was due, in part, to his technique of filming rehearsals and using the “originality of that take” in the final edit.
       In LAT, Eastwood described the film as his first romantic comedy and noted that his character, “Bronco Billy,” was “the farthest departure” from his past roles to date because of Billy’s expressiveness, extroversion and subsequent vulnerability.
       Hoping to ... More Less

A 13 Aug 1979 HR news item announced that Warner Bros., Inc. was producing the picture and principal photography was scheduled to begin Oct 1979 with Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke cast in starring roles. Although a 1 Oct 1979 DV news item stated that Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions was producing the film, HR noted that Eastwood’s partner of ten years, Robert Daley, and his company, Robert Daley Productions, was taking over for Malpaso. An 8 Jun 1980 LAT article explained that the partners formed Robert Daley Productions because Malpaso was entangled in pending legal disputes surrounding Eastwood’s divorce from Maggie Johnson. Bronco Billy was set to be the company’s first theatrical production, but Robert Daley Productions is not credited in the film.
       According to DV, filming began 1 Oct 1979 with an eight to ten week shooting schedule in Boise, ID. A 12 Nov 1979 DV news item announced that the principal photography had finished thirteen days ahead of schedule and $750,000 short of its $5 million budget. A two-day shoot in a New York City penthouse was scheduled for Dec 1979 to complete the production. Actor Geoffrey Lewis told DV that Eastwood’s efficiency was due, in part, to his technique of filming rehearsals and using the “originality of that take” in the final edit.
       In LAT, Eastwood described the film as his first romantic comedy and noted that his character, “Bronco Billy,” was “the farthest departure” from his past roles to date because of Billy’s expressiveness, extroversion and subsequent vulnerability.
       Hoping to replicate the box-office success of Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose (1978, see entry), Warner Bros. planned to surpass their record for the greatest number of opening-day engagements by releasing Bronco Billy in 1,316 theaters nationwide, according to a 22 May 1980 DV article. A Warner Bros. representative told DV that the studio anticipated a box-office gross for Bronco Billy of at least $12 million in the first week. DV estimated the cost of advertising and promotion for the film at $3 million, including over $2 million for television commercials, $350,000 for radio ads and another $400,000 for notices in magazines and newspapers. However, the film did not fare well in its opening weeks, according to a 30 Jun 1980 Box article, and Warner Bros. altered its print advertisements to downplay the film’s Western influence. Although Warner Bros. stipulated in the 13 Aug 1979 HR article that the studio was not interested in portraying the film as a Western because the genre was no longer marketable, Bronco Billy was advertised with an image of Eastwood dressed in cowboy regalia, riding a stallion, according to Box, and it failed to draw audiences. The advertizement was changed to a close-up photograph of Eastwood with “a small drawing of a modern car caravan” and quotes from reviews. A 28 Jul 1980 DV news item reported that the film grossed $3 million in six weeks of its release. Eastwood, who was disappointed with the earnings, told DV that the film would not lose money, because it cost only $5.2 million, and he was proud of its positive reviews.



The summary for this entry was completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary was written by participant Dane Heiss, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Jun 1980
pp. 1-2.
Daily Variety
1 Oct 1979.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1979.
---
Daily Variety
22 May 1980
p. 1, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1979
p. 1, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 1980
p. 3, 7.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jun 1980
p. 39.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1980
p. 4.
New York Times
11 Jun 1980
p. 24.
Variety
11 Jun 1980
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Produced in association with
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
2d grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus cond
Mus mixer
Mus ed
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Scr supv
First aid
Prod secy
Auditor
Time keeper
Secy to the prod
New York sequences coord by
Riding sequences staged by
Roping sequences staged by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Misery and Gin," written by J. Durrill and S. Garrett, sung by Merle Haggard
"Cowboys and Clowns," written by S. Dorff, G. Harju, L. Herbstritt and S. Garrett, sung by Ronnie Milsap
"Bronco Billy," written by Milton Brown, Stephen Hartley Dorff and Snuff Garrett, sung by Ronnie Milsap
+
SONGS
"Misery and Gin," written by J. Durrill and S. Garrett, sung by Merle Haggard
"Cowboys and Clowns," written by S. Dorff, G. Harju, L. Herbstritt and S. Garrett, sung by Ronnie Milsap
"Bronco Billy," written by Milton Brown, Stephen Hartley Dorff and Snuff Garrett, sung by Ronnie Milsap
"Barroom Buddies," written by M. Brown, C. Crofford, S. Dorff and S.Garrett, sung by Merle Haggard and Clint Eastwood
"Bayou Lullaby," written by C. Crofford and S. Garrett, sung by Penny De Haven.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 June 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 11 June 1980
New York opening: week of 11 June 1980
Production Date:
1 October--mid November 1979 in Boise, ID
and two days in December 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 August 1980
Copyright Number:
PA78195
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Deluxe®
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
117
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26007
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At Bronco Billy’s Wild West show, ringmaster Doc Lynch introduces Chief Big Eagle, who is bitten by one of his rattlesnakes, and young Leonard James, who performs a lackluster lasso dance for a tepid audience. Backstage, Bronco Billy McCoy, the fastest gun in the West, bolsters the courage of his new assistant, Mitzi Fritts, with whiskey and enters the ring on horseback, pleasing the crowd with acrobatics. After Mitzi throws plates for Billy’s first shooting demonstration, Leonard and cowboy Lefty LeBow restrain her on a wheel. As she spins, Billy blindfolds himself and fires at balloons between Mitzi’s arms and legs. When Billy accidentally grazes her with a dagger, Mitzi quits. On the way to the next town, Doc warns Billy that although the troupe loves him, they are discontented by his failure to pay and are threatening to quit. Outraged, Billy stops the caravan and berates the outfit for prioritizing money over loyalty. When Billy’s troupe agrees that the show has improved their lives, Billy reminds them that he is saving their earnings to buy a ranch, where they can live together and entertain disadvantaged kids from the city. Revitalized, the troupe arrives at their next stop, and as Billy buys permits at the town courthouse, he encounters Antoinette Lily. The glamorous blonde explains to her male companion, John Arlington, that they must get their marriage license before her thirtieth birthday or she will be denied her multi-million dollar inheritance and insists their union is based on convenience, not love. Later, the newlyweds are displeased to learn that their limousine, which has broken down in a gas station ... +


At Bronco Billy’s Wild West show, ringmaster Doc Lynch introduces Chief Big Eagle, who is bitten by one of his rattlesnakes, and young Leonard James, who performs a lackluster lasso dance for a tepid audience. Backstage, Bronco Billy McCoy, the fastest gun in the West, bolsters the courage of his new assistant, Mitzi Fritts, with whiskey and enters the ring on horseback, pleasing the crowd with acrobatics. After Mitzi throws plates for Billy’s first shooting demonstration, Leonard and cowboy Lefty LeBow restrain her on a wheel. As she spins, Billy blindfolds himself and fires at balloons between Mitzi’s arms and legs. When Billy accidentally grazes her with a dagger, Mitzi quits. On the way to the next town, Doc warns Billy that although the troupe loves him, they are discontented by his failure to pay and are threatening to quit. Outraged, Billy stops the caravan and berates the outfit for prioritizing money over loyalty. When Billy’s troupe agrees that the show has improved their lives, Billy reminds them that he is saving their earnings to buy a ranch, where they can live together and entertain disadvantaged kids from the city. Revitalized, the troupe arrives at their next stop, and as Billy buys permits at the town courthouse, he encounters Antoinette Lily. The glamorous blonde explains to her male companion, John Arlington, that they must get their marriage license before her thirtieth birthday or she will be denied her multi-million dollar inheritance and insists their union is based on convenience, not love. Later, the newlyweds are displeased to learn that their limousine, which has broken down in a gas station across the road from Billy’s show, will require a day for repairs. Meanwhile, Billy looks for a new assistant, but the girl he enlists at a drive-in is terrified during that evening’s performance. John, one of the few audience members, returns to the motel to celebrate his wedding night with Antoinette, but she rejects his sexual advances and threatens to cut him off financially. The next morning, Billy foils a bank robbery with his expert shooting and uses the media attention to promote his show. Meanwhile, Antoinette awakes to discover John has left with her purse and the limousine. Offering Antoinette a dime for a pay phone, Billy says the advance will be deducted from her first week’s salary as his new assistant and introduces her to his troupe. Antoinette calls her stepmother, Irene Lily, in New York City but the line is busy, so she rides with Billy to the next town. Back in New York, Irene suspects Antoinette has been murdered by John, and her lawyer, Edgar Lipton, reminds Irene that she will inherit her deceased husband’s fortune. Meanwhile, Antoinette resents Billy’s assumption that she is working for him and he kicks her out of his truck. However, Chief Big Eagle and his wife, Lorraine Running Water, pick her up in their vehicle and explain that Billy is honorable. The next morning, Antoinette wakes to find the troupe parked at an orphanage for a free performance and agrees to assist Billy one last time. When Billy shows her the plate-shooting trick, he is surprised to see that Antoinette is a sharp shooter. Back at Irene’s New York apartment, Edgar reports that John was discovered in Arizona and will be coerced into a murder confession. At the Wild West Show that evening, Billy becomes outraged when Antoinette does not follow his script. When they reach the next town, Antoinette sees a headline in the local newspaper reporting John’s arrest for her murder and, despite Billy’s hostility, she decides to remain with the troupe. Meanwhile, in an Arizona prison, Edgar bribes John with $500,000 to plead “temporary insanity” and spend three years in a mental institution for Antoinette’s murder. At the Meridian County Fair, Billy learns that Running Water is pregnant and invites the performers to celebrate in town. Billy and Antoinette get drunk at a bar and argue about Antoinette’s emotional detachment. Although Antoinette agrees to dance, she slaps Billy when he tries to kiss her and a brawl ensues among the bar patrons. Outside, Antoinette is harassed by two cowboys, but Billy fights them off. When the troupe returns to camp, Leonard remains at the bar. Back at Billy’s trailer, Antoinette asks Billy about his former wife, whom he caught in bed with his best friend. Although Billy injured her with a gun shot, he did not aim to kill. Nevertheless, Billy served seven years in Folsom prison for attempted murder, but he met troupe members Doc, Lefty and Big Eagle while incarcerated. The next morning, Billy rushes to the police station to bail out Leonard, who was arrested at the bar, but Sheriff Dix is unwilling to release the boy because he is wanted for deserting the army. While Billy bids farewell to Leonard, he later attempts to bribe Sheriff Dix with the Wild West Show’s savings. When the officer challenges Billy to a shoot out, Billy refuses and Sheriff Dix demands that he hand over his gun. Meanwhile, crowds file into the Wild West Show and Billy is nowhere to be found. Doc introduces Big Eagle, who prolongs his snake dance in anticipation of Billy’s return, but the audience grows impatient and a young man accidentally sets fire to the tent. As the crowd runs from the stands, Billy arrives with Leonard and reestablishes order, making sure no one is hurt. Watching the tent fall, Lefty tells Billy that Antoinette brought them bad luck. Back on the road, Doc reports to Billy that the outfit wants Antoinette fired and questions how the show will go on without a tent. Billy plans to rob a train, but Antoinette begs him to reconsider and promises money from her inheritance. However, Billy maintains that he fantasized about being a cowboy when he grew up in a New Jersey tenement and refuses to back down. When Billy is unsuccessful, he leads the troupe to a mental institution for the criminally insane, where they have often performed for free. Pleased to see Billy, Dr. Canterbury agrees to have his patients fabricate a new tent for the Wild West Show in the institution’s American flag sewing room and invites the outfit to stay at the facility until it is complete. Meanwhile, John, who is an inmate at the hospital, spots Antoinette. Later, Antoinette refuses Billy’s sexual advances, but after speaking with Running Water about Billy’s kindness, she goes to his trailer and they make love. The next day, during a treatment session, John argues that he was framed and Dr. Canterbury confirms his story with Antoinette and Billy. As reporters arrive at the sanatorium, Lt. Wiecker informs Antoinette that she is a fugitive and must return to New York City with Billy for an FBI investigation. Outside, Billy tells his outfit that they will leave that evening without Antoinette because she is bad luck. Back in New York, Antoinette learns that Edgar bribed John to dismiss his charges, but she attempts suicide by overdosing on prescription medication. Meanwhile, Running Water calls Antoinette from an Idaho bar to report that Billy needs her, and the heiress spits out the pills to rush to his side. Under a big top made from American flags, Billy tells his audience that Lefty will be his new assistant, but Antoinette surprises the cowboy by appearing in the ring as the crowd cheers. After a seamless performance, Billy and Antoinette kiss in the fading spotlight. +

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

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