Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Dennis Hacklin
Starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis, Scatman Crouthers
Think of Clint Eastwood, and the word “western” immediately comes to mind. He developed a reputation as a taciturn man of action, a traditional western hero in the untraditional 60s. But Eastwood also had a lighter side, and showed far more depth in his characterizations as time went by. And one of the more interesting characters was in Bronco Billy.
Bronco Billy McCoy (Eastwood) is the owner and main attraction of an old fashioned wild west show, the type that went out of fashion long before the movie was set. He claims to be the fastest gun in the west, and ends each performance with a knife throwing act. When he accidently nicks his assistant, she leaves and he is forced to turn to Antoinette Lily (Sondra Locke), an heiress who has been abandoned by her new husband, John Arlington (Geoffrey Lewis). Antoinette is forced to take the place in the act.
His show is not making any money, but Billy continues on, mostly to keep the dream alive, and to provide jobs (rarely paid) for the various misfits, ex-cons, and alcoholics who make up the crew.
The movie shows a true lover for the imaginary west of movies.* Eastwood shows his softer side, usually avoiding a battle unless provoked.
Sondra Locke – who had a relationship with Eastwood at the time – is good, but Scatman Crouthers is just fine as the show’s ringmaster and announcer. For a short time, Crouthers was in the middle of a career peak, playing notable character roles.
The movie was a modest success, both critically and financially, but Eastwood was looking for more. It may be because he felt it was one of his most personal works.
Definitely worth seeing out.
*I don’t think it’s coincidence that the character shares his name with Broncho Billy Anderson, one of the first western stars, who appeared in The Great Train Robbery.