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Lonely Are the Brave

Lonely Are the Brave(1962)

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teaser Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

A cowboy asleep on his bedroll is awakened by a sound and pauses to smile wryly as a jet zooms overhead. So begins Lonely Are The Brave (1962), Kirk Douglas' favorite of all his films.

In 1960, Douglas read a paperback copy of the source novel, The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale In A New Time by author Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang). He fell in love with the story and demanded that Universal allow him to make it into a film. He explained, "It happens to be a point of view I love. This is what attracted me to the story - the difficulty of being an individual today."

In the film, Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) rides freely throughout modern New Mexico, even if it means cutting his way through barbed-wire fences. His friend and fellow iconoclast Michael Kane (Paul Bondi) has been imprisoned for helping Mexicans cross the U.S. border illegally (in the original novel he was a draft resister). Burns comes up with a scheme to get himself thrown into the same jail so he can help his friend break out. It leads to a chase across the desert by police cars and helicopters pursuing a cowboy on horseback.

The studio may have thought it would be getting just another Western, but Douglas recruited top talent such as Academy-Award winning writer Dalton Trumbo, who had written Spartacus (1960) two years before, and cinematographer Philip Lathrop (Point Blank, 1967) for a crisp documentary-style look. Walter Matthau, later famous for playing fast-talking big-city roles, is here cast against type as Sheriff Morry Johnson, a man charged with capturing Burns despite his growing respect for him. An actress better known for urban roles, Gena Rowlands, also makes a rare foray into Westerns as the wife of the jailed friend. Making their major film debuts are two actors later to become famous on television; Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk) as an airman in the helicopter and Carroll O'Connor (All In The Family) as a truck driver. Another newcomer, Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, 1976) wrote the score. He credited friend Alfred Newman with getting him his first major studio assignment on Lonely Are The Brave.

The title was a major point of contention between Douglas and the studio. Douglas wanted to call it "The Last Cowboy" and release the film slowly in art-movie houses, allowing it to build through word-of-mouth. Universal overruled him, slapped on the title "Lonely Are The Brave" and dumped it in theaters as if it were another run-of-the-mill Western. Despite its rough handling, Lonely Are The Brave achieved cult status and is often listed as one of the best Westerns ever made.

Producer: Edward Lewis
Director: David Miller
Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo, based on the novel by Edward Abbey
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Film Editing: Leon Barsha, Edward Mann
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Principal Cast: Kirk Douglas (Jack Burns), Gena Rowlands (Jerri Bondi), Walter Matthau (Sheriff Johnson), Michael Kane (Paul Bondi), Carroll O'Connor (Hinton), William Schallert (Harry), George Kennedy (Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez), Karl Swenson (Rev. Hoskins).

by Brian Cady

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