Budd Boetticher: A Man Can Do That
BUDD BOETTICHER "A MAN CAN DO THAT" - narrated by Ed Harris; directed and produced by Bruce Ricker; written and produced by Dave Kehr; edited by Joel Cox and Gary Roach; and executive-produced by Clint Eastwood - embraces both the man's work and his life, tracing the story of his epic odyssey through Hollywood and beyond. Eight hours of interviews with Boetticher before his death in 2001, as well as stunning footage of a riding demonstration he staged for a group of San Diego schoolchildren (effectively his final film), combine with extensive interviews with collaborators, critics and admirers. Interviewees include directors Quentin Tarantino, Paul Schrader, Clint Eastwood, Taylor Hackford, Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Towne.
Boetticher (pronounced BET-i-ker) was born Oscar Boetticher Jr. in 1916 in Chicago. An avid boxer and football player, he went to Mexico in the mid-'30s to become a matador, which led to his being hired as a technical advisor on Rouben Mamoulian's 1941 bullfighting romance Blood and Sand. He stayed in Hollywood, working first as a messenger, then as assistant director. He eventually became a director, making several forgettable propaganda films during and immediately following World War II.
Boetticher made a lasting artistic mark in 1951 with another bullfighting flick, The Bullfighter and the Lady, now considered the best bullfighting movie ever made, before becoming a prolific director of B Westerns. In 1956, he set out on a collaboration with screen idol Randolph Scott, a professional teaming that would last through seven films.
The first film in the series, Seven Men from Now, was produced by John Wayne's production company, Batjac, and is considered by many enthusiasts to be what filmmaker Paul Schrader calls "the quintessential Western." "The Ranown Cycle," as the Boetticher-Scott collaborations have come to be known, was named such because the production company was named for Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. The additional movies in the cycle are The Tall T (1957), Decision at Sundown (1957), Westbound (1958), Buchanan Rides Alone (1959), Ride Lonesome (1959) and Commanche Station (1960). In each movie, Scott plays a loner drawn reluctantly into someone else's problems. Also, each film include a devil's advocate character who crosses over into a world of crime, creating a canvas for moral debate.
After completing his final film in "The Ranown Cycle," Boetticher used the same format for a gangster movie, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, referred to by film critic Andrew Sarris as "a minor classic." Just as he was beginning to be recognized as a film artist, Boetticher left Hollywood and went to Mexico to make a documentary about the career of his close friend, matador Carlos Arruza. The seven-year venture in Mexico turned out to be disastrous for Boetticher, financially, artistically and personally. His wife divorced him. He was jailed. And the subject of his movie, Arruza, died in a tragic car accident that also took the lives of most of his film crew. In an attempt to revive his devastated career, Boetticher returned to Hollywood and made A Time for Dying with Audie Murphy, which both men hoped would be the first of many collaborations. But their plans were cut short when Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971.
Boetticher essentially retired from directing after he was finally able to release his documentary Arruza in 1972. In 1985, he did collaborate with Carlos Aruzza Jr. and actor Robert Stack, who had starred in Boetticher's The Bullfighter and the Lady, on My Kingdom For..., in which he gave a riding demonstration of Portuguese Lusitano and Spanish Andalusian horses. He also made a few cameo appearances in other directors' movies, including Robert Towne's Tequila Sunrise. He died in 2001 at his home in Ramona, Calif.
For more information about Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott, visit the American Cowboy web site.