Urban Cowboy


2h 15m 1980

Brief Synopsis

A Texas boy learns about love the hard way at the local honky tonk.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America's Search for True Grit, The
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Comedy
Musical
Romance
Release Date
1980
Production Company
Modern Film Effects; Paramount Pictures
Distribution Company
Cic Productions; Paramount Home Media; Paramount Pictures
Location
Texas, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 15m

Synopsis

When Bud Davis moves from a small town in Texas to Houston, his days are spent working in an oil refinery, and his nights at Gilley's country western bar. At Gilley's, Bud meets Sissy, and the two fall in love and soon are married. On their honeymoon, they visit the Texas Prison Rodeo where they see convicted felon Wes Hightower ride a bull. When they return to Gilley's, a mechanical bull is installed at the club, and Bud impresses Sissy by riding it, but his male ego is threatened when she masters it too. Their fragile relationship is upset further when Wes Hightower gets out of jail, starts going to Gilley's, and is attracted to Sissy. Bud fights with Wes, and before long, she is seeing Wes and Bud is seeing another woman from the bar. When the two men compete in a mechanical bull-riding competition, Bud wins, and Wes retaliates by stealing the prize money, planning on escaping to Mexico with it and Sissy. But after Bud realizes that Wes has been abusing Sissy, the two men fight again, during which the stolen money is discovered and Wes is caught. Bud and Sissy realize that they need to leave Gilley's and make a new start together.

Crew

Silvia Abascal-baker

Hairstyles

Dwight Adair

Dialect Coach

Pat Arledge

Other

Irving Azoff

Producer

Oscar Stuart Blandamar

Song ("Darlin'")

James Bridges

Screenwriter

Ed Bruce

Song ("Mammas Don'T Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys")

Patsy Bruce

Song ("Mammas Don'T Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys")

Jimmy Buffett

Song Performer ("Hello Texas")

Ralph Burns

Music Adaptation

Willie Burton

Sound Recording

Bob Bush

Special Effects

Robby Campbell

Song ("Hello Texas")

W Stewart Campbell

Art Direction

Marshall Chapman

Song ("Rode Hard And Put Up Wet")

Michelle Cohen

Publicist

Brian Collins

Song ("Hello Texas")

Tom Crain

Song ("The Devil Went Down To Georgia")

Charlie Daniels

Songs ("Texas" "Falling In Love For The Night" "The Devil Went Down To Georgia")

Wes Dawn

Makeup

Taz Digregorio

Song ("The Devil Went Down To Georgia")

David Domeyer

Special Effects

Marion Dougherty

Casting (Los Angeles)

Fred L. Edwards

Song ("The Devil Went Down To Georgia")

C. O. Erickson

Production Manager

C. O. Erickson

Executive Producer

Robert Evans

Producer

Dan Fogelberg

Song Performer ("Times Like These")

Dan Fogelberg

Song

Jerry Foster

Song ("Here Comes The Hurt Again")

Glenn Frey

Song ("Lyin' Eyes")

L. Wolfe Gilbert

Song ("Down Yonder")

Mickey Gilley

Song Performer ("Stand By Me" "Honky Tonk Wine" "Here Comes The Hurt Again" "Jukebox Argument" "Rockin' My Life Away" "Mammas Don'T Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys")

Gloria Gresham

Costumes

Frank Griffin

Makeup

Stephen Grimes

Production Designer

Robert Wayne Harris

Sound Recording

Charles Hayward

Song ("The Devil Went Down To Georgia")

Don Henley

Song ("Lyin' Eyes")

Robert Herridge

Song Arranger ("Cotton-Eyed Joe")

Bob Hinkler

Sound Rerecording

R Dudley Holmes

Props

Wayland Holyfield

Song ("Could I Have This Dance")

Bob House

Song ("Could I Have This Dance")

Chris Howell

Stunt Coordinator

Gene Kearney

Key Grip

Liz Keigley

Casting (Texas)

Ben E. King

Song ("Stand By Me")

Gene Kraft

Title Design

Don Kruger

Other

Kim Kurumada

Assistant Director

Aaron Latham

Source Material (From Novel)

Aaron Latham

Screenwriter

Johnny Lee

Song Performer ("Lookin' For Love" "Rode Hard And Put Up Wet" "Cherokee Fiddle")

Jerry Leiber

Song ("Stand By Me")

Bob Lemond

Production Consultant

Marvin E. Lewis

Sound Recording

Wanda Mallette

Song ("Lookin' For Love")

Barry Mann

Song ("Here You Come Again")

Elliot Marks

Stills

Jim Marshall

Song ("The Devil Went Down To Georgia")

Bob Morrison

Song ("Lookin' For Love" "Love The World Away")

Michael Martin Murphy

Song ("Cherokee Fiddle")

Anne Murray

Song Performer ("Could I Have This Dance")

George R. Nelson

Set Decorator

Gary Nicholson

Song ("Jukebox Argument")

Lisa Niemi

Dance Instructor

Ron Phillips

Stills

Bonnie Raitt

Song Performer ("Darlin'" "Don'T It Make You Wanna Dance")

David Rawlins

Editor

Shari Rhodes

Casting (Texas)

Bill Rice

Song ("Here Comes The Hurt Again")

Milt Rice

Special Effects Supervisor

Milt Rice

Special Effects

Kenny Rogers

Song Performer ("Love The World Away")

Linda Ronstadt

Song Performer ("Hearts Against The Wind")

Ervin Rouse

Song ("Orange Blossom Special")

Patti Ryan

Song ("Lookin' For Love")

Boz Scaggs

Song

Boz Scaggs

Song Performer ("Look What You'Ve Done To Me")

Bob Seger

Song Performer ("Nine Tonight")

Bob Seger

Song

Albert Shapiro

Assistant Director

Becky Shargo

Music Coordinator

J L Sinclair

Song ("The Eyes Of Texas")

Sonya Sones

Assistant Editor

J D Souther

Song

J D Souther

Song Performer ("The Moon Just Turned Blue" "Hearts Against The Wind")

Mike Stoller

Song ("Stand By Me")

Patsy Swayze

Choreography

John Toll

Camera Operator

Jim Troutman

Sound Effects

Dick Tyler Sr.

Sound Rerecording

Mack Vickery

Song ("Honky Tonk Wine" "Rockin' My Life Away")

Reynaldo Villalobos

Director Of Photography

Joe Walsh

Song Performer ("All Night Long")

Joe Walsh

Song

Cynthia Weil

Song ("Here You Come Again")

Ray West

Sound Rerecording

Rusty Wier

Song ("Don'T It Make You Wanna Dance")

Johnny Wilson

Song ("Love The World Away")

Karen Wookey

Script Supervisor

Lois Zetter

Production Consultant

Susan Zietlow-maust

Hairstyles

Film Details

Also Known As
Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America's Search for True Grit, The
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Comedy
Musical
Romance
Release Date
1980
Production Company
Modern Film Effects; Paramount Pictures
Distribution Company
Cic Productions; Paramount Home Media; Paramount Pictures
Location
Texas, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 15m

Articles

Urban Cowboy


* One company that was very aggressive about being in Hollywood movies was Budweiser. Anheiser-Busch even developed a line of historical beer canse for use in period pictures. Although Coors is also used in the movie, the producers had an agreement with Budweiser, who promoted Urban Cowboy in their advertisements. Another company with placement in the film was Stetson hats.

Urban Cowboy (1980) and the earlier John Travolta super hit Saturday Night Fever (1977) have several things in common: they're both based on magazine articles about an urban nightlife phenomenon, in this case the two-steppin', mechanical-bull-ridin' megaclubs of Texas rather than the discos of New York's outer boroughs; they both featured Travolta as a callow young man whose experiences bring him to question his "club kid" pose. Although Urban Cowboy did not receive the critical acclaim or achieve the box office success of its predecessor, it did spawn a brief national music, dance and fashion craze that, like the earlier film, ranged farther than its regional roots (even to the point of having mechanical bulls turn up in bars in Belgium, Sweden, South Africa and on a US Navy aircraft carrier).

What was different this time around was its star. John Travolta had experienced a phenomenal rise from the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter to an Academy Award nomination for Saturday Night Fever to the blockbuster success of the musical Grease (1978). Then, like so many others whose career trajectory has been meteoric, the young star felt the backlash of critics and columnists after the box office bomb, Moment by Moment (1978). In it, he played a sensitive young stud with the ludicrous name "Strip Harrison," who gives pleasure to a bored SoCal housewife played by Lily Tomlin. Suddenly, the 24-year-old was being portrayed as a has-been, and he told one interviewer it was as if he woke up every morning to a world where everything, dreams and reality, had been reversed. "I would be going along just fine," he said. "Then I'd see an article about me or hear something bad on the radio, and then I'd be brought back down again."

Luckily, producers and directors weren't quite so convinced Travolta was washed up, recognizing the reaction he still got from fans and his continued status as an international sex symbol. He was offered - and turned down - the lead in Paul Schrader's American Gigolo (1980), which like the role he also rejected in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978), went to Richard Gere. He opted instead to travel to Houston for location shooting at Gilley's, then the largest-capacity nightclub in the world, for what would be the first of his many "comebacks." He prepared for the role by spending three weeks on a $3000 mechanical bull he installed in his Santa Barbara home and learning the dances necessary for the movie's setting from Patsy Swayze, mother of dancer-actor Patrick Swayze. Nevertheless, Travolta showed up for shooting more withdrawn and cautious than people expected. He insisted on no media and no publicity, and the set was closed at his request to all but a privileged few, such as personal friend Jane Fonda, who stopped by on a 30-city anti-nuke tour.

The movie's centerpiece was the mechanical bull contest that becomes the focus of rivalry between Travolta's character, Bud, and Scott Glenn's Wes for the affections of Sissy (Debra Winger, in her first big mainstream role), a spunky young woman who learns to ride the bulls herself. Like the film's star, Winger and Glenn braved the threat of spinal injury by mastering the technique so well they were able to do their own stunt work. Their feat, in fact, was especially remarkable in that they risked even more danger than the run-of-the-mill Gilley's crowd. In order to place the cameras properly, the mattresses that usually surrounded the bull to cushion falls were removed.

That wasn't the biggest danger during production, however. In the last two weeks, the shoot moved to Los Angeles where an East L.A. trailer park subbed for Bud's Houston digs. One day, gunfire suddenly peppered the set. According to a security guard, six men with sawed-off rifles came over an embankment on the set's perimeter, firing away. It was believed, though never proved, that the assailants were members of a local street gang. No one was injured, but Travolta was badly shaken, and the remainder of filming was done on a soundstage.

The part of Sissy was a toss-up between Debra Winger and Michelle Pfeiffer, both relative unknowns at the time. It would be another few years before Pfeiffer got her big screen break with Scarface (1983), but Winger shot to stardom after this role. Of the entire cast of , she got the most attention in reviews and at awards time. She received a double Golden Globe nod as Best Supporting Actress and New Female Star of the Year and a British Film Academy nomination as Best Newcomer. The film itself also copped a Grammy nomination for Best Original Score Album.

Director: James Bridges
Producer: Irving Azoff
Screenplay: James Bridges and Aaron Latham, based on a story by Latham
Cinematography: John Toll, Ray Villalobos
Editing: David Rawlins
Art Direction: W. Stewart Campbell
Original Music: Ralph Burns
Cast: John Travolta (Bud Davis), Debra Winger (Sissy Davis), Scott Glenn (Wes Hightower), Madolyn Smith (Pam), Barry Corbin (Bob Davis).
C-135m. Letterboxed.

by Rob Nixon
Urban Cowboy

Urban Cowboy

* One company that was very aggressive about being in Hollywood movies was Budweiser. Anheiser-Busch even developed a line of historical beer canse for use in period pictures. Although Coors is also used in the movie, the producers had an agreement with Budweiser, who promoted Urban Cowboy in their advertisements. Another company with placement in the film was Stetson hats. Urban Cowboy (1980) and the earlier John Travolta super hit Saturday Night Fever (1977) have several things in common: they're both based on magazine articles about an urban nightlife phenomenon, in this case the two-steppin', mechanical-bull-ridin' megaclubs of Texas rather than the discos of New York's outer boroughs; they both featured Travolta as a callow young man whose experiences bring him to question his "club kid" pose. Although Urban Cowboy did not receive the critical acclaim or achieve the box office success of its predecessor, it did spawn a brief national music, dance and fashion craze that, like the earlier film, ranged farther than its regional roots (even to the point of having mechanical bulls turn up in bars in Belgium, Sweden, South Africa and on a US Navy aircraft carrier). What was different this time around was its star. John Travolta had experienced a phenomenal rise from the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter to an Academy Award nomination for Saturday Night Fever to the blockbuster success of the musical Grease (1978). Then, like so many others whose career trajectory has been meteoric, the young star felt the backlash of critics and columnists after the box office bomb, Moment by Moment (1978). In it, he played a sensitive young stud with the ludicrous name "Strip Harrison," who gives pleasure to a bored SoCal housewife played by Lily Tomlin. Suddenly, the 24-year-old was being portrayed as a has-been, and he told one interviewer it was as if he woke up every morning to a world where everything, dreams and reality, had been reversed. "I would be going along just fine," he said. "Then I'd see an article about me or hear something bad on the radio, and then I'd be brought back down again." Luckily, producers and directors weren't quite so convinced Travolta was washed up, recognizing the reaction he still got from fans and his continued status as an international sex symbol. He was offered - and turned down - the lead in Paul Schrader's American Gigolo (1980), which like the role he also rejected in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978), went to Richard Gere. He opted instead to travel to Houston for location shooting at Gilley's, then the largest-capacity nightclub in the world, for what would be the first of his many "comebacks." He prepared for the role by spending three weeks on a $3000 mechanical bull he installed in his Santa Barbara home and learning the dances necessary for the movie's setting from Patsy Swayze, mother of dancer-actor Patrick Swayze. Nevertheless, Travolta showed up for shooting more withdrawn and cautious than people expected. He insisted on no media and no publicity, and the set was closed at his request to all but a privileged few, such as personal friend Jane Fonda, who stopped by on a 30-city anti-nuke tour. The movie's centerpiece was the mechanical bull contest that becomes the focus of rivalry between Travolta's character, Bud, and Scott Glenn's Wes for the affections of Sissy (Debra Winger, in her first big mainstream role), a spunky young woman who learns to ride the bulls herself. Like the film's star, Winger and Glenn braved the threat of spinal injury by mastering the technique so well they were able to do their own stunt work. Their feat, in fact, was especially remarkable in that they risked even more danger than the run-of-the-mill Gilley's crowd. In order to place the cameras properly, the mattresses that usually surrounded the bull to cushion falls were removed. That wasn't the biggest danger during production, however. In the last two weeks, the shoot moved to Los Angeles where an East L.A. trailer park subbed for Bud's Houston digs. One day, gunfire suddenly peppered the set. According to a security guard, six men with sawed-off rifles came over an embankment on the set's perimeter, firing away. It was believed, though never proved, that the assailants were members of a local street gang. No one was injured, but Travolta was badly shaken, and the remainder of filming was done on a soundstage. The part of Sissy was a toss-up between Debra Winger and Michelle Pfeiffer, both relative unknowns at the time. It would be another few years before Pfeiffer got her big screen break with Scarface (1983), but Winger shot to stardom after this role. Of the entire cast of

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States June 1980

Released in United States Summer June 6, 1980

Re-released in United States on Video November 11, 1997

Released in United States June 1980

Released in United States Summer June 6, 1980

Re-released in United States on Video November 11, 1997

Based on the article "The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America's Search for True Grit" by Aaron Latham; published in Esquire magazine September 12, 1978.