Goin' South


1h 48m 1978

Brief Synopsis

A horse thief escapes hanging by marrying a proper woman who expects him to work her gold mine.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Western
Release Date
1978
Location
Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Outlaw Henry Moon's only hope for evading the gallows is to find a woman gullible enough to marry him. When a mine-owner in need of cheap labor steps up to the task, the battle of wills begins.

Crew

Nestor Almendros

Director Of Photography

Bill Beasley

Assistant Director

John Fitzgerald Beck

Editor

Else Blangsted

Music Editor

May Boss

Stunts

Perry Botkin Jr.

Music

Raul Camarena

Special Effects

Tony Castanola

Assistant Set Dresser

Larry Cavanaugh

Special Effects

Cecile Chaminade

Song

Richard Chew

Editor

Ry Cooder

Song

Ry Cooder

Song Performer

Michael Daves

Assistant Director

Thomas S Dawson

Costumes

Dick Deats

Key Grip

Rafael Delong

Crane Grip

Alberto A Ferrer

Production Manager

Ricardo Frera

Production Accountant

Hugh Gagnier

Photography

Harry Gittes

Producer

Alfonso Govea

Wardrobe

Frances Kandelin Harrison

Costumes

Donald Henry

Production Accountant

Loren Janes

Stunts

Nancy Coan Kaclik

Assistant

Ken Lauber

Music

Francisco Ledesma

Other

Ma Dejesus Lepe

Hair

Chayo Lopez

Production Associate

Alan Mandel

Screenplay

Jesus Marin

Assistant Director

Antonio Mata

Props

Joe O'har

Location Manager

Juana Olivier

Wardrobe Assistant

Marco Aurelio Ortiz

Assistant

Edie Panda

Hair

Guillermo Panuco

Wrangler

Van Dyke Parks

Music

Clark Paylow

Production Manager

David Prieto

Assistant

Carlos Puente

Assistant Editor

Toby Rafelson

Production Designer

Al Ramrus

Screenplay

Al Ramrus

From Story

Pedro Perez Rivera

Medic

Arthur Rochester

Sound

Bill Rowe

Sound

Alfredo Ruvalcaba

Photography

Luis Sanchez

Casting

Manuel Santaella

Camera Operator

Bob Scaife

Construction Coordinator

Harold Schneider

Producer

John Herman Shaner

From Story

John Herman Shaner

Screenplay

Charles Shyer

Screenplay

Alicia Soto

Wardrobe

Kathleen Dolan Sumner

Assistant

Anita Terrian

Assistant

William Ware Theiss

Costume Designer

Hal Trussell

Gaffer

Frank Warner

Sound Effects Editor

Bob Westmoreland

Makeup

Robert Wilson

Wrangler

Marty Wuderlich

Property Master

Augustin Ytuarte

Art Director

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Western
Release Date
1978
Location
Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Goin' South


Goin' South (1978) marked Jack Nicholson's second directorial effort (His first was Drive, He Said (1971), a counterculture drama set on a college campus). It was not what fans expected from Nicholson at the time - a Western comedy? Yet, it had an oddball charm and a low-key sense of humor that showed a side of Nicholson rarely glimpsed in his other movies. Ironically, Nicholson had being planning to make another Western after The Missouri Breaks (1976), a project called Moon Trap, to be directed by Roman Polanski. But when the director was arrested on a child molestation charge in 1977, Nicholson dropped out of the film and became interested in directing and starring in Goin' South.

In the movie, he plays horse-thief Henry Moon who is first seen racing toward the Mexican border. Once safely across, a stubborn horse and bad luck contribute to Henry's capture by an unscrupulous posse that ignores international border laws. The fugitive soon finds himself sentenced to death but a loophole in the local law books permits his release if a woman from the town agrees to marry him. Unexpectedly, a young widow named Julia Tate steps forward at the very last moment and agrees to rescue Henry under one condition - he must secretly help work her gold mine.

Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, and Meryl Streep were among the actresses first considered for the part of Julia Tate, but Nicholson decided to take a chance on a virtually unknown New York actress named Mary Steenburgen. She was sitting in the casting office waiting room when Nicholson first encountered her. He noticed she didn't have a reading script, gave her one with three scenes marked off and arranged to read with her the following day. "By the time something like that happens," the actress stated (in a 1982 Rolling Stone Magazine interview by Lawrence Eisenberg), "you've had so many years of elation and disappointment that you begin to treat your heart very carefully. Earlier in the week, a job I'd been told I had in a television pilot was yanked out from under me and given to a blond with big boobs." The following day, Steenburgen's ten-minute read with Nicholson ended up lasting two hours. "When I left, I was so excited I screamed for thirty floors in the elevator of the Gulf & Western Building," Steenburgen recalled. The actress was then flown to Hollywood and auditioned on the Paramount lot. "Nobody could imagine what was happening in my mind not just in terms of work but life wise. I had no perspective. I didn't know if I was going to be an overnight international film star or back at the Magic Pan [where she worked as a waitress]." In the end, Steenburgen won the part and a London Times reporter who later visited the Goin' South set observed, "Finding Steenburgen was a sort of thing moviemakers used to do in the good old days of West Coast Dreams. A man could walk in, see a girl at a soda fountain, and put her on the screen."

In homage to the glory days of the Hollywood Western, Goin' South was filmed in Durango, Mexico at a favorite John Wayne location. The Duke loved the locale so much that his son had built a typical western town there out of adobe and would rent it out for Hollywood movies. With a few color and sign changes, the sets for the 1970 John Wayne film Chisum were repurposed for Goin' South.

According to author Patrick McGilligan in his biography, Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, the actor/director liked to maintain a family-style atmosphere on his set but comedian John "Belushi was one jarring note in the proceedings. On the one hand, Jack wanted to like the comedian, whose popularity was soaring. Belushi blustered and posed, but he was fundamentally sweet, the kind of guy Nicholson liked to take under his wing....However, Belushi had a short fuse. He made petty demands and fought with the Goin' South producers, especially Harold Schneider, whose job it was not to lose fights. The television comedian became progressively more sulky as filming dragged on and, partly in response to his behavior, his role seemed to shrink." By the end of production, Belushi had harsh words about his experience, stating "Jack treated me like sh*t on Goin' South. I hate him."

Nicholson had more serious problems to deal with during production, though, than appeasing John Belushi's demands. In McGilligan's biography of Jack, cinematographer Nestor Almendros revealed that Nicholson shot "more than 400,000 feet of negative. Often two cameras would film at the same time, so we had as many as forty takes of each shot, from every conceivable angle. Nicholson had three editors working at the same time on different Movieolas. When I visited him in Hollywood, one was editing the final shootout, another the love scene, the third the scenes in the mine. In Europe such excess would be unthinkable, and this is perhaps why films there are more individual, though less polished."

Although Goin' South was a labor of love for Nicholson, it fizzled at the box-office. Most critics attacked the film, but focused mostly on Nicholson's well-publicized drug proclivities which enraged him. In his own defense, he said, "No one extracts the serious plot from Goin' South." The actor went on to complain that his characters "were once all members of Quantrill's raiders, the original guerrilla warfare unit in America. And what do you do with those people once they're now home? The fact that this wasn't even touched on critically was disappointing to me. " But not every critic hated Goin' South. In his review of the film, Newsweek writer David Ansen said, "Droll, sweet-tempered and lackadaisical, it's a shaggy dog story with Nicholson playing the shaggy dog. It turns Western conventions on their heads not out of satirical anger but simply to charm the pants off the audience. And aided by the sumptuous photography of Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven [1978]) and Nicholson's delightfully cantankerous performance, it very nearly succeeds." If nothing else, this turn to broad comedy for Nicholson proved that he could do the slow burn, the double take, and the pratfall as well as any gifted screen comedian.

Producer: Harry Gittes, Harold Schneider
Director: Jack Nicholson
Screenplay: John Herman Shaner, Al Ramrus, Charles Shyer, Alan Mandel
Cinematography: Nestor Almendros
Film Editing: John Fitzgerald Beck
Art Direction: Agustin Ituarte
Music: Perry Botkin, Jr., Ken Lauber, Van Dyke Parks
Cast: Jack Nicholson (Henry Moon), Mary Steenburgen (Julia Tate), Christopher Lloyd (Towfield), John Belushi (Hector), Veronica Cartwright (Hermine), Danny DeVito (Hog).
C-109m. Letterboxed.
by Emily L. Rice
Goin' South

Goin' South

Goin' South (1978) marked Jack Nicholson's second directorial effort (His first was Drive, He Said (1971), a counterculture drama set on a college campus). It was not what fans expected from Nicholson at the time - a Western comedy? Yet, it had an oddball charm and a low-key sense of humor that showed a side of Nicholson rarely glimpsed in his other movies. Ironically, Nicholson had being planning to make another Western after The Missouri Breaks (1976), a project called Moon Trap, to be directed by Roman Polanski. But when the director was arrested on a child molestation charge in 1977, Nicholson dropped out of the film and became interested in directing and starring in Goin' South. In the movie, he plays horse-thief Henry Moon who is first seen racing toward the Mexican border. Once safely across, a stubborn horse and bad luck contribute to Henry's capture by an unscrupulous posse that ignores international border laws. The fugitive soon finds himself sentenced to death but a loophole in the local law books permits his release if a woman from the town agrees to marry him. Unexpectedly, a young widow named Julia Tate steps forward at the very last moment and agrees to rescue Henry under one condition - he must secretly help work her gold mine. Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, and Meryl Streep were among the actresses first considered for the part of Julia Tate, but Nicholson decided to take a chance on a virtually unknown New York actress named Mary Steenburgen. She was sitting in the casting office waiting room when Nicholson first encountered her. He noticed she didn't have a reading script, gave her one with three scenes marked off and arranged to read with her the following day. "By the time something like that happens," the actress stated (in a 1982 Rolling Stone Magazine interview by Lawrence Eisenberg), "you've had so many years of elation and disappointment that you begin to treat your heart very carefully. Earlier in the week, a job I'd been told I had in a television pilot was yanked out from under me and given to a blond with big boobs." The following day, Steenburgen's ten-minute read with Nicholson ended up lasting two hours. "When I left, I was so excited I screamed for thirty floors in the elevator of the Gulf & Western Building," Steenburgen recalled. The actress was then flown to Hollywood and auditioned on the Paramount lot. "Nobody could imagine what was happening in my mind not just in terms of work but life wise. I had no perspective. I didn't know if I was going to be an overnight international film star or back at the Magic Pan [where she worked as a waitress]." In the end, Steenburgen won the part and a London Times reporter who later visited the Goin' South set observed, "Finding Steenburgen was a sort of thing moviemakers used to do in the good old days of West Coast Dreams. A man could walk in, see a girl at a soda fountain, and put her on the screen." In homage to the glory days of the Hollywood Western, Goin' South was filmed in Durango, Mexico at a favorite John Wayne location. The Duke loved the locale so much that his son had built a typical western town there out of adobe and would rent it out for Hollywood movies. With a few color and sign changes, the sets for the 1970 John Wayne film Chisum were repurposed for Goin' South. According to author Patrick McGilligan in his biography, Jack's Life: A Biography of Jack Nicholson, the actor/director liked to maintain a family-style atmosphere on his set but comedian John "Belushi was one jarring note in the proceedings. On the one hand, Jack wanted to like the comedian, whose popularity was soaring. Belushi blustered and posed, but he was fundamentally sweet, the kind of guy Nicholson liked to take under his wing....However, Belushi had a short fuse. He made petty demands and fought with the Goin' South producers, especially Harold Schneider, whose job it was not to lose fights. The television comedian became progressively more sulky as filming dragged on and, partly in response to his behavior, his role seemed to shrink." By the end of production, Belushi had harsh words about his experience, stating "Jack treated me like sh*t on Goin' South. I hate him." Nicholson had more serious problems to deal with during production, though, than appeasing John Belushi's demands. In McGilligan's biography of Jack, cinematographer Nestor Almendros revealed that Nicholson shot "more than 400,000 feet of negative. Often two cameras would film at the same time, so we had as many as forty takes of each shot, from every conceivable angle. Nicholson had three editors working at the same time on different Movieolas. When I visited him in Hollywood, one was editing the final shootout, another the love scene, the third the scenes in the mine. In Europe such excess would be unthinkable, and this is perhaps why films there are more individual, though less polished." Although Goin' South was a labor of love for Nicholson, it fizzled at the box-office. Most critics attacked the film, but focused mostly on Nicholson's well-publicized drug proclivities which enraged him. In his own defense, he said, "No one extracts the serious plot from Goin' South." The actor went on to complain that his characters "were once all members of Quantrill's raiders, the original guerrilla warfare unit in America. And what do you do with those people once they're now home? The fact that this wasn't even touched on critically was disappointing to me. " But not every critic hated Goin' South. In his review of the film, Newsweek writer David Ansen said, "Droll, sweet-tempered and lackadaisical, it's a shaggy dog story with Nicholson playing the shaggy dog. It turns Western conventions on their heads not out of satirical anger but simply to charm the pants off the audience. And aided by the sumptuous photography of Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven [1978]) and Nicholson's delightfully cantankerous performance, it very nearly succeeds." If nothing else, this turn to broad comedy for Nicholson proved that he could do the slow burn, the double take, and the pratfall as well as any gifted screen comedian. Producer: Harry Gittes, Harold Schneider Director: Jack Nicholson Screenplay: John Herman Shaner, Al Ramrus, Charles Shyer, Alan Mandel Cinematography: Nestor Almendros Film Editing: John Fitzgerald Beck Art Direction: Agustin Ituarte Music: Perry Botkin, Jr., Ken Lauber, Van Dyke Parks Cast: Jack Nicholson (Henry Moon), Mary Steenburgen (Julia Tate), Christopher Lloyd (Towfield), John Belushi (Hector), Veronica Cartwright (Hermine), Danny DeVito (Hog). C-109m. Letterboxed. by Emily L. Rice

Quotes

Anybody hungry?
- Henry Moon
Hungry! I could eat a frozen dog.
- Big Abe
I wouldn't take you to a dogfight if you were the defendin' champ!
- Henry Moon

Trivia

Feature film debuts for both Mary Steenburgen and John Belushi (Animal House (1978) was released later the same year).

Jane Fonda had turned down the female lead.

When Henry is riding on horseback to catch the stagecoach carrying Julia, the horse loses its footing and plows into a ditch throwing Henry several feet in the air. The scene was not planned and that was actually director Jack Nicholson flying head first into the ditch. Fortunately, neither the horse nor Nicholson was injured save for some bruises. Later, upon viewing the footage in dailies, Nicholson exclaimed, "That's A Keeper!"

Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange considered the role of Julia.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States October 1978

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1978

Completed production September 1978.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1978

Released in United States October 1978