Cast & Crew
Paul Crewe is a former professional quarterback who was ostracized when he was caught shaving points. After beating up his girlfriend and then resisting arrest, he is put in jail. The sadistic warden of the prison taunts Paul into helping his semiprofessional team of guardsmen win a championship game by creating a team of inmates to lose to them. Despite their initial hostility toward Paul for his point shaving, he wins the convicts over and together they form a winning team.
Clifford C Coleman
Frank De Vol
George B Hively
Joe S Hopper
Albert S. Ruddy
Albert S. Ruddy
Albert S. Ruddy
James D. Vance
Tracy Keenan Wynn
The Longest Yard
Tracy Keenan Wynn's screenplay was written to appeal to what Variety termed the male action crowd. Ex-NFL player Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) lost his career for shaving points and is now little more than a gigolo for rich women. When his latest meal ticket (Anitra Ford) points this out, he beats her up and steals her priceless European sports car for a reckless joyride. The new home for Crewe's personal war against authority is Florida's segregated Citrus State Prison. The institution is corrupt from the top down. Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert) believes in a personal power theory: "I want everyone in this prison to know what power is and who controls it." Hazen has authorized Captain Knauer (Ed Lauter) to act as an extralegal enforcer in this reign of terror. Because he wants his all-guard football team to win a championship, the warden tells Crewe to form a makeshift prisoner team for the guards to win against. When the uncooperative Crewe lands in solitary confinement, the entire prison is made aware of his active resistance. A snitch (Charles Tyner) flubs a murder attempt, accidentally burning another inmate to death, and Hazen threatens to call it murder and frame Crewe if he doesn't play ball. Crewe negotiates a truce: he'll organize and train a 'losing' team if Hazen goes easy on the prisoners. In the marathon game that follows, Hazen reneges on his promise and all bets are off.
As Robert Aldrich openly admitted, "I'm a football nut. I would have done the picture for nothing. Fortunately, they didn't know that at Paramount." He had played football at the University of Virginia and was dedicated to principles of fair play and teamwork. His first movie Big Leaguer (1953) is an impressive look at baseball, and many of his pictures involve groups of men that must work as a team to achieve a goal: the warring mercenaries of Vera Cruz (1954), the bomb removal experts of Ten Seconds to Hell (1959), the plane crash survivors of The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and of course the prisoners-turned commandos in The Dirty Dozen. The director's daughter, Adell Aldrich, said that he loved making The Longest Yard because he got to be 'the coach.'
The director wanted to film at a real prison, as Don Siegel had done years before in the acclaimed Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954). Aldrich first chose an Oklahoma facility, but a riot at the prison burned several buildings, including the football stadium. As a fallback option, then-Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia helped Aldrich secure permission to film at the maximum-security prison at Reidsville. Although some crew members didn't like working around potentially violent prisoners, all was harmonious on the shoot. Aldrich's macho cast-- Burt Reynolds, Mike Henry, Michael Conrad, and Richard Kiel-- got along famously with the prison population. Aldrich found jobs for prisoners, and even recruited a group of prisoners to play the team's cheerleaders. Reidsville had no football facilities, so Aldrich and producer Albert S. Ruddy built a real stadium as part of the deal.
Paul Crewe's all-convict football team is called 'the Mean Machine,' a name that became the film's title in the United Kingdom. Much of The Longest Yard is played as a comedy, a form that never gave Aldrich much success--his considerably worst films might be the Rat Pack comedy 4 for Texas (1963) and the feeble Western, The Frisco Kid (1979). But this show continues the mordant, profane tone of Robert Altman's MASH (1970), which also paid off in a brutal but funny football game. With Burt Reynolds' carefree bruiser accepting casual violence with a smile, emphasis is placed on dirty tricks and pranks between the prisoners and the guards. The difference is that the guard's ambushes and traps are unfunny and cruel, while the prisoners' clever tricks are often hilarious.
Burt Reynolds' Paul Crewe is yet another amoral Robert Aldrich hero, a loser struggling to reestablish his self-esteem. Aldrich said more than once that this theme was the perfect instrument for securing audience identification. He learned it from writer-director Abraham Polonsky, for whom Aldrich served as assistant director on the film noir classics Body and Soul (1947) and Force of Evil (1948).
Crewe's irreverent redemption comes with the discovery that he can rally the prison population against their crooked, racist jailers. When Warden Hazen pairs him with a black prisoner as a punishment, Crewe creates inmate unity by starting an open friendship with his new cellmate. There may be no honor among criminals, but loyalty and heroism are possible.
Eddie Albert was a veteran of Broadway musical comedy and many comic roles in movies, most notably as the beloved sidekick of Gregory Peck in William Wyler's Roman Holiday (1953). But the actor broke free of that pattern when he played a cowardly, villainous army officer in Aldrich's blistering anti-authoritarian war movie Attack (1956). Albert makes his villainous warden in The Longest Yard particularly despicable.
Aldrich said that he purposely modeled Warden Hazen after President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Warden is so proud of his sick ideas about power and control that he has his secretary audiotape his speeches to the prisoners, for posterity. Bernadette Peters in a beehive hairdo, is modeled after Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods. Peters even imitates the notorious 'Rose Mary Stretch,' by which the President's secretary said she accidentally erased eighteen minutes of critical White House recordings. Some crew members worried that the Nixon parallel was inappropriate, but Aldrich was only disappointed that nobody noticed his ploy -- he did everything but give Hazen a wife named Pat.
The big football game between the guards and the prisoners is a full 45 minutes long; it required six cameras and 61 days to film. Aldrich's longtime editor Michael Luciano makes more use of split-screen visuals, which he had tried out on his previous Emperor of the North (1973). Aldrich would use multi-screen even more extensively on his later thriller Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977).
At the conclusion, the Mean Machine and the rebellious Crewe battle Warden Hazen to a standstill. Aldrich acknowledged that his rewritten ending lifted parts of Body and Soul by his mentor Abraham Polonsky. Paul Crewe doesn't counter Hazen's threat with John Garfield's famous line, "Everybody dies," but the effect is the same. As with Aldrich's more successful heroes, Crewe's future is hazy but his self-esteem has been restored.
The Longest Yard became Robert Aldrich's biggest success since The Dirty Dozen. It led directly to a partnership with Reynolds, which produced his last profitable picture, Hustle (1975). The feisty director continued to develop projects while battling studios for his artistic independence. Although none of his last four pictures was a hit, he remained active and vital right until his death in 1983.
By Glenn Erickson
The Longest Yard
Eddie Albert (1906-2005)
The son of a real estate agent, Albert was born Edward Albert Heimberger in Rock Island, Ill., on April 22, 1906. His family relocated to Minneapolis when he was still an infant. Long entralled by theatre, he studied drama at the University of Minnesota. After years of developing his acting chops in touring companies, summer stock and a stint with a Mexican circus, he signed a contract with Warner Bros. and made his film debut in Brother Rat (1938). Although hardly a stellar early film career, he made some pleasant B-pictures, playing slap happy youths in Brother Rat and a Baby (1940), and The Wagons Roll at Night (1941).
His career was interrupted for military service for World War II, and after his stint (1942-45), he came back and developed a stronger, more mature screen image: Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947); Carrie (1952); his Oscar® nominated turn as the Bohemian photographer friend of Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (1953); a charming Ali Hakim in Oklahoma (1955); and to many critics, his finest hour as an actor, when he was cast unnervingly against type as a cowardly military officer whose lack of commitment to his troops results in their deaths in Attack! (1956).
As he settled into middle-age, Albert discovered belated fame when he made the move to Hooterville. For six seasons (1965-71), television viewers loved Eddie Albert as Oliver Wendal Douglas, the bemused city slicker who, along with his charming wife Lisa (Eva Gabor), takes a chance on buying a farm in the country and dealing with all the strange characters that come along their way. Of course, I'm talking about Green Acres. If he did nothing else, Alberts proved he could be a stalwart straight man in the most inane situations, and pull it off with grace.
After the run of Green Acres, Albert found two of his best roles in the late stages of his career that once again cast him against his genial, good-natured persona: the fiercly overprotective father of Cybill Shepherd in The Heartbreak Kid (1972), for which he earned his second Oscar® nomination; and the sadistic warden in Robert Aldrich's raucous gridiron comedy The Longest Yard (1974). Soon, Albert was in demand again, and he had another hit series, playing a retired police officer who partners with a retired con artist (Robert Wagner) to form a detective agency in Switch (1975-78).
The good roles slowed down slightly by the dawn of the '80s, both film: The Concorde: Airport '79 (1979), How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980), Take This Job and Shove It (1981); and television: Highway to Heaven, Murder, She Wrote, Thirtysomething, offered him little in the way of expansion. Yet, Albert spent his golden years in a most admirable fashion, he became something of activist for world health and pollution issues throughout the latter stages of his life. It is widely acknowledged that International Earth Day (April 22) is honored on his birthday for his tireless work on environemental matters. Albert was married to famed hispanic actress Margo (1945-85) until her death, and is survived by his son, actor Edward Albert, a daughter, and two granddaughters.
by Michael T. Toole
Eddie Albert (1906-2005)
The Longest Yard (Lockdown Edition) - The Longest Yard - The 1975 Lockdown Edition
As we prepare for the second remake of the movie in five years - the 2001 English soccer movie Mean Machine preceding the recently released Adam Sandler version - the original The Longest Yard is back in a special Lockdown Edition DVD that adds an audio commentary by Reynolds and producer Albert Ruddy, as well as two featurettes, to the movie's previous disc. None of the additions is necessarily reason for anyone with the no-frills version to upgrade, but it certainly sweetens the pot for those who passed the first time around.
The main draw is still the movie itself. Imagine a cross between Cool Hand Luke and the football game in M*A*S*H, made at a time when the Watergate scandal stripped popular respect for authority and when the three-peating Oakland A's brought a new brand of iconoclasm to sports, and you've got an idea of the rebellious mood behind the story of a disgraced ex-footballer who leads a team of convicts against a team of guards in a gridiron showdown at a Florida prison. Reynolds is that ex-footballer, Paul Crewe, who may not carry the wounded soulfulness of a Paul Newman character, but who is a Grade A heel when the movie begins. That's when he slaps around the rich beauty (Anitra Ford of Invasion of the Bee Girls) who keeps him in new clothes, steals one of her sports cars, gets in a chase with police and resists arrest. Later, we learn he was a former MVP kicked out of pro football for shaving points in a game. Pressed to field a team of cons by the football-obsessed warden (Eddie Albert) of the prison where he's sent, Crewe is put in the no-win situation of getting trampled by the guards, including characters played by such real NFLers as Joe Kapp and the inimitable Ray Nitschke (who also graced The Monkees's Head), or defying the warden and showing up the guards¿s team. In need of the integrity that can provide redemption, Crewe picks the latter, of course, during the climactic game.
This was, as far as I know, director Aldrich's first comedy, although he would subsequently make others before his 1983 death. One of the more interesting things gleaned from the new commentary track is that The Longest Yard was not conceived of as a comedy. That's why Aldrich was hired to film Tracey Keenan Wynn's script (based on a story by Ruddy, who also produced The Godfather). It was Reynolds's natural flair for comedy that caused the director and star to nudge the story towards comedy. The very funny scene in which Crewe belittles the cops trying to arrest him was improvised, we learn in the commentary, while the tit-for-tat mud fight between Crewe and another con was also off the cuff and inspired by Laurel and Hardy. But don't think The Longest Yard feels like an anomaly in Aldrich's career (He also directed Kiss Me Deadly and The Dirty Dozen). Although Ruddy told Aldrich they couldn't afford to use Aldrich regulars like Ernest Borgnine for it, The Longest Yard still has Aldrich's usual grit. In fact, in revisiting it now, I was surprised how extreme the movie was by 1974 standards. My gut reaction is that no hit comedy before The Longest Yard was as raw in language and violence as it is. Phil Karlson's brutal drama Walking Tall had been a surprise hit a year before, so perhaps The Longest Yard is one of Hollywood's first reflections of that indie release's success. While the football scenes, however realistic, have a freewheeling comic style, it's the early, audience-challenging scene where Crewe manhandles the woman that sticks out. I doubt any comedy today would risk such a moment though, as Ruddy comments, everyone was banking on Reynolds' charisma to still make Crewe likable, which it did. (Of course, it will be interesting to see if the Sandler remake, in which Reynolds plays the older ex-pro who coaches the convicts's team, rounds off the rough edges of the original.)
Even without Borgnine and his other stock players, Aldrich still flexes plenty of masculine muscle in The Longest Yard, and the camaraderie among cast members like Reynolds, James Hampton (Dobbs on F Troop!) and Michael Conrad is one of the movie's great strengths. Aldrich was able to use old friend Albert, of course, and the actor may as well be playing an older version of the cowardly Army captain he played in Aldrich's bold World War II drama Attack!. But The Longest Yard is really Reynolds's moment in the sun. During the mid-1970s, Reynolds was ably balancing the good ol' boy side of his career (White Lightning,
Despite being recorded 31 years after the fact, the audio commentary featuring Ruddy and Reynolds keeps focused squarely on The Longest Yard, for better or worse. I was hoping for more of a Reynolds cacklefest, a la his Tonight Show appearances from the 1970s, but the producer and star do offer insight into one of each's favorite projects (though Reynolds somehow cites both Bobby Layne and Doug Flutie as inspiration for Crewe being a quarterback who wears #22, although Flutie didn't make a name for himself until a decade after The Longest Yard). The 10-minute featurettes are marginally interesting, though they almost treat the "old" The Longest Yard as a mere excuse to mention the new one.
For more information about The Longest Yard: Lockdown Edition, visit Paramount Home Entertainment. To order The Longest Yard, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Sherman
The Longest Yard (Lockdown Edition) - The Longest Yard - The 1975 Lockdown Edition
Most of these old boys don't have nothing. Never had nothing to start with. But you, You had it all. Then you let your teammates down, got yourself caught with your hand in the cookie jar.- Caretaker
Oh I did, did I?- Paul Crewe
Oh I ain't saying you did or you didn't. All I'm saying is that you could have robbed banks, sold dope or stole your grandmother's pension checks and none of us would have minded. But shaving points off of a football game, man that's un-American.- Caretaker
You take your football down here real serious, don't you?- Paul Crewe
You mind if I ask you one question?- Caretaker
Yes, I do mind!- Paul Crewe
Why did you do it?- Caretaker
It's a long story.- Paul Crewe
Well, I got eight years.- Caretaker
Hey Pop, the time you hit Hazen in the mouth, was it worth 30 years?- Paul Crewe
For me it was.- Pop
Then give me my damn shoe!- Paul Crewe
My, you have lovely hair. You ever find any spiders in it?- Paul Crewe
What's his name?- Paul Crewe
That makes sense.- Paul Crewe
Now don't go making any ethnic jokes.- Caretaker
Paul Crewe. Heard you played some football.- Paul Crewe
Ray Nitschke, the Green Bay Packer great, played a game called "Kill the Star" while on the playing field with 'Burt Reynolds' .
A number of the actors had previously played professional football. 'Burt Reynolds' played for Florida State University, and was drafted by the Baltimore Colts. 'Mike Henry' (Rasmussen) played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Los Angeles Rams. Joe Kapp (Walking Boss) played quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Ray Nitschke (Bodaanski) was a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, and Pervis Atkins (Mawabe) played for the Los Angeles Rams, the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders.
Released in United States 1974
Released in United States 1994
Released in United States July 1984
Released in United States 1974
Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Apocalypse Anytime! The Films of Robert Aldrich" March 11 - April 8, 1994.)
Released in United States July 1984 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (50 Hour Sports Movie Marathon) July 5-20, 1984.)