|Directed by||Henry Hathaway|
|Screenplay by||Marguerite Roberts|
|Based on||(based on the novel)|
("The Lone Cowboy") by Will James
|Produced by||Hal B. Wallis|
|Edited by||Archie Marshek|
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
Hal Wallis Productions
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Shoot Out is a 1971 American Western film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring Gregory Peck. The film is adapted from Will James's 1930 novel, The Lone Cowboy. The film was produced, directed, and written by the team that delivered the Oscar-winning film True Grit.
This was the second-to-last of the 65 films directed by Hathaway.
Clay Lomax is released from prison after serving seven years for robbing a bank. He goes looking for his former crime partner Sam Foley (James Gregory), a bank robber who shot Lomax in the back as they ran from the bank and left him to be arrested. Learning of his release, Foley hires a trio of young thugs—Pepe (Pepe Serna), Skeeter (John Davis Chandler), and Bobby Jay Jones— (Robert F. Lyons) to track Lomax's movements. Lomax locates an old friend, Trooper (Jeff Corey), a former U.S. Army cavalry soldier, now confined to a wheelchair running a town saloon and offers him money for information about his ex-partner. The thugs catch up to Lomax at Trooper's saloon / hotel and force Alma (Susan Tyrrell), a prostitute / saloon girl working for the gruff but kindly old soldier, to spend the night with them. They wind up disturbing Lomax from his sleep with his old girlfriend Emma (Rita Gam) with the racket in the neighboring room, and have an altercation in the corridor.
Later Lomax meets a passing train at the whistle stop to meet an old lady companion who was bringing a large sum of money that she had held for him all these years. But surprisingly, the conductor Mr. Frenatore (Paul Fix) brings out a 7-year-old girl Decky Ortega (Dawn Lyn) who had accompanied the woman on her train journey; the woman had died a few days before in a distant town leaving the girl an orphan. He finally pulls the child off the train. The conductor hands him a wad of cash saying that if he hadn't retrieved and taken custody of the kid, the money would have gone towards her support when the railroad employee turned her over to a sheriff in the next large town on the line. Lomax tries to find someone to take care of Decky, but is unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the thugs mistreat and leave bruises on Alma, then vandalize the hotel/saloon as the old handicapped owner demands restitution. Led by Bobby Jay, they fatally shoot Trooper and rob the saloon, taking Lomax's money and Alma with them, before continuing to follow Lomax. Lomax returns, learning of Trooper's death and that he mentioned the location "Gun Hill" with his dying breath.
During the following journey to Gun Hill, Lomax and stubborn little Decky bond closer, especially after he throws her in a stream to wash and hand scrub her, then gently dries and warms her by the campfire. She asks him if he is her father which he denies, but he knew her mother well and the paternal implication is clear. Another night, the gang of thugs attempt to attack Lomax in his camp, but he disarms them. When he finds out the purpose of their trailing mission, he tells them to go ahead and run back to Foley in Gun Hill and tell them that he is coming for him. Later, a rainstorm forces Lomax and Decky to take shelter at the cabin in the woods of a lonely widow woman named Juliana Farrell (Patricia Quinn), who quickly becomes infatuated with Lomax and offers to watch over Decky. The thugs then return later in the night and take them all prisoner. Bobby Jay gets drunk, tortures the young mother by using her son and saying he was going to shoot a target off his head. Later, he kills saloon girl Alma. Lomax manages to escape, with Bobby Jay accidentally killing his gang member Skeeter in the process.
Bobby Jay grabs Decky and flees the house to find the other outlaw Pepe. When Pepe insults him outside having heard the shots inside, Bobby Jay kills him too, and Decky takes advantage of his distraction to escape in the night. Now alone, Bobby Jay rides ahead to warn Foley, and get his promised money, but kills him when he gets greedy seeing the amount of cash in Foley's safe. Foley tries to reach for a gun, and is shot dead. Bobby Jay is ambushed by Lomax, who arrives while Bobby is gathering his loot and surprises the murderer. Now enraged and seeking revenge for Trooper, Lomax tortures Jay while demanding Decky's whereabouts. When he confesses that he has no idea where she is, Lomax places a cartridge on top of Bobby Jay's head, and tells him that either the cartridge will explode and kill him, or Bobby Jay will not be fast enough to quick draw his gun to kill Lomax. Bobby Jay tries to outdraw Lomax but cannot and is shot dead by the far more experienced gunslinger. Lomax leaves the money with Foley and Bobby Jay's bodies, tells the maid to go get the law, and then goes to find Decky back at Juliana's house.
After filming I Walk the Line, Gregory Peck was looking for a successful film as a follow-up. Believing teaming with the director of True Grit, Henry Hathaway, along with the same producer (Hal B. Wallis) and screenwriter (Marguerite Roberts), would bring similar success, Peck started filming the project in 1970. As the film even followed a similar path - teaming a crusty gunfighter with a young girl for a companion - Peck deferred his usual salary for a percentage of the profits of the film. This allowed the production to come in on a tight budget of $1.19 million.
The film was shot on location in Santa Fe-Los Alamos area of New Mexico between October 12 and December 2, 1970. Production wrapped on December 16.
The film was released in Los Angeles on August 25, 1971. It was released in Sweden on August 16, 1971.
The film received negative reviews from a number of critics, especially in light of the blatant repetition of the formula seen in the earlier John Wayne film. Michael Kerbel from The Village Voice wrote that Shoot Out did have some semblance of True Grit, "'but the humor and charm are missing and what remains - a predictable revenge story - becomes tiresome.'" Roger Greenspun of The New York Times observed that the film was "no more than another variation of the eternal tale of the Westerner (Gregory Peck) released from prison who seeks revenge on the pal who betrayed him but is himself pursued by a hired gang of maniacal killers until a showdown in which everybody get his except Peck, who unaccountably gets marriage and a family." Others remarked about the slump in Gregory Peck's career: Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "served 'mostly as a glum reminder of the inadequate use'" of the Hollywood star, while Paine Knickerbocker of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote "'Peck, m'boy, what the hell are you doing here?'" Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film zero stars out of four and counted five scenes in which an overhead microphone appeared in a shot, writing that there was "no excuse for such shoddy film making." He described the script as "nearly as unprofessional," being "almost a replay" of True Grit.
In later years Quentin Tarantino said "the most interesting part of the picture is how it predates Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon by three years. In both movies a shady man is left, against his will, in charge of the daughter of a deceased former flame who he may or may not be the father." Tarantino said the movie was "Nothing special, but by the time it was over, I enjoyed it and was glad I saw it."
The film was released on DVD on October 1, 2002.