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CHEERS TO CLINT EASTWOOD & SONDRA LOCKE IN 'BRONCO BILLY'

Sam Bottoms, Sondra Locke, Clint Eastwood and Bill McKinney in BRONCO BILLY Year: 1980
At one time this was Clint Eastwood's favorite movie directed and starring, Clint Eastwood. Not sure if that's changed from when the statement was originally stated by the man who has directed plenty... But for Cult Film Freak it holds up as completely logical and legit, still...

Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke
For BRONCO BILLY has pretty much everything and... if the original writers of CHEERS... two years later creating a tall stubborn manly male and a blonde mousy pretentious intellectual (broke and desperate) female thrust upon and changing his ways in front of all his buddy/employees... weren't somewhat influenced by this motion picture, then... well... that's that...

Sam and Diane inspired by Bronco Billy?
But Clint Eastwood's main character is no former jock. Billy was, long ago, a shoe salesman/loser in New York City that wound up in prison...

And now knows only one thing (with many layers): how to run a Cowboy tent show and, traveling the wide country, mostly for the kids while not being able to pay his worker/friends along the way, he's still having a somewhat good time. That is, until Diane Chambers... that is... Antoinette Lily, played by Sondra Locke, who was to Eastwood what Mia Farrow was to Woody Allen, an unmarried yet living-with collaborator for a stint of films including THE GAUNTLET, EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN, and as technically the most important character in one of the best Dirty Harry vehicles, SUDDEN IMPACT, where she's the killer and ingenue both...

Clint Eastwood as Bronco Billy
Herein, Billy gets stuck with the horrendously uptight, and downright stranded Lily, who was about to be married to the EVERY WHICH WAY Clint sidekick, Geoffrey Lewis, and she turns up being nothing but back luck to the entire troop: For soon enough, everything's changed, even our hero. Yet the greatest thing about BILLY are the character-actors surrounding him, each providing a talent for the dilapidated, mobile Wild West circus and best yet, there's fairly equal screen-time and importance trickled-down beneath the two leads, something not so common nowadays as character-actors seem more like wallpaper than important cogs in the overall wheel, moving the vehicle along...

JOSEY WALES reunion
To sum them up quickly: DELIVERANCE rapist Bill McKinney as a one-handed, other-hooked, super-superstitious grouch who doesn't trust the new girl; Scatman Crothers as the tent show M.C., and probably the most important beneath Billy and his blonde bane turned love interest; an ironic casting for the late Sam Bottoms, best known as the surfer, Lance, in the Vietnam flick APOCALYPSE NOW a year earlier, because here, having skipped out of that particular war, Billy pays for "harboring a deserter" in an incredible scene with an evil sheriff (Walter Barnes); and last but not least, two Indians, as only one is for real, in a married couple that provide the soul of the group: the man has a snake act that begins each show and the woman beats the drum and, like the film itself, everyone has their own special cadence, backing each other up...

Sam hits rock Bottoms
Even the way Locke's Lily climbs reluctantly aboard, from rags to riches, actually one of several female assistants we experience up close and personal with some really great direction: the poor gals going through a knife-throwing act that would scare just about anyone. That is, ironically, except the one conceited sourpuss who should be frightened most... And she isn't.

So for all  that Clint has brought us, BRONCO BILLY is his most laid-back and downright entertaining venture, and there's simply nothing like it today: A combination of romantic comedy; road movie; modern Western ensemble not without a few action sequences and, when it gets too corny/Americana, which is part of the character's idealism that means very little to his realistic, earthy and world-weary appeal, we all hit rock-bottom again...

Walter Barnes showdown
For instance, in the morning, after Locke wakes up in silly-bliss following a night of (unseen, the way it should be) love-making, she goes so annoyingly overboard you'll want to punch the screen... Until one of many twists and turns (albeit the most important, changing everything) makes our man, and his troupe, poor, desperate and on the road again... Despite Billy drowning his sorrows... A stone that gathers no moss, only booze. So while sequences within the movie... hell, even the title itself... would never warrant comparison to an earlier HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER or latter THE UNDEFEATED, there's something unique about this tale. For Clint's played many Cowboys in his day, but never a fake Cowboy, making this one of his most unique performances, while, like all great leading men, letting others shine (and outshine) around him.

RIP Merle Haggard
RATING: ****1/2
TRIVIA: Merle Haggard is a sort of Roman Chorus in an important central scene in a barroom, right as Billy and Lily almost are fallen in love and before and during a gigantic barroom fight scene: And Rest in Peace to Merle, for he passed away on his 79th birthday. Another person who left us, only he too soon and young, Sam Bottoms, who also appeared with Sandra Locke and Clint in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES and Sandra was with Clint and Geoffrey in the ANY WHICH WAY flicks (as does Indian Dan Vadis), in which a BRONCO BILLY guard at an asylum Lewis winds up in is whistling the theme from...

Juliette Lewis, daughter of Geoffrey, supposedly turns up and there's a picture shown below; so if it's her and it's her, if not, it's not... As does Clint's oldest son, Kyle, who would be his co-star in HONKYTONK MAN, now a bass player but never a pretty boy like Clint's youngest son who, like Clint, in the fifties, told he was too pretty to be a star; that being Scott, without any problems and the new heartthrob on the block who starred in a Nicolas Sparks bomb, about a... cowboy, actually...

After their collaborative peak in what should have been the last but is second-to-last Dirty Harry flick, SUDDEN IMPACT where Locke plays an extremely important character, Clint wound up breaking off with his longtime blonde, of course both in films and on-screen... It's mentioned he was like Woody Allen to her Mia Farrow, and while Clint didn't marry her adopted daughter, things weren't completely lacking of tabloid fodder as Sondra, years later, sued Clint for... since she wasn't married... not being able to live the lifestyle that was acquired when she worked with, and lived with, the loaded legend. Marriage, ladies... does wonders... and while some don't like Sondra, as she did go over-the-top sometimes, she was always stubbornly in-character, written this way to get something out of the mellow Clint, which she did, successfully i.e. it was pretty good while it lasted.
Great BRONCO BILLY font and opening credit like a real Western
Clint with Billy's first Assistant played by the adorable Cat People starlet Tessa Richarde
The bar where the fight scenes happen with  Merle Haggard in lights
Merle Haggard Dead... on 79th Birthday, wow not a happy one but he lasted a while
Merle Haggard sings "Here I am again... Mixing misery and gin" in BRONCO BILLY
One of Clint Eastwood's best and most underrated movies, a writeup on BRONCO BILLY co-starring Sondra Locke
Is that Juliette Lewis in Bronco Billy? Daughter of co-star Geoffrey Lewis, she's uncredited on IMDB?
Remember that the Apocalypse is Now for the Heart Is A Lonely Deliverance
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