“Do you understand what Bronco Billy and the wild west show are all about? You can be anything you want — all you have to do is go out and become it!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
When “naive, headstrong, sentimental Billy falls for snooty millionairess Antoinette Lilly (Sondra Locke), who hides out with his show,” the tables are turned given that “Eastwood is the oddball and the woman finds him beguiling rather than the other way around.” He argues that “Eastwood and Locke” (a real-life couple making their fourth of six films together) “are a wonderfully offbeat love match”:
… though “the picture has more to do with loyalty than love.” He points out that “the fierce loyalty felt by Billy’s troupe for him and each other reflects the loyalty Eastwood felt toward the actors in his ‘stock company’ and the technicians who repeatedly worked for him.”
Peary was writing his review of this film at a time when Eastwood was at the top of his directing game, so it’s easy to understand how critics were playing close attention to what he was putting out. These days, we have a good sense of what Eastwood’s overall oeuvre has been, and this flick is a gentle enough entry — though the gaps in its screenplay (by Dennis Hackin) are pretty glaring. For instance, the entire subplot around Locke marrying Lewis — and a plot by her stepmother (Beverlee McKinsey) and family lawyer (William Prince) to pretend Lewis has killed her — is sorely underdeveloped:
… not to mention unrealistic. However, the main focus here is on these quirky characters being okay with who they are, and finding a way to do what they love — which is ultimately what it offers.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: