Bronco Billy; Comedy/ Drama, USA, 1980; D: Clint Eastwood, S: Clint Eastwood, Sandra Locke, Scatman Crothers, Geoffrey Lewis, Bill McKinney
Bronco Billy is the boss and the main attraction of a Wild West Show that travels through the country. Although his performers, Doc Lynch, Chief Big Eagle, Running Water, Leonard and others are giving their best, they re not talented enough, thus making the show an unsuccessful event in every town. Nobody has been paid for months. They come to a town where, coincidentally, a spoiled rich woman Antoinette Lilly married John Arlington in order to inherit a large fortune. But she is so cold towards John that he leaves her the next morning. Stranded, Lilly agrees to join the Wild West Show and become Bronco's assistant until they reach the next town. But in the newspaper she finds out her stepmother proclaimed her dead in order to inherit all the money instead of her. Although arguing with Bronco all the time, the two of them become friends. When the show runs out of money and their tent burns out in flames, Bronco goes to a mental institution to seek help from a friend. There Lilly meets John again, who was convicted for her "murder". Soon she is back in New York with her fortune, but she misses Bronco. In the end, she gets back to the show.
"Bronco Billy" is a typical film from Clint Eastwood's early directing attempts: it's unsure, shaky, simple and overlong. With time, Eastwood gained a lot o skills as a director and got rid of the first three flaws, but his films mostly always stayed overlong. "Billy" is a solid film that some have interpreted as an essay about the clash between the dreams and the reality, and some as his take on the fight between women and men. But it also seems like an different version of the romantic comedy "It Happened One Night", just in a Wild West Show. Just like it's untalented and hapless heroes, the film is itself unsure where it's going or what it's virtues are, but it manages to break cliches and give a nostalgic take at the cowboys whose time is gone. The film's writing is pretty sloppy; in one subplot, Leonard gets arrested for deserting from the Vietnam War, but Bronco Billy manages to bail him out. How? It is never clearly explained, maybe because the author couldn't come up with an enough cool way to resolve the situation. But then he shouldn't have put it there in the first place. The movie is not particularly funny, but there are a few very humorous moments. In one of them, Bronco and his crew realize their show ran out of money, so they decide to rob a train - in a typical western way they saw in the movies. Bronco comes with his horse and stops in the middle of the railroad, figuring that will be enough to stop the speeding train. But once the train starts coming at incredible speed, he is forced to get of the railroad in a flash. As he, on his horse, and his crew in a red car start chasing the train and shooting at it, the thing becomes incredibly silly and hilarious since the train already passes by them in 20 seconds and leaves behind the horizon. And the finale where Bronco's tent has been created out of thousands of American flags is also something that has to be seen. As a whole, "Bronco Billy" is a charming, but old fashioned achievement that doesn't live up to it's reputation of being one of Eastwood's own favorite films.