red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen



The Electric Horseman

Cast: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Valerie Perrine, Willie Nelson
Director: Sydney Pollack
Theatrical release: 1979; available on DVD

Who doesn't like a good romantic adventure? Well, here's one of the better ones. With Sydney Pollack directing, Willie Nelson providing songs and 'character' acting, and marquee stars Redford and Fonda, you can't go wrong.

Of course, there's the frame of a story — washed-up champion rodeo cowboy Redford gets hired as pitchman for a breakfast cereal owned by a mega-multinational corporation. His new job is to show up at assorted mall openings, football games, and other local promotions around the country — on horseback in a glittering suit decked out with plug-in electric flashing lights — holding a giant box of the cereal with his picture on it. Too many rodeo injuries and too many hangers-on contribute to a dissolute lifestyle that finally catches up with him in the person of TV reporter Fonda who has a nose for the story (about our battered and bungling cowboy) the corporation doesn't want told.

When the "electric horseman" discovers the corporate honchos bought an out-to-pasture racehorse as the symbol of their triumph, but they're shooting him up with steroids for the photo-ops, he decides both he and the horse need a change of scenery. Rather than do one more badly scripted Las Vegas casino show, he rides the horse across the stage, into the audience, through the casino, and out onto the Strip, going "off the grid" as he passes the last of the flashing city lights.

From there, the film reels us into the cat-and-mouse chase of Fonda's reporter trying to find Redford's cowboy-and-horse before the corporate bad guys do, all for the scoop she can get to her New York City news desk. Except, of course, she sees the good in our fair lad and is moved to help him in his plan to liberate the horse. Even if you suspect that the good guys always win in this lighthearted film, the ending holds a nice surprise.

Along the way, you're treated to great performances by veteran actors you'll know when you see them, like John Saxon, Wilfred Brimley (the white-haired and mustachioed TV pitchman for diabetic supplies-by-mail), Timothy Scott, James B. Sikking, and Will Hare as Redford's fantastically round-the-bend friend Gus. Watch, too, for a look-quick-or-you'll-miss-him glimpse of director Sydney Pollack.

With all that star power and Willie Nelson's wonderful music, including "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and "Eight-Second Hero," this two-hour adventure just flies by.


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