The Electric Horseman

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 Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, you can’t go wrong.

Of course, there’s a story of sorts — 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 flashing lights — holding a giant box of 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 — and 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, our cowboy 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 story she can use to get her a New York City news desk. Except, of course, she sees the good in our fair lad and is moved to help him in completing his plan to rescue the horse. Even if you suspect 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 (recently on TV hawking diabetic supplies by mail and frequent Craig Ferguson mention), Timothy B. Scott, and James B. Sikking, with 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 Pollack on screen. 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,” two hours just fly by. Enjoy!

Cast: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Valerie Perrine, Willie Nelson
Director: Sydney Pollack
Theatrical release: 1979; DVD release: 2003

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos

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